Frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions
If your question is not answered here, please contact Didgeman for personal assistance.
Who can play didgeridoo?
Physically, anyone between the ages of about 7 and 70, with their own teeth and normal health, should be able to play.
Practically, all you need is normal lung capacity and lips which will vibrate freely.
Traditionally, only a few men in each Aboriginal moiety would play. The geographical distribution of the didgeridoo was limited to the very northern parts of Australia; the north Kimberley, the Darwin area, Arnhem Land, Cape York and a few offshore islands.
Taditionally, most Aboriginal women did not usually play didgeridoo; simply because it was not one of the things they did - not because there was any law against it.
Today, the didgeridoo is very much a world instrument. Men and women, boys and girls everywhere play. Didgeman asks players to be sensitive about where and in front of whom they play. Show respect by acknowledging the Australian Aboriginal people as the original makers and players of the didgeridoo.
Factual documentation re women playing didgeridoo
An excerpt from the book Didjeridu Dreaming by Adrian Parker, Page 15.
It is believed that if a woman does play, she will become pregnant and possibly develop facial hair.
Women take part in corrobories where the didgeridoo is used, often singing, tapping music sticks and dancing in accompaniment. Not all men play, as with any instrument, some master it better than others, though most will have a go in informal surrounds. Men also have specialist roles in society, ceremony and spiritual life. Some are designated as didgeridoo players, song men, dancers or artists during dance and ceremony.
One commonly held misnomer is that non-Aboriginal women should not play the didgeridoo – that it is taboo to all women. The inhabitants of the Kakadu and Western Arnhem Land, the region where the instrument originated, maintain that it is perfectly O.K for Western women to play.
“It's a Culture thing. Balanda daluk (white women) are not Binninj (Aboriginal). They can play. Different culture”.
From am interview with Alex Nganjmirra, 1996.
Excerpts from the book The Didjeridu – From Arnhem Land To The Internet by Dr. Karl Neunfeldt.
Reports of (Aboriginal) women playing didgeridoo are especially common in the Kimberleys and the Gulf regions, the westerly and easterly extremes of it's distribution in traditional music. The didgeridoo has only begun to be played in these areas this (20th) century (Alice Moyle, 1974), where it accompanies genres originally derived from Arnhem Land (bunggurl) or the Daly region (wangga, lirrga and gunborrg).
For the gulf area, Alice Moyle's recording Aboriginal Sound Instruments (1978), contains a track, recorded at Borroloola in the eastern Northern Territory in 1966, of Jemima Wimalu, a Mara woman from Roper River, playing very accomplished didgeridoo (track 1b side 2 – see notes and transcription in Moyle, 1978: 17 – 18, 48). Elizabeth Mackinlay, an ethnomusicologist working with women from the neighbouring Yantuwa group, reports women playing didgeridoo, adopted recently from Mara people, in both informal and public performances (personal communication, 1996).
Didgeridoo and your health.
Playing the didgeridoo can be really good for your health and general well being due to the regular, controlled breathing it promotes.
How to choose a didgeridoo.
You should endeavour to choose a REAL didgeridoo, not a souvenir or toy which probably won't play well or at all.
You should be able to play or hear your new didgeridoo being played prior to purchase.
Your didgeridoo should be made out of Australian hardwood timber hollowed out naturally by termites.
Your didgeridoo will not play well if it has any air leak, such as a crack or split, in the body of the instrument.
Your didgeridoo will usually play better if it has some taper from the mouth end to a larger bell end.
Your didgeridoo should have a mouthpiece, made of wax, timber or other material, with a hole about 33 - 35 mm in diameter. The hole should be round and slightly raised.
Your first didgeridoo should be between 1.2 and 1.4 metres long, putting it in the key of D or C.
How is a didgeridoo made?
Australia is a haven for termites, you can see their mounds almost everywhere. Termites eat wood. In the Australian bush, termites will eat the centre wood out of a tree as it grows, producing a naturally hollow tree.
A small hollow tree is felled and the trunk used for the didgeridoo. The loose waste in the void left behind by the munching termites is knocked out with a stick or long brush. The bark is stripped off the trunk and the wood smoothed. Art work can be applied and a mouthpiece fitted if necessary.
Normal woodwork techniques apply in relation to drying, shaping and decorating the didgeridoo.
Didgeridoo didjeridu yidaki
Didgeridoo is very much the white persons' name for the instrument. It is also sometimes spelt DIDJERIDU.
The Australian Aboriginal peoples had various names for the didgeridoo. The Yolngu people of north east Arnhem Land call it YIDAKI.
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