Long ago in the Dreamtime, three men were camping in the Outback. The night was cold, and very dark, for the moon and stars were not created yet. Their fire was dying, so one of them got up to get more wood.
When he picked up one of the branches they'd gathered for firewood it seemed strangely light. On inspecting it more closely he saw that termites had eaten out the center of the log. The insects were still swarming in the cavity, and he didn't want to put them in the fire, so he raised the branch to his lips and blew to remove them.
The strange sound woke his companions. They looked up and were amazed to see thousands of lights glimmering in the sky which had been so dark. The termites had been blown into the sky, and became the stars.
The man, Yidaki, made the hollow branch into the the first didjeridu. He spent the rest of his life learning to play it and teaching others. When he died his spirit went into the instrument, and if you put your ear to the mouthpiece of a didjeridu, you can hear Yidaki playing.
Retold by Jon Stewart-Taylor, based on stories by Paul Taylor and Francis Firebrace.
The didjeridu is an instrument created by the Australian Aborigines, who've been using them for at least 5,000 and possibly as long as 20,000 years. Didjeridus emit a distinctive low droning sound, and are made from eucalyptus branches hollowed by termites. Traditionally didjeridus are used in sacred ceremonies called Coroboree. Nowadays, didjs are being used recreationally as rhythm instruments, and are often made out of PVC pipe. My favorite didj band is Big Blow and the Bushwackers.
My didj is made in sections to allow tuning it to a specific note. Can i play it? Kind of. I made the sound in the story, but i'm still finding out just how much i don't know about it. For more about didjs, including history, lore, images, audio, and how to make and play them, visit the Dreamtime WWW Server.
In the DC area, "Real" didjs, as well as didj recordings, can be had at The House of Musical Traditions Not just didjs, a whole lotta good music and weird instruments.
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© 1996, Jon Stewart-Taylor all rights reserved. Send comments or questions to Jon Stewart-Taylor. Last modified: Wed Oct 8 17:56:28 EDT 1997