Last update 2019-10-08 at 00:45
The didgeridoo is a wind instrument, or ancestral aerophone used by the native peoples of Australia. It belongs to the trumpet family. Basically it is a wooden tube, which is made to sound by vibrating the lips on the inside. It is supposed to have about 2000 years of existence, according to the dating of some cave paintings in which the instrument appears, although the aborigines themselves give an antiquity of up to 40 000 years.
The term didgeridoo is not of aboriginal origin; it is the name given by the British in their first incursions into the island as an onomatopoeia of its sound. In many aboriginal languages there is a different word for this instrument, such as: yidaki, ginjungarg, eboro, djalupu or maluk. Its main function is to accompany a dance and a singer, serving as an accompaniment instrument, as well as setting the time for the rhythm of the songs.
The tree from which a yidaki is normally built is a type of eucalyptus called “stringy bark” in English and “gudayka” (Eucalyptus tetradonta) in the Yolngu language of northeastern Arnhem Land, naturally pierced by termites, which eat the central part of the trunk. Other trees that are also used to build them in the northeast of Arnhem Land are the “woolybut” and the “bloodwood”. Other types of wood are used in other regions of Australia, even where didgeridoo is not traditional. Didgeridoos can be cut all year round. (During the wet season, the wood will be softer and wetter, and during the dry season it will be harder and more compact.)
There are many types, as well as rhythmic processes, depending on the clans. In the Northeast Arnhem Land, yidaki tend to be longer and thicker so the note will be more serious, the further west we go, the shorter and sharper the yidaki will be.
It plays a very important role in men’s ceremonies, but is also used as a popular instrument for the amusement of children and women. Songs can be divided into formal and informal.
The didyeridú has become fairly well known as an instrument in popular music, since the English band Jamiroquai (of acid jazz) included in their first albums, didgeridoo participations (in songs like When You Gonna Learn? or Journey To Arnhemland), in charge of Wallis Buchanan.