Introduction to the didgeridoo

Yidaki or Didgeridoo?

Technically speaking, a didgeridoo is a hollow tube made from any material that is light enough to be playable and strong enough to withstand vibration. They have been fashioned from plastic, ceramic, glass, hemp, copper, the list goes on. Most of these methods require modern technology. Traditionally, a didgeridoo is a nature-made instrument brought about by the hollowing out of eucalyptus trees by termites or white ants as many of the people call them. Didgeridoo, however, is not a traditonal word. It is an example of the western world colliding with the Aboriginal world. The name came from Europeans supposedly given to the instrument because of its sound. Many Australian words have similar roots. Most Northern Australian people refer to white people as Balandas which evolved from the word Hollanders referring to the Dutch who were the first white people to visit the continent.

While a didgeridoo can be anything resembling the traditional instrument, a Yidaki is THE traditional instrument of the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land, N.T., Australia. The Yolngu are known as the masters of Yidaki playing having the longest known history with the instrument. Other people have numerous other names for their instruments.

didgeridoo, dijeridu, yidakiA Yidaki is produced in nature by termites (of which Australia is full of). A skilled craftsman knows exactly which trees to chop by tapping on them with the butt of his axe, listening to the sound and watching the vibration of the branches. The knowledge of Yidaki crafting at this level of expertise takes a lifetime of learning about and working with nature.

Painting a Yidaki After the work of harvesting the selected trees, the Yidaki stock is debarked and sanded on the outside with as little as is necessary of finishing to the inside so as to maintain a rough natural surface which gives a Yidaki its distinctive voice. The final painting is usually done by the women of the clan.

The Yidaki is used in ceremonies to accompany the bilma (click sticks) and singers who, together provide the rhythm for the dance or bunggul. Several vocalists and bilma players will often join together with the rhythm of one Yidaki player.

didgeridoo, dijeridu, yidaki

Modern Yidaki Production

Wandoo E
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