Alan Dargin - Didjeridu Master

Didjeridu Virtuoso Alan Dargin

Excerpted from Rhythm Music Magazine May 1994

"My father's family is from the Lake Evella region in Arnhem Land. I've been playing yidaki since I was five years old. My grandfather gave me my first didjeridu and taught me how to play. It's 107 years old and made from a variety of Bloodwood tree that has been extinct for 80 years. When the Euro-Australians were building the railroads they clear-cut some of the forests to make the railroad ties."

"What I have done with the didjeridu is to take a traditional instrument from my culture and adapted it to modern idioms. I play the didjeridu in a variety of musical genres and ensembles. My releases "Bloodwood" and "Reconciliation" are very eclectic and experimental in that way. I move from solo didjeridu pieces that I composed with the accompaniment of Michael Atherton's guitar work on Bloodwood to bridging traditional Celtic music and Aboriginal music with the didjeridu on Reconciliation. In light of the recent unearthing of an old Irish brass instrument that can be played like a didjeridu I find the didjeridu quite interesting and musically compatible with the Celtic harp, penny-whistle and the bodhran."

"In terms of my personal style, I play strong and fast. Initially when I started to perform I created a stir with blackfellows in Australia that were concerned about my use of the instrument in a contemporary context. I don't play ceremonial songs so I won't get into trouble. I compose all of my songs in a contemporary way and challenge people to push the didjeridu to its limits. I take a jazz approach in the use of my instrument, playing in any beat or rhythm structure. In ensemble playing the didjeridu supplies the bottom end, it fills up all the holes and makes the sound full. This may account for the popularity of the didjeridu and its crossover potential into world music.

I don't have a problem with non-Aboriginal players playing the instrument. I just hope that these people will make the effort to understand its traditional context and its history. It's important for non-Aboriginal players to tell the story of the instrument, how they came to play it, who taught them, and what is their motivation to play. The didjeridu has power, but only if you know how to play it properly, otherwise it is just hollow."

--Alan Dargin as told to Fred Tietjen--

Alan Dargin was a resident Artist at Wicked Sticks Gallery at Clarion Music Center in 1992.