There are a number of stories revealing something of the significance of the Didjeridu in the Aboriginals of northern Australia. It is seen as a phallic symbol and male instrument, with women in many areas traditionally prohibited from playing.
One story that links the Didjeridu with creation tells of how in the beginning the Great Spirit Balame (Byamee) created man and woman and they in turn had the responsibility to create the animals and birds which they did by either singing them into form or sounding them into form through playing the Didjeridu.
The Didjeridu itself was supposed to have been created or conceived a long time ago. In the North of Australia, two young and beautiful adolescent girls were captured by a mean giant who wanted them to be his wives. After some time the girls managed to escape and hastily made their way back to their tribe. The mean giant was angry when he discovered what had happened and endeavored to reclaim what he considered his property. Meanwhile, the elders of the young girls' tribe set a trap for the giant. They dug a huge pit along the path leading to their home camp. The giant, in his angry haste, fell into the pit and was immediately killed with many spears thrown by tribal hunters hiding nearby. As he curled on his penis, looking very much like a huge porcupine, he began to blow on his penis, making an amazing droning sound. They tried to copy it, to no avail' so they searched for and found a large hollow log, the center of which had been eaten out by termites. By blowing on one end of this hollow log, they were able to create the sound made by the giant in his death throws.
Three men were camped on a cold night in the outback. One of the men told another to put another log on the fire, because the fire was getting low and it was so cold. So, the other man turned around and grabbed a log, which was awfully light to the touch, for it was hollow. As he turned to drop it into the fire, he noticed the entire length was covered with termites. He didn't know what to do, for he could not throw the branch into the fire, because it would kill the termites, and his friends were telling him to do so because it was cold. So he carefully removed all the termites from the outside of the log by scooping them into his hand, and he deposited them inside the branch. Then he raised the branch to his lips and blew the termites into the air, and the termites blown into the air became the stars, and the first didjeridu was created.
Yidaki - Francis Firebrace
We the indigenous people of my country, Australia - the Europeans tell us - have been there for over sixty thousand years. But we know, we have been there since the beginning of time. We are the Oldest living culture on earth. And we have the world's oldest known musical instrument that we call the YIDAKI or what Europeans call the DIDJERIDU. This instrument is a branch from a tree in which white ants (or termites) eat their way up through the center towards the sunlight keeping the outer shell solid for protection. And when this branch eventually dies and falls to the ground, the aboriginal people cut the ends off and this then becomes the DIDJERIDU.
This story of the didjeridu comes from the dreaming of the people of the Northern Territory and they say that YIDAKI the warrior was coming home from a hunt with kangaroo over his shoulder when he saw a dead branch lying on the ground. He picked it up and there was daylight coming in the other end and noticed there were a lot of little insects (which you call termites) in there. And he blew through it to get rid of them and it made a sound something like this ....
And the warrior liked the sound that it made. He found that by breathing through his nose and out through his mouth in a circular fashion he could make rhythm and many other sounds. Something like this :
The warrior took his hollow branch back with him and played it for his people. And they were drawn to the sound and they painted up with coloured ochre and danced Corroboree to it's rhythm. And during his lifetime the warrior taught many other young men the circular breathing method and this simple instrument became very popular and part of their culture. And it was used in ceremony, dance and forms of healing.
When the warrior died, his spirit left his body and went into the hollow log that you call the DIDJERIDU. And if you listen in a quiet place somewhere by holding one end to your ear, you can still hear YIDAKI playing in this instrument. And the aboriginal people of the Northern Territory believe that because there is a man's spirit in there it is a man's instrument and women should not play the DIDJERIDU. This then, is the story of what aboriginal people call the YIDAKI and you know as the DIDJERIDU.
And if you listen now to this spiritual instrument, it will not only enter your ears, but it will open your heart and reach and lift your spirit.
This story was told to me by Francis Firebrace and we performed it together in four shows, video taped it for Australian Originals and taped it for our soon to be released album.
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