A newsletter for the Portland area Didjeridu player...... Mar 1998 Volume 4 Issue 3

An Interview with Sean Borman


For this month's issue, I recorded an email conversation with Sean Borman. Sean is from South Africa, but is currently working on his PhD in the US. He founded and authored the Dreamtime Didjeridu Web Site, I believe back in 1995. The Dreamtime W3 Server remains one of the most popular sites which deals with didjeridu playing providing it's visitors which a rich supply of instruction, instrument making tips, links to other sites, discographies and a calendar of events. The site is currently being maintained by Toyoji Tomita, founder of the Didjeridu Digest [6] mailing list, from Mills College. It can be found at www.mills.edu/LIFE/CCM/DIDJERIDU/index.html.

Those interested in subscribing to Toyoji's mailing list, click here.


[ED] Do you remember your first awareness of the didjeridu and what led you to obtain one and start playing?

[SEAN] I've been asked this question several times and have always had difficulty addressing the awareness issue. The latter part is easy since it involved a physical act.

The first didjeridu player I ever watched was a South African who'd spent years traveling (and playing) in then war-torn Mocambique. He was playing at a local street market - just sitting on the sidewalk.... I stopped to listen - fascinated - but while I listened, I had a peculiar, deep sense of familiarity. I knew this sound, but could not place where I'd heard it before - I'm not even sure that I had.

Years later, back in South Africa for a brief return, I revisited the same market and was not altogether surprised to find a couple playing didj and sticks. Shortly before returning to the US, I acquired from them a split-and-bore pine instrument. I was intrigued and captivated by the instrument - its incredible simplicity yet seemingly infinite acoustic variety. I was hooked!

[ED] Do you remember your first Australian made didjeridu? Can you tell us about how it came in your possession and do you still have it?

[SEAN] Sure! It's a happy story, so I have to warn you that I'm going to ramble off-topic a bit!

I had been trying to teach myself to play on my first instrument. I'm not a fast learner! It had taken me months to figure out the circular breathing thing, when, through my involvement in Toyoji's listserver and the Dreamtime site, I learned that David Hudson would be doing a workshop and gigs in San Francisco.

I couldn't miss the opportunity! He did a great painting and playing workshop at the Noe Valley Ministry. He'd brought along a bunch of new didj's for the trip... some raw, some very quickly decorated. He'd cut them for the trip and intended to sell them.

David was the first Aboriginal player I'd seen. He's capable of the most astounding rhythm - much more complex than anything on his recordings at the time. He's also really nice guy - very patient and modest despite his formidable talent.

I now look after one of his didj's from that trip. Its a very ordinary looking instrument - plays in F and is mostly unfinished but for a few details and a signature - David's handprint. I've probably learned more from that didj than any other I've had, even though some have been "better". It was like a whole new dimension opened up.

There really is a huge difference between a good hardwood didj and any synthetic or softwood copy. The timbre is much brighter and they're so much more responsive, leading the player into new territory. If you play, I can't stress strongly enough the need to play many different instruments - each has its own character and will have lessons for you! Sometimes you go off a didj for a while and it just sits against the wall for months, then one day you'll pick it up again and it'll show you something you didn't know about it and yourself. David's didj is just like that... it was a guide for me, and still is!

[ED] I understand that the David Hudson didj made it briefly into the hands of Alan Dargin. Did you ever thing that you'd be loaning a didjeridu to Alan Dargin and how was that experience?

[SEAN] Actually it wasn't David's didj that Alan played on. It was my prized didj made by George Jungawonga.

Alan was on tour and was invited to South Africa by the Australian embassy to give workshops and performances. Unfortunately Alan's didj gave out on him on during the first night gig as the changes in humidity from traveling caused a large crack to open making it breathe and sound flat. Alan completed the evening's performance playing on George's Didj.

It was an inspiring experience. Alan's a superb player; he has a signature rhythm which is faster than anything I've heard before and there it was, flowing from George's didj. He'd played the didj earlier that day at the workshop and was impressed, so he probably felt pretty comfortable playing it on stage. It was great to listen to a master coax new sounds from a didj.

[ED] I understand that you've been contacted by many people in the didjeridu community during the time you were working on the Dreamtime Web Server. Among them, Graham Wiggins (aka Dr. Didge), the agent for Yothu Yindi and others. Are there some particular conversations or comments which stand out as highlights?

[SEAN] This was one of the wonderful things about the Dreamtime W3 project - everyone I corresponded with and often had opportunity to later meet in person. Sure, there were many "well known" figures amongst the people who contacted me, but it was great getting to chat with people who would write in to ask questions or say thanks for the site. That was hugely satisfying. I don't think that there are any particular conversations that I would especially like to mention; more important to me is the fact that several people whom I originally communicated with solely via email, are now good friends.


Sean Borman hails from Cape Town, in South Africa but currently resides in the United States while attempting to complete his rather protracted doctoral studies epic. Perhaps he might have already graduated were it not for his endless diversions such as the Dreamtime W3 project, didj playing, photography, rock-climbing, travelling, scuba-diving, hiking or just trying to get a real life. Despite this, Sean is strongly of the opinion that his diversions and interests define him far better than the degree which he may or may not ever acquire.


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