A newsletter for the Didjeridu player......Feb 2003 Volume 9 Issue 2


Yidaki.Com

An Interview with  Russ Volckmann by Ed Drury


This interview is one of a series of investigations into the people behind the proliferation of didjeridu related websites I have found while surfing the Internet. Chatting with Russ is an enjoyable experience as he provides some keen observations about the web along with some very thoughtful discussion about didjeridu recording artists, experiences with discussion groups and newsletters. I hope you enjoy the read as much as I enjoyed the chat. -Ed


[Ed] How did you first become involved with the didgeridoo?

[Russ] I have always liked the sound of droning instruments, including even Scottish bagpipes. I often like sustain and texture in my music. I do not recollect exactly when the first time I ever heard a didgeridoo played. However, I think my first experience hearing a didge played *in person* was on the Promenade one evening in Cairns, northern Queensland back in probably 1993. On holiday, I had just finished college in San Francisco, was strolling by with my girlfriend, really had no money whatsoever, and I could not afford the didgeridoos these two hippie-looking guys were selling on the street. They were really beautiful natural wood didgeridoos. One of the didge vendors allowed me to try playing one myself, so I gave it a shot. The extremely sad-sounding groan that emanated from my strained efforts was nothing like the bouncy little rhythms these two guys could muster. I really loathe being shown up by a couple of street hippies <BG>, so thereafter I vowed to earn enough cash to buy my own didgeridoo and find some hippie to teach me.

A year or two went by, and I had almost forgotten about the didgeridoo. Then one evening my girlfriend (now my wife) went to the annual Ethnic Music and Dance Festival at the Palace of Fine Arts here in San Francisco. Besides the myriad of amazing dancers and musical entourages anywhere from Austria to Zimbabwe, was a gentleman by the name of Stephen Kent.

Well, all I can remember from Stephen's solo performance was that I was simply awe-struck. I never had imagined that one person could radiate all of these thoroughly moving sounds and voices from a hollow log. I mean the sound felt as if it moved in, out, and all around me and everyone else in the theater. And by "moving", I mean that sonically, physically, and something that felt deeper---maybe spiritually. Maybe that spirit was Stephen Kent more than simply the didgeridoo. At any rate, my interest in playing didgeridoo had found a whole new plateau. Learning no longer a question, it was now a quest. Thumbing through the Festival programme I made a profound discovery--that Stephen Kent, native of South Africa, now lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. The city was even mentioned. The following morning, I called directory assistance and was surprised that Stephen Kent actually had a listed number (at the time). Would my luck ever run out? Apparently not, because I called the number, his wife answered, put Stephen on, we talked, and he agreed to give me lessons in his home. Now I not only had a mission, but incitement as well.

That was in 1995 I believe, around the same time that I also started the Original Didgeridoo Page, later to evolve into Yidaki.com (http://www.yidaki.com). I have been playing didgeridoo between other life callings ever since. I still run into Stephen every now and then.

[Ed] I remember that site, the "Original Didgeridoo Page." Having some experience with creating a Didgeridoo page after being talked into it by Sean Borman, I'm curious about your original vision for that page and how it helped your learning process? I'm sure anyone who has ever designed and coded a page will be interested in what your experiences were and how it evolved into your current web offerings.

[Russ] Maybe it was 1995 when I started the "Original Didgeridoo Page." Yes, well, there were not many didgeridoo-dedicated web sites back in those days. There were comparatively not nearly many people on the Internet either. It was more rare still, I suppose, that two eclectic interests like the didgeridoo and the Internet crossed paths. Nowadays, of course, almost every hobby and interest in the world share content and more with audiences and peers online.

Speaking of one of the original founders, Sean Borman, I actually remember running into another Didgeridoo W3 server-related person named Toyoji Tomita at UC Berkeley years ago. Not exactly sure what Toyoji's specific involvement to the Didgeridoo W3 site was, but was the guy who first told me about the Mills College didgeridoo web site (The Didgeridoo W3 Server). I told Toyoji about my "Original Didgeridoo Page." You see, I used to bring my didgeridoo to one of the UCB swimming pools when I went to swim laps. The stairwell to the pool locker room has the most incredible reverb you ever heard in your life. I would usually play in the stairwell for maybe an hour after swimming. Toyoji caught me on my way outside in front of the pool with my didgeridoo, and struck up a conversation. He gave me his email, but I am fairly certain I promptly lost it. I still swim about 3-4 days per week. Great for building up lung capacity and getting the circular breathing thing down. And, as you know, I still poke around on the Didgeridoo W3 site. The volume of didgeridoo content still blows my mind.

To be perfectly honest, the "Original Didgeridoo Page" really did not have a whole lot of vision. It was mostly just an experiment to see what I could do with this new media. As a commercial artist and animator, a didgeridoo player (wannabe), and a media producer, the site sprang out of my desire to create something stimulating visually, something rewarding to visitors content-wise, something fun, and something with my name on it! I thought, how cool that ANYONE can publish sound, text, and visual content instantly to millions of people around the world on a shoestring budget. That was REALLY a novelty back in 1995. Anyway, the didgeridoo was great for a sort of niche content to publish. It was unique. It was also a way to maybe reach out and hopefully meet other didgeridoo players.

As you know, the "Original Didgeridoo Page" evolved into Yidaki.com in 1996. For almost a year online, I don't think I quite understood that I could acquire my own domain name! At that time, Yidaki.com was not a commercial site at all. It was just like, OK here I am, here are my cool didgeridoos, blah, blah, blah. The site had a lot of personal photos, graphics, animations, etc., but it really served no purpose other than a monument to my bizarre interest in hollow logs. Gradually I added other small tidbits of content that I thought other people might genuinely be interested in---didgeridoo history, tips on how to play, etc.---as kind of a public service. It wasn't until later, when I was approached by the producer of the Chris Adnam's "How to Play the Didgeridoo" video, that I began proffering didgeridoo wares online. Nonetheless, I thought, well, that fits in with my new educational direction, so why not? Well, if I had known then what a total 'pain in the didge' that ecommerce, secure servers, credit card merchant accounts, shopping carts, shipping, setting up a business, taxes, inventory, online wackos, and a whole laundry list of other necessary things would be, I seriously may not have gone any further! Not to mention programming all this stuff. But I did, and I am actually really glad for the experience, technically, business-wise, and even more so because Yidaki.com has put me in touch with some very cool didgeridoo folks from around the world. Do I make any money? I barely break even! Thank God for my daytime job! But, then again, monetary profit has never been my motivation for my didgeridoo site anyway.

So, I had come that far with Yidaki.com, and decided to make the didgeridoo-related offerings on the site complete by offering the best quality didgeridoos I could find. On my next trip Down Under, I made it a point to interview potential suppliers. Well, I was pretty disappointed. Either the didgeridoos were awful, or the suppliers were inconsistent (Aboriginals have a habit of making a few didgeridoos, then disappearing into the Outback on walkabout for a year or more), or the artwork was not authentic, or the "supplier" thought I was just a dumb Yank and was trying to take me to the cleaners. One guy took my over the hills and through the woods to grandma's house into the Outback to see some "killer sticks"--well, the "sticks" were terrible, the supplier was a drunken waste-oid, and I wasted a whole day under the hot sweating sun. I went back to San Francisco with no didgeridoo supplier, and I had pretty much given up on the idea. Had a great time on walkabout during the next few weeks though, so the trip was not a total loss. A few months later, I was contacted, again online. It was a didgeridoo maker and supplier who employed Aboriginal men and women from the Northern Territory to make and decorate the didgeridoos. What's more, the supplier's outfit was licensed by the Australian government to harvest logs through an environmental planning program. It sounded too good. I thought, uh huh. I was not in the mood for a repeat scenario, and was on my guard against having my pocket picked for some inferior "tourist sticks", or worse. Still, the descriptions sounded great, the gentleman seemed genuine, and I decided to order couple of didgeridoos for my personal stash. The outcome surprised me. The outfit shipped my didgeridoos nicely and professionally, and quickly. The instruments played, sounded, and looked fantastic---as good as ANY I had ever held in my hands. The didges were also x-rayed beforehand to detect any flaws in the wood, and sealed on the inside to prevent future cracking or drying--basically to maintain the integrity of the wood. I promptly ordered 10 more didgeridoos for resale, and have never been disappointed with the product. Nor has anyone ever wanted to return one single didgeridoo in the entire 7 years selling online. I have only received praise from my Yidaki.com customers. That makes me feel great, and that's a vision that manifested itself: to help others enjoy playing the didgeridoo, helping them learn the didgeridoo, and giving players and students the equipment they need to become proficient and enjoy playing.

[Ed] What is your day job, by the way?

[Russ] I am a senior designer and art director for a small advertising & design agency in San Francisco. Yidaki.com is really a daytime job also, though. I have to take care of emails and prepare orders everyday. The didgeridoo site is purely a labor of love, but I really enjoy it, and since people are a big part of my 'commercial art' line of work, it is really great to interact with customers on a grassroots level.

[Ed] I noticed on Yidaki.com you offer a free newsletter. Is that something fairly recent for you? I think it's a great idea and I wish more people were doing this. How has that been from your perspective?

[Russ] Thanks, yes, I enjoy doing the Yidaki.com Newsletter actually. I have been doing it for about a year or so I think. It is supposed to be a quarterly publishing, so I better hurry up and do issue #5! Thanks for reminding me ;)

The reason I started the Yidaki.com Newsletter originally was because I received emails almost daily with many of the same basic questions over and over, plus some other real interesting inquiries. Then also, I would of course receive the rather off-the-wall questions like, "What kind of woods are used in your natural bloodwood didgeridoos?" That one is sort of like "Who is buried in Grant's tomb?". Or, "How does David Hudson get that low sound on Woolunda?". Actually maybe that is a good question. I'll have to ask him ;) And then there are all the people who make a recent didgeridoo purchase elsewhere, can't get help from the merchant they bought it from, and then want me to help them fix the problem they're having with their specific didgeridoo.I know a lot of other web site owners would be annoyed by this, but I do not mind, and helping out only proves that I care more about other didgeridoo folks than they do. Usually the questions I receive from this category of folks concern issues like a crack in the wood, or getting the mouthpiece right, or just learning how to play. I think the Yidaki.com Newsletter addresses a lot of these kinds of questions. The funny thing is that no one has ever come back to me with a problem on a didgeridoo that they purchased from me in 7 years. Amazing, really. I notice, however, that the volume of particularly bizarre questions has tapered off a bit. My guess is that didgeridoo'ers are becoming a bit more sophisticated.

So then, I use the Yidaki.com Newsletter to address some of the most popular and what I feel are the most interesting questions. In this way, I can really take the time and effort to try and address all angles of a particular didgeridoo issue, and then broadcast the information to all my didgeridoo friends. So from the perspective of efficiency, thoroughness, and effectiveness, I think it has been a success. Haven't had many people 'unsubscribe', so I hope that's telling me people are really getting value out of the Yidaki.com Newsletter.

[Ed] As you look around the web today, with so many didjeridu related sites, what do you feel is missing or is it all out there for the looking? What are some of your favorites?

[ Russ] So many is right! I know I must sound like an old geezer when I say I remember when the Dreamtime Didgeridoo W3 server (http://www.mills.edu/LIFE/CCM/DIDJERIDU/) and Ed Drury's Beginner's Heart Page (http://www.rdrop.com/~mulara/) were just about all that existed in terms of didgeridoo content. I think The Original Didgeridoo Page was probably like the 3rd or 4th didgeridoo-related web site out there at the time I started it.

I think that nowadays there are generally MANY MANY choices for content out there on the Internet. Whether it is didgeridoo or anything else, it is almost as if everyone in the world had their own web site. Now we have didgeridoo sites galore in Italian, German (A LOT of German sites), French, Japanese, you name it. If I had a remote control for the web like I had for my TV, I could flip didgeridoo channels all day and still not see everything. On the other hand, like TV these days, sometimes the more channels I flip, the more of the same thing I see. All that said, though, I think there really is a great amount of good solid information related to the didgeridoo on the Internet today---from history, to playing tips, to Aboriginal culture---it's all out there. I have to be honest and say that the most thorough and voluminous repositories of didgeridoo information in English are still Beginner's Heart & Didgeridoo W3.

Several different distinct content categories of didgeridoo-related web sites exist in my way of thinking. Sometimes a certain kind of site will 'branch' over into other categories, but each site tends to have a distinct core competency or direction:

(1) Didgeridoo business. The primary goal of the site is business, to sell didgeridoos and/ or other Aboriginal artifacts.

Amazing really how many web sites sell didgeridoos these days. A cursory search for "didgeridoo" on the Internet yields a vast majority of sites whose sole purpose is to sell didgeridoos. But from some of the Mills Didgeridoo newsgroup messages I read, I think most of these outfits are good places with good people and good sticks. I read messages all the time from people who write that they found a great didge from a certain store. I think the situation has improved greatly in the past couple of years, though. Before Yidaki.com offered didgeridoos for sale years ago, I decided to buy a Burnt & Carved didgeridoo from an outfit in Australia online. To be honest, the didge was a total dog, and I think that experience was an influence in wanting to offer nicer instruments online with Yidaki.com. Maybe a similar experience by others is one reason that better didgeridoos are becoming easier to find on the 'Net. People demand better.

(2) Personal tribute. A site created by an individual as a sort of shrine to personal interest in the didgeridoo.

In the first few years of the "Internet rush", I think the vast majority of didgeridoo-related sites on the web were of the personal home page variety. I think several reasons exist why more didgeridoo people don't do this more often nowadays. (a) The public service type didgeridoo sites like W3 Didgeridoo Server and a handful of others have over the years grown to a level where they already offer just about as much information as can be found on the subject. (b) Where at one time, the didgeridoo personal web page was a way to get seen and attract other didgeridoo players, that function has been replaced in part by functions from other sites, again like The W3 Didgeridoo Server, and Mills List. (c) A personal tribute is a lot of work. It requires technical skills, interface design skills, graphics skills, content, and more, not least of which is maintaining the site on a regular basis. On top of that, one generally has to pay for hosting and a connection. Maybe it takes time and energy a lot of people are not willing to continue with, especially if most of the content and functions are already provided elsewhere.

(3) Community service. Offering didgeridoo-related educational, cultural, social information and/ or functions in order to raise the collective level of consciousness, and/or provide utility (newsgroups, event info, etc).

God Bless Ed Drury's site and the Dreamtime W3 Didgeridoo Server! These sites provide so much in the way of community service, it isn't funny. Didgeridooings and a handful of others also provide some good articles, perspectives, and additional inspiration with regard to Aboriginal culture and the didgeridoo. I also think it is really great that some Aboriginal tribes have finally gotten online not only with their own culture-oriented web sites, but also ecommerce sites that sell didgeridoos and other Aboriginal artifacts. Mananura (http://www.mananura.com) or Yothu Yindi's Garma Festival (http://www.garma.telstra.com/)for example.. More power to them. It is good to see that the Internet is proving to be a somewhat level playing field that allows indigenous tribes to be heard worldwide. I also hope that it contributes in some way to the improvement of people's lives in the Aboriginal communities.

I suppose for Yidaki.com, the evolution began as a personal tribute (here are my cool didgeridoos, here's me playing it, blah, blah, blah), then later added community service information (how to play, a condensed version of the history, where to get cool didgeridoos, events, etc.), then later added the shopping capabilities. Yidaki.com is a didgeridoo shop to some extent because anyone can obviously buy didgeridoos, learning tools, etc. However, in a stricter sense Yidaki.com is not really a "Didgeridoo business" because the primary goal of a business is to make profit! So from that perspective, Yidaki.com is really a non-profit organization that only incidentally sells didgeridoos and accessories as a community service--it also helps keep the site going. Basically, I found some great didgeridoos and related paraphernalia and I wanted to share them with people. I still offer community service text content, but I do not want to overwhelm with too much information. First, I do not want to duplicate the volumes of years of accumulative knowledge base of Didgeridoo W3 Server. Second, I want to break down information into bite-sized digestible chunks for easy reading so that I can address the questions and interests of 90% of the people out there. For the other 10% of didgeridoo enthusiasts who really want to dig deep into Aboriginal culture and eclectic nuances of the instrument, I give you the Yidaki.com Newsletter, PLUS the Didgeridoo W3 Server or Beginner's Heart!

In the end, I think in nearly every case, the people who start a didgeridoo-related web site--whether it is commercial or non-commercial, are really into it for the love of the instrument.

Is there anything didgeridoo-related missing on the Internet? Well, I personally have not found a question unanswered when I go to look for it! The only issues I have with what's on the web these days is not really didgeridoo-specific, and that relates to user interface and organization. I think the existing sites can improve by offering a more clear way to navigate, and content that is better organized. Other than that, I think it so exciting to see how interest in the didgeridoo has taken off. I am very happy to see so many folks get into playing for personal enjoyment, health, spirit, and to provide entertainment to others.

[Ed] What are your feelings about the Mills List? If you've been associated with it as long as I have, I'm sure you've seen quite a lot happen over the years. Personalities come and go. Do you have some favorite memories about it, or perhaps met good friends as a result?

[Russ] To be honest, I just re-subscribed to the Mills List literally one week ago and after about a 2-year hiatus. I became extremely busy with travel, other business, and family over the past couple of years, and was undergoing information overload. At this point, I am mostly just trying to absorb what everyone is communicating about again. Although, recently I have received some very helpful technical information from Martin Schiff.

I originally hooked up with the Mills List in the mid-1990s because I was just learning how to play, and was genuinely fascinated with the instrument. No particular one person comes to mind from that many years ago, but the Mills List was a safe, fun, free-spirited place where people were very real, shared the same enthusiasm for the instrument, and were only too happy to help out fellow peers. It was a really great time to be hooked up too. The Web was new to the masses, the didgeridoo was rather unknown as well, online music then later web radio were taking off, and it was like a crusade to spread the Epistle of Didgeridoo. Now I'm back again, this time hoping to contribute some of what I have learned over the past few years, and to learn a thing or two myself.

A lot of folks put on shows or host events and then broadcast event schedules on the Mills List. It's nice to know when there's a show happening here in the Bay Area or elsewhere in the didgeridoo world. I've only been back a week, but I have noticed less many events happening, or at least being posted, as I *believe* I remember seeing before. Wrong season?

Today's exchanges seem fewer in frequency, but I still see people here on the Mills List genuinely trying to help each other out. I think that's great. Every once in awhile, the direction of Mills List message exchanges strike me as a tad overly sensitive to petty didgeridoo trivia. I would like to see the focus of the conversations get past all that and focus on genuine love for the instrument, healthy environment, good ethics and integrity.

Most guys (like me) dig the technical stuff. So the direction of message exchanges on the Mills List tends to be mostly directed toward the technical aspects of the didgeridoo---construction, recording, playing, what's the best beeswax, cool concerts, history, and perhaps a cursory understanding of how the instrument relates to Aboriginal culture. Stuff like that.

Since hooking myself back up to the Mills List last week, I am also happy to say that I have recently exchanged emails with Eric Hixson from the Mills List, who will be contributing some very nice content to the Yidaki.com Newsletter. And as Eric communicated best during one of HIS past interviews, "...don't try to slap a veneer of spirituality or pseudo-tribal-aboriginal-Mutant-Message-Down-Under BS over my didj playing." I wish I could have said it better myself.

[Ed] What's your personal playing like? What do you like to do with the instrument and are there didjeridu artist who influence or inspire you?

[Russ] I am just recently starting to play the didge again consistently and more often, after some time out for other life callings. In a way, it is almost like starting over again and discovering anew what is possible.

Maybe my music experience before I picked up the didgeridoo is significant to what I do with the didge in some way. Creativity has quite a bit to do with evolution and branching out, doesn't it? Music itself has been a great friend to me for the last 34 years, when at age 10 I began playing guitar, bass, and also on a limited level, keyboards. By my sophomore year in high school (mid 70s), my guitar playing was already emulating jazz, rock, and fusion greats such as (in more or less descending order of influence) Frank Zappa, John McLaughlin (Mahavishnu Orchestra), Jeff Beck, Jerry Garcia, Larry Coryell, Jimmy Page, Steely Dan, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny & Edgar Winter, Al DiMiola, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Robin Trower, Jean-Luc Ponty, Billy Cobham, The Animals, Jethro Tull, Allman Brothers, Pink Floyd, Boston, Beatles, Doors, Journey, Queen, Justin Hayward (Moody Blues), Lou Reed, the early Roxy Music. I was also heavily influenced in the early & mid-70s by the advent of "electronic music" by Kraftwerk, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Mahavishnu Orchestra (again), Brian Eno--and also East Indian sitar music like Ravi Shankar. My father spent 3 years in India and so we had a menagerie of Indian music at home when I was growing up. My Dad was also a BIG old-time 50s & 60s jazz fan, so growing up I was constantly subjected to the likes of Stan Getz, Charlie Byrd, Oscar Peterson, Dexter Gordon, Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton, Lionel Hampton, Charles Mingus (I met his grandson in Berkeley, Kevin Mingus, a very cool guy who plays a killer jazz bass by the way), and all of the old Big Band types like Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman.

Then later in the early 80s, pop-electronic such as the B-52s and Devo came along and I really dug it. In the early 1980s, I played in a sort of Motown-Swing-Funk band, and the "New Wave" of rock and other forms of music were grabbing at my attention too: The (Paul Collins) Beat, The English Beat, Greg Kihn, Elvis Costello, the Police, Translator, David Lindley with his new El-Ray-O X Band.

Now, I am getting into another one of my sideline favorite styles: I hope to start a surf, Hawaiian & rockabilly type band using all the haunting bends and twists of my guitar's Bigsby tremolo and even my D-10 steel pedal. My Influences in that genre have been Duane Eddy, Dick Dale, Ventures, Santo & Johnny, Los Straightjackets (above all), The Halibuts, Blue Hawaiians, plus a lot of country and Hawaiian musicians I am certain no one here has ever heard of! Not sure if I can make the didgeridoo work with those styles, but who knows?

OK, aside from that, how does the didgeridoo fit into the music I like to play? As I mentioned earlier, I have also always loved droning sound instruments like the didgeridoo and including bagpipes! I find that these sounds fit very well into music styles that a lot of the early electronic instrumentals used. But to be perfectly honest, I usually prefer the didgeridoo as a solo free-form instrument over any type of Western-style musical integration. There are exceptions of course. I think the didgeridoo works best when it is (not surprisingly) used with African or Mid-Eastern or Asian-infuenced tribal rhythms or sounds. And then on top of that, Celtic overtones or melodies (also originating from an ancient "tribal" music) with the didgeridoo have a tendency to please me as well. I hear all of these influences to a certain degree in this cooperative piece I recently heard by Karl Kalbaugh and Martin Schiff:

http://www.cdsol.com/cdsol/downloads/kalbaugh.mp3

OK then, back to the idea of tribal rhythms & sounds. The following was a cooperative piece I did several years ago (didgeridoo, clap sticks) with several other musicians in a Berkeley recording studio. Sort of an Eric-Dolphy-esque tribute to the didgeridoo:

http://www.yidaki.com/mp3s/Russ_Volckmann-1998.mp3

The piece starts out rather quietly and then builds to frantic crescendo near the end of its 10-minute or so length. I did that all in one take for10 straight minutes! Talk about happy to finally come up for air :o Actually we all played it twice because the engineer, believe it or not, did not execute the "record" button the first time around. C'est la Vie. The "song" was intended for the sound bed in a "dream sequence" for an independent film, which unfortunately spent too much money and never was completed. Ah well, it was fun anyway. I think the sound quality is fairly good considering. I had only received a cassette tape dub that I captured on my Mac and converted to MP3. I would love to re-record or re-create something similar again. Mainly I want to do some trancey-spacey-ambient music that soothes and relaxes, and contains sounds and instruments that will take the listener on a journey that feels absolutely like a physical (and/ or metaphysical) voyage.

In terms of directly didgeridoo-related influences, I have to say beyond any shadow of a doubt, it was that first night I heard Stephen Kent play solo with the Ethnic Music & Dance Fest at the Palace of Fine Arts here in San Francisco. I had absolutely no idea who he was at the time. Most of the performers at the Fest are Bay Area locals who keep their native culture alive through music and dance-just regular people. I had no fear whatsoever about approaching Stephen Kent in order to receive didgeridoo lessons. It was not until much later on that I learned what a huge contribution Stephen has made with the didgeridoo stylistically, in recorded music, and in evangelizing the instrument. Actually I cannot imagine Stephen being "evangelical" in his approach whatsoever. He is such a soft-spoken individual. However, that is the powerful effect he has on people. Perhaps "didgeridoo propagation" is better phrase. As my first real musical inspiration didgeridoo-wise, as my teacher, and as a friend, Stephen Kent has influenced my didgeridoo appreciation and playing the more than anyone else. Stephen plays gigs often around the Bay Area with various artists, and I try to see his performances when I can. By chance, I ran into Stephen about a year and a half ago in San Francisco's Presidio. He was there just volunteering to show a room full of kids and parents (and anyone else who could squeeze into the room) the sounds and history of the didgeridoo---just because the guy loves doing it. I have deep respect and admiration for his dedication. Anyway here is a photo my wife took that day...

My favorite didgeridoo pieces by Stephen Kent are probably Jungawangra and White Tree (from the CD, "Landing"), and the old Sound Column tracks (Lights in A Fat City with Eddy Sayer, Kenneth Newby). I also love listening to David Hudson, especially the solos on Woolunda. If there were a didgeridoo player I would like to become, I think it would most closely resemble a composite of these two gentlemen. Other music that always makes me smile includes Ganga Giri, Axis (Michael Jackson, Mike Edwards), Reconciliation (Alan Dargin, Simon O'Dwyer, Phillip Conyngham). All of these players and bands have aspects that are worthy of emulating.

In the end, I guess I would like to summarize by saying that music and the arts are an important part of being human. The arts bind us all together in celebration of the positive aspects of human existence such as caring, love, kindness, imagination, creativity and inspiration. The music brings us together in more powerful ways than the negative influences that divide us and create destruction. I would like to thank the Aboriginal people for their contribution to the arts, and thanks to the Balanda (white folk) and Aboriginals who are able to transcend human differences and together help create future artistic creations with the didgeridoo and Aboriginal decorative influences. Human diversity makes the planet a rich and interesting place to be, and when diverse influences come together, great and beautiful things can happen. All that said, there is still something to be appreciated in purist traditional musical and art forms too. Let's just not get too hung up on trivial matters regarding what is or is not "traditional". That isn't nearly as fun (or constructive) as appreciating all that simply is.

Basically, I am just another guy when it comes to the didgeridoo, but I do love to be near to one of those silly hollow logs when I can. Thanks for listening to my humble didge-ramblings and please visit http://www.yidaki.com :)


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