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decorative image of many painted didgeridoos

The Origins and Culture around Australian instrument the Didgeridoo

Blog | Adelaide
Colorful designs on aboriginal musical instrument didgeridoos

Australia is one of the best places to study in the world… Not that our team are biased! You have lots of music and amazing cafe culture, some of the world’s best beaches, amazing nature, friendly people and some fabulous education too. For international students, this might be your first look into Aussie culture too. We wanted to share some Aussie knowledge with you. The Atira team are here to help make Australia home for you during your studies, so why not learn a bit about your new home? Read on for culture around Australian instrument the Didgeridoo

 

History of the didgeridoo
A young Aboriginal man playing a colourful painted didgeridoo in the outback of Australia.

The didgeridoo may be one of the oldest musical instruments in the world made typically from wood. Traditionally the didgeridoo makes sound through termite-hollowed tree branches. The player passes air through it to produce beautiful earthy tones that are recognisably Australian. Modern didgeridoos can be made from a variety of other materials, it’s the hollow tube that makes the characteristic noise. Instruments are often painted in Aboriginal Australian cultural painting styles, and are linked to Australian Indigenous cultures from Arnhem Land in the North Territory. Didgeridoos are historically used more in cultures in northern parts of Australia.

 

What type of instrument is it, and what sounds can be played?
Didgeridoo close up of painted design

The didgeridoo is classified as a ‘brass’ instrument because of how they’re played rather than brass meaning made from brass. It’s like how a flute which is from the woodwind family even though they’re usually made from metal like silver. Its distinct beautiful tones are played with circular breathing techniques (in through the nose, out of the mouth). Vibrations from the mouth through the hollow tube create a sound that is round and rich in texture. Playing with circular breathing means that the instrument can play longer notes than most instruments or voices relying on breath,. The didgeridoo is known for the low long tonal drones but it can also be used for rhythmic faster melodies. See the video below for an example!

 

The instrument historically and now in Aussie culture

Three different multi colored painted didgeridoos
Didgeridoos have a rich and varied history throughout the country’s past and to the present. In Australian Aboriginal cultures it can be used to accompany chanting and percussive instruments for music for ceremonies and gatherings. It is now also played by tens thousands of people across the world for recreation. Its cultural significance has spread to more of a national symbol for many Indigenous cultures in Australia.

 

Watch this incredible video if you want to see how the instrument is played:

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