Didgeridus originated with Aboriginal people from northern Australia, although their use has now spread throughout the country. They are made from young trees where termites have eaten out the central wood, although some are made of bamboo. They are cut to length and shaped by the maker, who will often add a smooth beeswax or resin mouthpiece and decorate the didgeridu with traditional or modern designs.
Use of didgeridus is usually restricted to men, although in some places women help to decorate them.
The word “didgeridu” or “didgeridoo” is not an Aboriginal word but was made up by an anthropologist in the 1920s.
Activity: Playing a didgeridu
Clapsticks are usually made from a hard timber, so that they give a clear resonant sound when they are struck together. Two boomerangs can be struck together sideways, to get the same effect.
Bullroarers are flat sticks with a string attached, so they can be spun around and make a buzzing noise. In some parts of Australia they are part of the secret ceremonies and are used mainly to warn off women and children. The buzzing sound was explained as the sound of the angry spirit beings. In other parts of the country they are used as toys, and they are known mainly as toys by non-indigenous Australians.
Traditional drums are mostly found in the Cape York region, and are particularly used by Torres Strait Islander men. They are made from hollow logs with a skin (usually goanna or wallaby) stretched over one end. In other places drumming is done by beating hollow trees with sticks.
Indigenous Australians like making and listening to music and many of them have formed rock bands, including Yothu Yindi and . Others are individual singers like Christine Anu, Archie Roach and Jimmy Little. They often make use of both modern music technology and traditional instruments like the didgeridu and sing in both English and language.
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