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An authentic instrument is born by a magical symbiosis that occurs in nature.  Many parts of the northern regions of Australia are prone to termite ants that live and thrive in the climate and region, building tall earth-mounds amongst the trees across the plains and forests.  Termites feed on trees.  They do not necessarily kill the trees, but hollow-out entire thick branches or trunks without breaking through to the surface to protect themselves.

Djalu Gurriwiwi cutting down a new YidakiTraditional owners of this region are particularly skilled at locating and logging these hollowed trees. Firstly, they can recognize an area that is more likely to have good potential by the surrounding land and undergrowth.   Then by tapping on each trunk with a stone or axe they can gain a sense of how much of the inside of any tree is hollowed out by termites.  The type of sound as well as the sound of tumbling termite crust inside the tree gives a good indication.  But to any “novice” it is not that easy to hear! 

Once felled, the log can be played straight away, although it normally needs to be cleanedYidaki painted and ready to play up to create a better sound.  The outside bark is removed, the hollow cleaned out and neatened and the correct length is sawn off to make the right pitch.  From there the instruments are painted and finished off in preparation for playing in ceremonies and general gatherings.

Many didjeridus available on the market around the world are not authentic instruments. Using wood usually only found in other countries, the log is sawn in half down its length and then the inside is removed so that when the two halves are glued back together it forms a perfect hollow log.  This modern technique is called the “sandwich” and if skillfully done can make a good instrument.  Although it is not a traditional method, there are many skilled craftspersons that construct didjeridus this way.   It is important however to always respect an authentic instrument, the people, and the traditional method in which it was made.

There are many producers of “fake” didjeridus around the world (eg. Indonesia) that actually sell their didjeridus as “authentic”, even with fake or copied indigenous artwork on them. There are also many producers of didjeridus in Australia that log without permission or proper control. This has a damaging effect on the environment of the outback. Still other producers claim that their instruments are crafted by indigenous persons, when this is in fact not the case. 

It is therefore important to shop very carefully before deciding to buy a didjeridu and always determine whether the instrument is

  • a “Yidaki” sourced and crafted by an indigenous craftsman from Arnhem Land
  • a didjeridu sourced and crafted by an indigenous craftsman from other areas of Australia, or
  • a didjeridu crafted by non-indigenous producers from Australia or around the world. 

More information and a good category listing of authentic instruments can be found at ididj.com

If you are interested in buying an instrument consider the suggestions at the question Where Do I Buy a Didjeridu?…

Posted in: didjeridu