I will never forget the moment that I first picked up and played the Didjeridu (Yidaki), for it was the moment that altered the course of my life.
In the late summer of 1991 I was spending an afternoon with two brothers and their families at a barbecue outside of Perth in Western Australia. Both wonderful, wise men and master Noongar Indigenous Didjeridu players, named Ted and Nigel Wilkes.
At one point, they both played for me. Their styles were very contrasting. Ted, being a much larger man, took longer and slower breaths and played a more ambient style. While Nigel had a faster style, taking faster and smaller breaths. Both were incredible with their virtuosity. My favorite part was when they played together at the same time. Their styles complimented each other perfectly. I just sat there mesmerized, spellbound by the power and majesty of their playing.
Once they finished playing, one of them pushed their Didjeridu towards me and encouraged me to give it a try.
“Give it a go brother….you will never know if you can play it if you never try” were Nigel’s words.
I remember feeling nervous and intimidated. I had always loved the sound and deeply respected the Indigenous culture. I had secretly always wanted to play, but was afraid that I would not be able to.
My own brother Glenn, would just fearlessly pick up anything and try to get the sound….even vacuum cleaner hoses! He could play around for fun, but I was more reserved and had never even attempted to play a Didjeridu before.
However in Ted and Nigel’s presence and with their encouragement, I put the Didjeridu to my lips for the very first time.
Much to my relief, surprise and joy, I was able to get the drone straight away. Even more amazingly, I could almost get the circular breathing as well, which is a special breathing technique that allows the Didjeridu to be played continuously without stopping.
I immediately fell in love with the vibrations in my body as I played. I was hooked!!
Nigel and Ted encouraged me to become a serious student of the instrument.
After encountering another Indigenous Didjeridu Master coincidentally named Glenn soon after, who lived with my brother and I for a while, I began to walk the path of Didjeridu in earnest.
The happiness that I felt from the sound vibrations and the elation when I first got the circular breathing was unlike anything I had ever felt before.
I remember dancing around my living room, when I was able to create a continuos note for the first time!
Playing the didjeridu felt completely natural to me and I would play for hours at time, emerging myself in the sound. I had no idea then, in what ways my love of the instrument would influence my life path. I just loved the fact that the Didjeridu requires no musical knowledge to learn. You do not need to be able to read music or have any experience in order to play at all. It is a completely intuitive instrument and each person expresses themselves differently.
I began to hear the rhythms and sounds internally and with practice, soon was able to play what I could hear, until I began to experience the feeling of being played through, by something much larger than me.
The instrument became an extension of my body and my body became an instrument itself. Through the Didjeridu, I sensed the oneness of all life and felt a connection to the roots of Didjeridu itself, reaching back through time, to the very first Didjeridu player, who played it for the very first time. I felt like a leaf on an ancient tree….with roots stretching back thousands of years.
About a year after I began playing, I met and spent time with a Noongar Aboriginal elder, artist and healer, named Maxine Fumagalli, who taught me how to use the Didjeridu as an instrument for healing. Instilling in me an understanding of the importance of playing from the heart, to both heal myself and in turn to help others to heal themselves.
To the Australian Indigenous people, the world is sung into being….. all matter is sound vibration in nature.
I learnt to see life as energy and vibration, to be open up to synchronicity, to follow the heart and learn to live in the palm of life’s hand. I came to understand that we all have a purpose or dream. When we live that purpose, we are happy healthy and whole. When we deny ourselves our purpose, we become dis-eased.
The elder, Maxine, told me that she believed that the Didjeridu would spread around the World and help humanity during a time of great change. That it is a gift to humanity itself, from one of the wisest and oldest cultures on earth.
When didjeridu revealed to me my gift and my purpose, I decided to drop everything and follow where the path would lead me.
From busking on the streets, of Melbourne, Perth, Darwin and Sydney, I began travelling around Australia playing at music festivals. After meeting a young Canadian man, named Natty who wanted to learn how to play from me, we began to travel, play and busk together, forming a life long friendship. When Natty suggested that I come to Canada with him, I left Australia in June 1995 on a one way ticket and with only $50 in my pocket.
23 years later, I look back with amazement at the adventures that I have lived and the special people whom I have encountered along the way.
The Didjeridu has lead me to all of the most special people in my life. It lead me to Cortes Island and to Hollyhock. Cortes Island and Hollyhock hold a special place in my heart. It is where I met the mother of my daughter, as well as my current life partner. It is also where I got to work along side Zach Sukuweh, offering Didjeridu sound sessions and teaching workshops together for over 10 years. An amazing man and master musician and sound healer.
I have also had the honor of performing at many music festivals internationally, to audiences of 10’s of thousands and had the privilege of playing with and sharing the stage with some of the finest musicians from around the world. I have flown on private jets to New York city and stayed in penthouse suites in Times Square…..been to a major league baseball game in Atlanta Georgia…stood on the playa at sunrise at Burning Man festival in Nevada…played my Didjeridu at Machu Picchu…at Temples in Japan… all around the World. I have also played for weddings, funerals, births and deaths.
It has been a tremendous honor to bring the Didjeridu for the first time to many communities across Canada, carrying out elder Maxine’s vision, as I help share the beauty and wisdom of the Australian Indigenous culture through it’s music.
But, perhaps the greatest satisfaction I get is from teaching others how to play. Seeing the elation on a persons face, when they get the drone or circular breathing is invokes a never-ending joy for me. Especially when someone falls in love with Didjeridu, like I did, and follows the path themselves….. to be another leaf on the ancient tree that stretches back into the dreamtime.
I have been able to see first hand, how far and how quickly the Didjeridu has spread around the earth. With an ever-growing community of Didjeridu players expanding all over the world, it is being playing by people from every culture, race and background. For example,there are now over 50,000 players in Germany alone. 25 years ago, hardly anyone outside of Australia even knew what a Didjeridu was!
The words of the Noongar Elder, Maxine Fumagalli are coming to pass and I have been blessed to be a small part of it.
There are no words to express my eternal gratitude to Ted Wilkes, Nigel Wilkes and Maxine Fumagalli for their guidance, encouragement and blessing, to share the love of Didjeridu and Australian Indigenous wisdom.
Most of all, I am grateful to the spirit of Didjeridu itself, for tapping me on the shoulder, blessing me with a gift and leading me on an incredible life journey.
How truly fortunate I am, because I feel like an ordinary man, getting to live an extraordinary life. It is the Didjeridu itself, a simple, termite eaten, hollowed out tree branch, that I have to thank for it.
Feature Image: The Essence Oracle