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Nomad - DrDidg - Inlakesh
There is a specially "numinous" quality about the sound
of the didgeridoo (see the section "About Numen"), which
makes us particularly value its sound. It is the most well known
instrument of the indigenous Australians. Made usually from an
approximately 1 meter long hollow branch of a eucalyptus tree,
it has a deep, powerful sound, filled with overtones - it often
reminds people of the long horns of the Tibetan monasteries -
and it is played with continuous, or circular breathing. The energy
it produces, or perhaps one should say mediates, has to do with
cleansing (i.e. emotional cleansing), and with grounding, and
the rough, deep tones have a very masculine quality - it was originally
only played by men.
We have a number of excellent titles:
DAVID HUDSON's brilliant sounds demonstrate the enormous range of possibilities of the didgeridoo. These are technically fine recordings, that can give the impression of sitting right inside the instrument, listening to the deep, growlingly low, rumbling sounds, with all their many kinds of overtones. This is the sound of Australia. Woolunda is pure solo didgeridoo, whilst Rainbow Serpent has several numbers with Hudson accompanying himself, playing percussion, plus a few sounds from the Outback in the background 115/159.-
ADAM PLACK AND JOHNNY WHITE ANT play the didgeridoo with remarkable power and artistic creativity. Their 2 latest recordings: Dawn to Dusk has the best ethnic sounds of Australian music, we've heard, with a focus on the didgeridoo. Winds of Warning is a whirlwind mixture of traditional and world music, a powerful, rhythmic exhibition what the instrument can do - accompanied by song, by keyboards, percussion and guitar. 115/159.-
STEPHEN KENT: learned the instrument when he toured Australia with a theatre group. On Somewhere the sound is almost from rock music, accentuated by some hard-hitting drumming. Landing, also an "audiophile" recording, his latest of many, is one of those fusion records that mix indigenous with Western music, in a way that makes one understand how the world is getting smaller 159.-
DrDIDG or Graham Wiggins: (see the review below). Out of the Woods is folk-blues-rock - world music with a heavy, driving beat. The didgeridoo is right there in the centre, and the good Doctor experiments not only with it's natural sound, but sometimes also plays (tastefully) with the electronically sampled possibilities. He's accompanied by Mark Revell's lyrical guitar, and his own melodica, both with a lot of blues feeling. His latest, Serotonality, is full of powerful new energy, go and musicality, a creatively living world music fusion, of Australian sounds with rock, blues and jazz. 159.-
NOMAD: (see the review below). Rhythmic-shamanistic fusion of the music of several cultures. It's a powerful, wild and spicy mixture, featuring Nomad himself on didgeridoo, Robert Mirabal (native American song and flute), and Mor Thiam (West African song and percussion). 159.-
OTHER TITLES: The didgeridoo is beginning to be used in many contexts today: Check out our World Music and New Age sections: For example Brent Lewis, Gabrielle Roth, Feet in the Soil.
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Australia's native wind instrument, the didgeridoo, is heard more and more often in the background on many popular recordings these days, and more prominently on some world music mixes (as mentioned above under OTHER TITLES). New world music releases giving a central place to the didg are still seldom, but happily becoming more of an everyday event.
In general I would say that they have a surprisingly high level
of musical quality. Perhaps the instrument is so basically simple,
but also basically sensual, that there's not much room for bad
vibes? Here are 3 recently available albums:
'Nomad' was on Billboard's world music charts last Autumn, and deservingly from this reviewers point of view. The sound of the album is immediate and striking.
Nomad reaches into traditions where the musical culture is not so much a matter of control, but perhaps more of losing control. On this record the shamanistic, trance-inducing energy of Aboriginal, Native American and African music and sounds are joined together, in a crossover that suddenly seems perfectly natural. Though perhaps also pretty much out of this world to a "civilised" European mind.
Nomad is in fact a classically trained musician, who "wandered into the Australian bush to find the music of nature". Here he plays didgeridoo, "instrumentation" (sic!) and chants. He's on his own on three of nine tracks.
On the others he's accompanied by different combinations of three other musicians: Robert Mirabal, a Taos Pueblan who plays flute and also sings. Mor Thiam from Senegal, who plays drums and chants. And apparently (no information about him) there's another "city boy" on the record, Jason Baker on guitar, "instrumentation" and vocals.
The didgeridoo has a way of creating rhythm that's connected to the breath, to the natural breathing function. On this album the rhythms are often heavy and persistent, the chanting wild, and the total result is like being transported into some uncharted world jungle and being suddenly surrounded by dancing, chanting savages, who may or may not be able to prevent you from ever returning as the same person, to the straight world you came from. My advice: if you're not against them, get into your Bermuda shorts and join them!
DrDidg on 'Out of the Woods' is closer to home, a funky, folk-rock didgeridoo corroboree (get-together). Graham Wiggins, leader and didgeridoo master was, together with Martin Cradick in 1988, a founding member of Outback, one of the first groups to bring the instrument to the attention of the Western world.
(Martin Cradick plays mostly guitar and mandolin, and was largely responsible for the folk element in their recordings. He has more recently been recording with the pygmies of Central Africa - see the review elsewhere in this number).
Part of the technique of blowing the instrument involves circular breathing, and Wiggins is very much taken up by the connection of breathing to rhythm: "Playing the didgeridoo does not simply use the breath, it is the breath. It is a way of dancing with your lungs and throat and breathing rhythmically to create a hypnotic groove which comes straight from the rhythms of the body".
There's a lot of emphasis on the percussive qualities of the instrument on this record. The sound is often sharper and more incisive than one is used to hearing, and this is part of what gives the music its rock sound. In addition, he uses some complex sampling techniques to keep, and strengthen the rhythmic patterns he's interested in. Together with guitarist, Mark Revell, and Wiggin's own addition of melodica (a mouth blown harmonica), we get the funky groove, which again is heightened by Ian Campbell's easily swinging drums.
With Inlakesh's 'Quantum Dreaming', we're more or less back to basics: Didgeridoo with rhythm, plenty of nature sounds from the Australian bush, a bit of bull roarer whirring round your head. And then - you'll never guess the surprise addition - well, of course, what else than - a cello!
To get the cello over with right away, it's only on two of the eight tracks, and it's not very intrusive.
Some of the rhythm is supplied by click sticks, but most of it comes by way of Jeff Sussman's softly ambient African tension drums and congas, more supporting of the basic rhythm of the didg, than "driving" a rhythm forward in itself.
So what we're coming to hear here, is the didgeridoo itself as sound-maker and sound imitator. A good portion of solo didg, the mike close up, all the overtones made clear to hear, the rough bass timbres massaging the whole system, speakers and the room, as well as the listener.
It's that basic sound that has always attracted me to the instrument. Recording techniques today reach right into the vibrating inner core of the hollowed out piece of wood that is the didg - and luckily there are quite a few such modern studio recordings to choose from. No need to go for your weekly trip to the masseuse, just turn it on, lay yourself down and enjoy.
But 'Quantum Dreaming' is more than just physical massage. The two players, Tanya Gerard and Robert Thomas also let you hear a lot of the animals of the bush, as well as the human animal. They know how to get into a rhythmic groove, where there's a kind of serious, ruminating playfulness in the making of sounds. Strange sounds, putting out recognisable feelings - teasing, jumping, a stubborn worrying at what's going on, a laughing and complaining. Then suddenly a dog barking again, the cry of a bird. Stop.
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