Category Archives: didgeridoo

Marko’s Didge History

Last week and today, Marko and I conducted 2 recorded interviews documenting his introduction to the didgeridoo and the artistic exploration following that fateful day. This photo represents a period of time in the evolution of his career as a craftsman/ innovator. He called this series of leather, painted didgeridoos the “Temple Horns.” It’s a regional thing. When I was a kid in Rexburg (home of BYU-Idaho), I used to answer the phone sometimes, “Top o’ the temple, Moroni speaking.”

Soon I’ll have an ebook available for purchase on the website. www.didjbox.com
top o the temple

Marko’s backyard in Millcreek, Salt Lake City, UT ~ Feb. 24, 2015

Angel Moroni toots God's horn but wishes he had a Marko Johnson didge.

Angel Moroni toots God’s horn but wishes he had a Marko Johnson didge.

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Didgeridan’s Whirlwind Mexican Tour!

Our own Dan Flynn made the papers in Español!

About a month ago, Dan drove his monster van into Mexico. Via Facebook, he’s kept us up-to-date on his journey. He’s learning the language, enjoying the people, collaborating with musicians, and loving the freedom to busk without arbitrarily restrictive regulations. It’s been exhilarating to watch his progress. His CDs are selling like hotcakes – or tamales, or something. He’s had to sell burned copies while waiting for more to print and arrive from Mexico City. dan flynn

Did you notice Socks Diablo on his shoulder there? Just when you thought Dan couldn’t get more Dan, the final piece snapped into place, and he’s off like a rocket! I’m so happy for my friend. I wish I could be a fly on the wall of that audience, seeing their reaction to this unusual music and this talented man.

And I love that cat!

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Haunted Didge

On Halloween, some friends and I went on a haunted Salt Lake City bus tour. Halfway through the tour, Marko began to didge, and a low, visceral rumble crept through our company. Murmurs across the bus were under-the-breath at first, but they spread from neighbor to neighbor as everyone dropped dead quiet: “Oh my gosh! Do you hear that? What IS that?!”

A spooky soundtrack had accompanied our journey all along, but this was new and deliciously unnerving for those who’d never heard it before. Soon everyone was exclaiming aloud and I burst out in a characteristic cackle. At last, the tour guide shouted, “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!?” but Marko, being the imp that he is, had stopped. It was then that I thought to capture the moment, but he had done with his chicanery. So here’s Marko’s chest.
marko's chest

Later, he serenaded Slenderman.
marko and tall man

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Didjeridoo Summit

Ondrej Smeykal and Stephen Kent’s Didjeridoo Summit was wonderful again this year. This music and these people are just so healing for me. I know from the faces and responses that everyone who experiences a show like this is touched by the energy, as well.

I don’t know what it is about primal music. It takes to us a native place, where we felt each other and our bodies more intuitively and honestly, where “We Are One” wasn’t a mantra yet because we hadn’t forgotten. I reflect on what it is about the didgeridoo that fosters that Oneness. I imagine ancient instruments remind our cells and psyches of a time and place where reliance on one another was requisite for survival. Perhaps in those times, community comfort and love was simpler, too. I always think of the Earth in those days, so pure and unadulterated. I think, “But time marches on. We filled the planet simply because we did. We invented better ways to do our work because that’s who we are.” Invariably I wonder, “When did the power grab separate us from our planet and our integrity? And how could we let it continue once we recognized it? How do we not insist that we save Her?” I just don’t get it. I feel anxiety rise in me that I’m not doing enough. Then I breathe again, because simply being in a community, in a concert like this, is something. I believe that the voice of the Earth comes through these instruments and whispers to each participant, “Come back to me. I want to be your home. I want to be well, and embrace my children.” Writing that, I feel like a New Age, do-nothing hack.

I’m struggling with a recent trauma. It is for this reason that I haven’t written. As I take myself back into the energy of that room, however, this is, in fact, what I received. Getting that pit-of-my-stomach poser shame is my own hubris, I know. I’m willing to accept that I care and would do more if I could.

I came home from the performance praying that those with power and money would be touched by the need of our human family to reconnect with and recover our Mother. I say that prayer again now. I’m so grateful for those in my community who do have means, and use them for awareness and activism. I love the musicians and artists who take us to that place where Spirit speaks, and we hear. I love the people who attend such rallies, meetings, and performances for their desire to learn and share this message, or simply to find relief. Whether you’re there for the first time or for a refresher, this is what you can receive.

And it just makes you happy! Stephen Kent told Marko, “I don’t know what it is about Salt Lake. I get so silly here! I’m usually very serious when I perform.” I’ve only seen an even blend of both. It’s very effective. He’s just the most utterly delightful man. He plays with us! It makes discussions about Aboriginal people and the dire condition of the planet not more palatable, but more… natural. Yes, we are here to celebrate! Yes, we need to get things done. NOW. Otherwise, I just kept grinning at how cute he is up there, haha! I love his style and how he moves when he plays. It has something to do with the way shaking a percussive rattle makes him shake his tail feather. It’s organic and… darling. And who can say enough about his personality and pithy British wit?stephen

My relief and healing began again when Stephen started, though that’s not to suggest I did not deeply feel the passion and prayer that emanates from Leraine Horstmanhoff. She’s amazing, and I look forward to all of her performances. (I enjoyed a house concert in winter last year. I should have written about it.) When you sit with the continuous drone of the didgeridoo, however, with that gorgeous deep breath again, Source knows what you need and gets it for you. Oh man, it was good to relax! (I went to Spain in July and had a very bad experience that resulted in hiding for the remainder of my stay in a safe house for battered women. My attacker was a [female] friend of 10 years.)

I completely let go of my belly and breathed. Soon, I got up and stretched. My soul ached and so did my body. I danced some, but mostly I just stretched. Ondrej Smeykal was playing now, and there’s not a word to describe the meditative place he takes us to. I want to invent a new one. It was very much a feeling of, “You’re right. We took us here!” I felt the energy of everyone in that room contributing to the healing of my body, and thanked them for it. Then I opened my eyes and saw my friend Peter lying on pillows on the floor. He fell 40 ft. in June from an anchor as he started to rappel a rockface, and broke his back. It’s a miracle he’s alive. I went to him and danced and stretched nearby. Ondrej had invited us to close our eyes and go within, “and see what we create. I’m not very interesting to watch,” he said. Inasmuch as he doesn’t dance or talk or play various instruments, I suppose he was right, but he channeled for 35 minutes straight. (My date, a first-timer, told me later, amazed.) I think he played 4 distinct pieces, between which we clapped, of course, but the effect was continuous, pure connection.

Ondrej is mistaken, in my opinion, about not watching him. You’d be stirring inside that magic space and then, sure enough, he’d blow your mind again and you had to look. His aura sucked you straight into his energy! It was so powerful and beautiful. Stillness isn’t boring. It’s peace. How strange to enter quiet against the backdrop of this explosive, percussive sound! Indeed, because of it. ondrej

Ondrej closed the evening elaborating on the theme that became the title of last year’s review: Simple, Complex, and Exact. “With these instruments there’s no restriction or frustration,” he said. “You don’t need a passport and there’s no language barrier.” He couldn’t have known how relevant that was for me. For weeks, I’ve marveled at the good fortune that was mine in Spain. Beyond language limitation, I met and healed with the most beautiful, energetic people. I knew as it was happening that my own resonance attracted safety and love.

It’s been a struggle since my return to maintain that feeling of worthiness and humility. I was fine for about 2 weeks after coming home, and then the bottom fell out. This concert, this connection reminded me. The following week, I made an appointment to begin trauma counseling. I’m also doing music therapy, though I didn’t know that’s what it was when I signed up. I started an 8-wk. djembe workshop that I am rocking, if I do say so myself! It was inspired. I’m the cheapest tightwad you’ll ever meet. I’ve been wanting to join this class for years, but couldn’t justify the expense. Now here I am with credit card debt from an ill-fated trip and, boom, I just did it! It is saving me. And I actually practice! I never did find my on-switch with the didgeridoo. 🙂 But, oh, how I love it!

Tribal music heals the soul.

me with a spanish tanI try to imbue this blog with my personality, yet stay a little more distant from it than my personal blog. I intended it to be a forum for discussions mainly on the didge, naturally, but also on broader native music. It also was a means to highlight the instruments and talents of Marko Johnson, who coordinated the show and is the go-to didge guy in Salt Lake, and a known inventor in the didge world. The man holds the patent on the didjbox, a compact didgeridoo perfect for travel and just plain cool, like its designer. He was the first to alter this instrument in 400,000 years. But this Summit touched a place in me that was deeply frightened. Thank you for bearing with me. Blessings!marko and yanaHere’s Marko playing The Micro Didjbox and Yana holding one of his leather didges at my 41st birthday party. I’m blessed with good friends. Thanks again, C

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Ondřej Smeykal & Friends

Ondřej Smeykal & Friends return to Salt Lake City!

On their way to Indidjinus in Oregon, Ondřej Smeykal and Stephen Kent will stop through our fair metropolis and engage us in another transcendent evening of performance and communion. Last year, they told Marko it had been one of the more successful and pleasurable stops for them, and it certainly was for us! Wow! I’m looking forward to another magic night and will improve this post when I know more about it. No doubt, Leraine Horstmanhoff and Didgeridan Flynn will open the evening. Can’t wait!

Plan for sometime in the last week of July 2014, I believe, to sit in with good people, good energy, and good vibes as Ondřej Smeykal & Friends transport us to a place we can only find live, together. See you soon!

Oh! Well, there it is. I guess I ought to pay better attention to the Facebook Page I’m an administrator of. Oops! https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Micro-Didjbox/236514249771679 JULY 31st! Don’t miss it!didjeridu summer tour

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Simple, Complex, Exact

Ondrej Smeykal, Didgeridoo Master & Friends

What an awesome show!

Can you believe it was FIVE hours?!!! I couldn’t either. There were social breaks between performers and sets, so we wiggled around and hugged old friends/met new ones, but… five hours! I couldn’t believe it when I turned my phone on.

We were transported.

Ondrej spoke briefly before he began. He’s very hushed, and even mic’d it was difficult with his accent and pitch to understand, but I did hear him describe the didgeridoo as “simple, complex, and exact. We forget about these things,” he went on, “but these instruments are here to remind us.” He talked about his “didge conversion,” the awe that a mere hollow tube can do and be this thing!

And then he played. WOW! When I heard him a couple years ago, it was an intimate house concert, acoustic. This time, it was still quite intimate but intricately amplified. It was totally different and… just amazing, that’s all. Amazing!

****

Leraine Horstmanshoff was first to play. I was glad to finally hear her. She’s well-known in the valley and I’m surprised it took so long to meet her after hearing so much about her. She was wonderful! Unique and female. Powerful, evocative, and emotional. She hadn’t brought any CDs, but I will get one at first opportunity. She mixed unexpected instruments – guitar, banjo (!), her voice (more than yelps and trills). She sang in the thing! (Beautiful voice; rich, unforced vibrato) It was tribal, feminine, human. Leraine also briefly demo’d The Micro, and Marko sold three on the spot. Thanks, Leraine!

Leraine Horstmanshoff

Leraine Horstmanshoff

Dan was next, and he’s just a hit. I already introduced you to him, so I won’t elaborate much except to say I like his new stuff, especially on his newer didge tuned to the gyspy scale. He was funny. “This is called ‘The Gypsy,'” he said of it, telling us why. “This is called ‘The Slugger,'” he said of another. “Not because of its harmonics but because…” He trailed off and threw the huge stick over his shoulder, taking the hitter stance.

Dan’s always interesting because he gets into the precision and mathematics of split didge manufacturing. He mentioned his association with Dr. Frank Geipel, the German engineer whose computer program he uses to achieve the exact specifications for each unique didge he dreams up and handcrafts (Computer Aided Didgeridoo Sound Design, CADSD). The audience loved that.

Dan Flynn and "The Big Apple"

Dan Flynn and “The Big Apple”

Stephen Kent added every imaginable percussive accompaniment, and some beyond imagination. He introduced each strange piece, explaining that he searches the world for unusual instruments. I loved his music. He talked about his didge conversion, which took place at The Valley of Winds in Australia, and played the piece that evolved from that night, on an authentic eucalyptus yidaki (a tribal name for didgeridoo) hollowed by termites. (That still blows my mind. This thing, this powerhouse instrument of music and meditation, is not man-made. It’s bigger than us. Makes you feel a “meant-to-be”ness about the world, though I think the universe, while loving, is more random than that.) I got the most satisfying, deep breath I’ve had in years. I have this weird thing where I can’t catch my breath. I have to talk myself off a ledge sometimes when I need that diaphragm-stretching breath and can’t get it. I got it!

Stephen Kent

Stephen Kent

Pithy British humor describes Stephen Kent. He was so fun! The man didn’t miss a beat! He was so quick and playful with a live audience. In the midst of all the laughter and joy, he talked at length about the plight of Aboriginal people and about elders, in general. My participation in Native American practices in recent years has deepened my connection to ancestors. I’d only ever felt connected to my own. Now I feel tied to all who live and who have. I believe that we have access to all consciousness. Everyone in that room felt it, and shared theirs with one another. It was love, magic, fun. You don’t look at the clock when you’re tapped into eternal time. 😉 Stephen closed with a traditional song wanting community participation. That felt good, though I think I’m the kid who could always be heard above the others in primary school, so gleeful am I.

Marko and Dancing Girls... naturally

Marko and Dancing Girls… naturally

Chad Butler, Stephen and Ondrej’s manager, spoke before each. He said, “Whatever the didgeridoo is going to become, it’s happening now.” He elaborated on his point that more and more people are coming to the didge, and the influence of the community is about to shift. There is power and purpose in what we care about. He talked about green and other global concerns and how the didge community seems to be in tune to those kinds of issues and yearns to be a force for change. He was very inspiring about the possibility for success. That’s how I feel. I just feel us “getting it.” Writing that is immediately followed by the question in my mind, “How can you say that?” But I feel it. I think this community is raising children and awareness and even money that will solve many current, urgent problems.

It was an uplifting reminder to act and speak for the planet and for patience with each other. And then Ondrej played.

Ondrej Smeykal

Ondrej Smeykal

Ondrej suggested we turn down the overhead lights. The only option was off. It removed us instantly from a room and took us to a place of simply being. He began with “the ocean” I wrote about before. It was really powerful amplified. That deep breath I got earlier kept rewarding me. I was relaxed and serene.

Then he exploded! Holy shit.

I find it remarkable sometimes that the didge surprises me so. I’m saturated with it, yet I can’t get enough. Five hours! Felt like two. Dance, laughter, connection, festival energy. And stupefying music! How do you even try to describe?

Meanderingly, I suppose. I really enjoyed this show.

OK! I’ll go back to practicing. Ten minutes a day, for the love of all that is holy! I tease. I don’t chide my lack of discipline so much as I celebrate a kick in the pants. I’m happily inspired and motivated anew. Didgeridoo!

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Ondrej Smeykal Returning to Salt Lake City

I met Ondrej 2 years ago when he gave a private concert in Park City at the home of Marko’s friend, Don Fulton. I’m looking forward to his show on May 14th at Dancing Cranes Imports. Especially exciting is that my cousin Dan performs in the pre-show! Ondrej was Dan’s didge idol for years, and when I heard him play in person it was immediately clear why. Mind-blowing stuff! At the time, Ondrej had begun experimenting with just his breath, no lip vibrations. It was surprising to me that I could be so moved by just the rhythm of his breath. I remember getting really philosophical about the human experience, the magic of being alive, and sharing air with everyone in that room. The breathy music was percussive and earthy and made me think of the ocean. At one point, I was listening with eyes closed when I heard the screech of a bird. I looked outside to witness an eagle in a steep, fast dive! One of those moments in life when you feel intensely connected. It was a little overwhelming and a lot AWESOME!
smeykal

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