Didgeridan Flynn

I’m so excited! I just checked in to Facebook to find that Dan had posted the announcement for an upcoming show in LA with Ondrej and Stephen Kent, whom I’ve heard of but never met. Marko talks about him a lot and by now I recognize some of his music. He’s performing at the Dancing Cranes event on the 14th, as well. Well, this time cousin Dan isn’t listed as pre-show entertainment, but 4th billing as a headliner! Way to go, cous!

It’s not that I wasn’t proud and happy to hear him again as pre-show; It’s just that seeing his “name in lights,” as it were, took me back to the days when I didn’t know him at all, and he blew my mind. I imagined some didge enthusiast going to the concert for another of the 4 names and not even hearing of this guy, in no way anticipating what he will do, this guy who… “ended up being the best surprise of the night!” as I’ve exclaimed after so many live music experiences.

I realized Dan was my first didge idol. I mean, Marko opened my eyes to what this instrument was and what it was capable of, but Dan… I mean, some sounds I didn’t even know could be made on earth. And there he was, right there, circular breathing, pumping out this purcussive, perfectly simple, impossibly complicated call. His was the first signature I could recognize.

Before Dan, the music of the didgeridoo was traditional, tribal, very very unknown. After Dan I asked questions. He answered. He really answered! I found out I love the way his brain works. A friendship was born. And then we discovered we’re family. It happens in Utah. Or Nevada, as the case may be. 🙂didgeridan

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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

Leave a comment

Filed under didgeridoo, Marko Johnson, Salt Lake City

Sales Picking Up!

Marko said there would be a lull in business after the holidays, when I started working for him. Sure enough, there didn’t seem to be much for me to do. And sure enough, come spring the orders are steadily trickling in! Visit didjbox.com to learn more about The Original Didjbox, as well as the didjbox originator himself, Marko Johnson… and to become the next proud owner of The Micro!

Leave a comment

Filed under didge box, didgeridoo, didjbox, Marko Johnson

Women and The Didgeridoo

I came across a fascinating article by linguist Lera Boroditsky, in which she explores how language shapes the way we see the world. I love the idea that the global community is robbed when any language dies. We lose something when a unique way of seeing (and saying) disappears. Boroditsky’s research is comprehensive, gratifying, and exciting. Something she reveals about the language structure of one Aboriginal tribe caught my attention: “In languages that have grammatical gender, all the nouns are assigned to a grammatical category. In the simpler examples it would be masculine and feminine. Sometimes there is a third gender, masculine, feminine and neuter. In more complex cases there can be as many as 16 genders with a special grammatical category for hunting tools or for canines, depending on the language. George Lakoff made famous a grammatical gender category in an Aboriginal language that included women, fire and dangerous things. Those were the things that were all treated grammatically equivalently in this language.”

I find that simultaneously interesting and hilarious! Women have long been held responsible – artistically, mythologically, socially (and now, linguistically?) – for the choices of both men and women. (Adam and Eve, anyone?) And… Well, I’m a redhead. Women, fire, and dangerous things I know all too well. Someone will ask by day’s end if I have a temper… and get an angry earful. (I tease.) Delightful!

With reference to gender, we’ve discussed didgeridoo as traditionally played by men. However, Marko found a quote revealing the opinion of famed didgeridoo maker, player, and instructor, Djalu Gurruwiwi. I’m sorry I’m not familiar with the speaker, Gög Didge: “My partner Dori just came back from a meeting with yidakimaster Djalu in Sydney, where they brought this message to the point: All non-traditional women should feel free to play the didgeridoo, where they want, what they want to play, and when they want to play it.”

Awesome.

Commonly, it is advised to approach the issue of women playing the didgeridoo with sensitivity. Many are open to it, but it is, as yet, fairly controversial. Assumptions should never be made. For more on the subject, go to http://yidakistory.com/dhawu/35miyalk.html.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aboriginal people, Australia, didgeridoo, Marko Johnson

Small World!

I just got the craziest call from Marko. He recently met a girl who “met a girl on a flight home from Peru in 2011” who gave her his card. It was me! The “small world”ishness of the whole thing is that she contacted him after another referral from someone else entirely, with whom she attended a yoga retreat in Yelapa, Mexico. It was when she met Marko, on the recommendation of this other person, that she recognized him from the business card I gave her 2 years ago. (Stranger still, Marko and I vacationed together in Yelapa 3 years ago!)

Her name is Trista. She’s a yoga instructor here in Salt Lake City. Marko gave her a didjbox, The Micro, in exchange for a lesson or two. I hope to meet with her soon to discuss the benefits of the didgeridoo as pertains to breathing, i.e. meditation, pranayama. I’m planning to write an article for The Catalyst, an independent magazine here in town.

I’ll keep you posted. But… crazy, no? Small world, indeed!

Leave a comment

Filed under circular breathing, didge box, didgeridoo, didjbox, meditation, Salt Lake City, The Micro, travel

Hovia Edwards and Women Playing Traditional Tribal Music

A couple of years ago, I came across a most interesting PBS documentary following young musicians from different backgrounds brought together for a single purpose. The series was called Soundmix, the Episode, “Five Young Musicians,” the purpose? To create a collaborative original piece of music.

How are these youth going to blend such distinct sounds?! I thought. Even harder, how might they give voice to each?

It was thrilling to learn the journey into music of each of the players – a Latin drummer from New York, a classical cellist from Cali, an improv New Orleans horn player, an old-time West Virginia fiddler, and Hovia Edwards, from Idaho, on the Native American flute – and to observe their creative process as they adjusted to each other, then bonded, learned from one another, and made a strange, glorious symphony all their own.

I was really excited because I lived for a time as a very young girl with my grandparents right down the road from Fort Hall Indian Reservation, where Hovia Edwards grew up. My big sister was the only Anglo in first grade! I used to walk down the road to the red brick schoolhouse and play with her at lunch… until a big, scowling girl decided she didn’t like me one bit and I was too scared to return. 🙂 As an adult I’ve found myself attracted to Native Americans and their culture, almost by accident. I certainly couldn’t have predicted being asked at age 20 to model in a $100,000 authentic Indian dress! But I feel humbled and blessed to have meandered barefoot on that ranch in Montana, feeding horses, posing in a teepee. (At the time, I was frightened and unsure, retreating from what seemed like a painful and terrifying future.) Later, I didn’t intend to meet people who would invite me to pray with them in sweat lodge, but their association has enriched my life. I finally begin to perceive the power of prayer. Every time, as the heat rises and the song begins to shift me from “out there” to connectedness, the same image comes to my mind: I see myself as a girl on a covered wagon crossing the plains and meeting the faces of our brown brothers and sisters as we journey through strange land. I really do!

I was gratified to learn that Miss Edwards represented the Goshute Tribe in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

Native flutes are considered medicine, and are also used in courtship. Historically, only men played but by the 60s there were very few players left. In the 70s, a resurgence of interest in tribal people and custom popularized the instrument anew. I’m of the opinion that keeping any tradition singing is worth a tweak to convention. Young people need to know who they are! I believe in adhering as much as possible to ritual for the sake of continuity and cultural identity, but… I’m a white girl who goes to sweat lodges. What do you think I think of women playing instruments excluded to them for millenia? Of course I find it transcendent and inspiring! Moreover, I think it makes the circle complete. I believe that change can co-exist with tradition when the time and place, and therefore understanding, shift. For me, the real beauty exists in my view that, anymore, the world is a small and intimate place. We all benefit from sharing the best of our people with each Other.

Leave a comment

Filed under music, Salt Lake City

Aboriginal Australians and The Didgeridoo

I’ve never played a traditional didge so I can’t do a compare/contrast, but I confess I can’t really wrap my mind around the concept of random, non-harmonic frequencies. It really makes little difference to me at this point in my learning, since I can only do my trusty drone and one trumpet note, but that one trumpet note is exactly one octave higher. Is that simply not the case with the traditional didgeridoo? I don’t suppose I’ve heard as many trumpet notes in more traditional playing… and then it occurs to me: Have I heard the didgeridoo played traditionally? Surely, Marko has shared recordings of indiginous people playing their instruments.

This reflection comes on the heels of a long overdue “intro” to this intoxicating instrument of native Australians. Aboriginal men knew termite migration patterns just as they knew that of animals, and followed them to eucalyptus forests to harvest raw materials. By tapping the trunk, they identified hollow trees, chopping them down and shaping the exterior to finish the instrument. Therin lies my question: What were/are the harmonics like? They did nothing to manipulate the interior. That was all-natural termite lunch!

Today, non-traditional craftsmen makes didges out of just about anything, from PVC plastic to any type of wood, which is usually split in half, hollowed – with some amazing, specific dimensions and dynamics! – then reattacted. Then there are rockstars like Marko Johnson, who revolutioned the didge world as we know it! Once he invented the didjbox, it caught on like wildfire. People build some incredible things – works of art – around the exact same basic box. Many don’t even know they could email the guy who designed this thing they are likely obsessed with. 🙂 Here: mj@rounddoor.com.

As for the funny moniker, there are varying names for the instrument among the many different tribes of indiginous people. None resemble didgeridoo. That title probably came from colonizers mimicking the sound it made.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aboriginal people, Australia, didgeridoo, didjbox, Marko Johnson, music