Arnhem Land and the Top End of the Northern Territory is the traditional home of the didjeridu, the only wind instrument used by the Aboriginal people of the region. The trunk of a small tree, hollowed by termites, is stripped and painted to make the instrument. Sometimes an exaggerated bell shape is hollowed out and beeswax is applied to smooth the mouthpiece.

This particular didjeridu carries a design called bedjekbedjek. It is made when white clay is slapped over the surface with the hands in the manner of body painting used by the Rembarrnga (and most other Arnhem Land groups) in public ‘diplomacy’ ceremonies.

The longer didjeridu (an instrument over approximately 1.4 metres) is made for the purpose of accompanying songs in either of two styles—the eastern bunggurl style or the western kunborrk tradition. This longer didjeridu makes it easier to produce the characteristic hooted overblown tone which is used in bunggurl style music from central and eastern Arnhem Land.

Didjeridu by Bob Burruwal

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