This is the first article in a 2-part series on The Didgeridoo Players You Should Know. Click here for Part II.
This list of didgeridoo players is by no means complete but it is an overview of those who have most influenced me and the Didge Project community. Every person on this list has done a great deal to spread the awareness of the didgeridoo and Didge Project would not be what it is without their contributions.
Without further ado we present Didgeridoo Players You Should Know:
1. Djalu Gurruwiwi
Custodian of the yirdaki (didgeridoo) amongst the Yolngu people of Northern Australia, Djalu Gurruwiwi is perhaps the best known elder of the didgeridoo world. Djalu and his family are greatly responsible for bridging aboriginal culture with the western world. As didgeridoo maker for the first internationally touring aboriginal band, Yothu-Yindi, interest in Djalu’s instruments grew. With the rise of internet communications, it became well known amongst didgeridoo players that a Djalu-made instrument is one of the finest instruments you can get.
“The Dreamtime” documentary features footage from Garma Festival which includes Djalu leading a group into the outback to harvest didgeridoos from trees, crafting the instruments and learning to play in the traditional style:
Check out Djalu’s official website
2. Ondrej Smeykal
A one-man didgeridoo orchestra is perhaps the best way of describing the extraordinary music of Ondrej Smeykal. His highly original style of playing is the result of a life completely devoted to his instrument. For well over two decades and with ever increasing intensity, Ondrej has been developing and redefining his own unique approach to the didgeridoo. Each composition, or song, as he refers to it, is very different in style, ranging from break-beat and organic Didgeridoo techno, to trance, ambient and anything in between.
In the last years Ondrej has shared and taught his contemporary Didgeridoo style and philosophy at festivals all around the world. His tours have brought him regularly out of his homeland of Prague in the Czech Republic to Japan, Australia, Canada, USA, UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Ukraine. Ondrej is known to experiment with materials to make didgeridoos with. He has been noted for his use of glass and metal instruments and has developed a series of crystal didgeridoos, which he created together with traditional Czech glass masters.
This is one of my favorite didge videos ever:
3. Ganga Giri
Australian born Ganga Giri followed a childhood dream of being one of the top didgeridoo players and now tours the world performing as the leader of his own band. Ganga creates a modern sound by mixing indigenous Australian music with funky rhythms and dance beats. Deeply inspired by the sacredness of Australia’s land and how that feeling can be expressed through the didgeridoo, he has become an ambassador for his country, offering a reflection of contemporary multicultural Australia to a world-wide audience.
4. David Hudson
David Hudson’s life reflects his love and belief in Aboriginal culture and he is widely known as the Cultural Journeyman of Australia. David comes from the Ewamin (oo-rah-min)/Western Yalangi (people of the north east coast of Australia) and has made a career as a didgeridoo player and performing artist. David has traveled extensively throughout Australia and the World, including Europe, Asia, Oceania and the USA as both a solo artist and with world renowned dance troupe, “Tjapukai”, which he co-founded with Greek composer Yanni. He promotes awareness of Aboriginal culture and tradition wherever he travels. This video shows David Hudson in many of his public appearances over a long career in the arts:
5. Mark Atkins
Mark Atkins is an Australian Aboriginal musician known for his skill on the didgeridoo and is also a storyteller, songwriter, composer and painter. He descends from the Yamatji people of Western Australia. He has worked with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Hothouse Flowers, Philip Glass, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, among others. In 2001 he collaborated with Wurundjeri elder Joy Murphy Wandin and composer Philip Glass in the concert work Voices, performed at the Melbourne Town Hall and New York’s Lincoln Center. The composition was commissioned by the City of Melbourne to relaunch the Melbourne Town Hall Organ. This video exemplifies Mark’s storytelling, composition and didgeridoo talents:
6. Xavier Rudd
One of Australia’s most prolific touring artists, Xavier Rudd has built a worldwide following by combining the didgeridoo with his expert guitar and percussion work in a full band setting. Equally talented as a singer and songwriter, Xavier has a number of popular songs in Australia and Canada and he is actively building a catalog of recordings, music videos and festival appearances. Check out his one-man-band action in this spectacular performance (around the 3 minute mark):
7. William Thoren
A man of many talents, William Thoren is a didgeridoo performer and craftsman best known for inventing the Multi Drone didgeridoo and pioneering it’s playing technique. This new breed of didgeridoo makes it possible to play an expanded dynamic range and opens up a new world of possibility for didgeridoo players to collaborate with western instruments. William runs wetdidgeridoo.com which includes instructional videos and information about the Multi Drone technique and other advanced contemporary didgeridoo techniques. He tours extensively teaching workshops on didgeridoo and performing both as a solo artist and with the band Gorangutang. William is also a prolific photographer and traveled extensively to develop his “Didgeridoo World” photo gallery at http://www.williamthoren.com/.
This video explains the Multi Drone technique and shows the instrument in action
A self-proclaimed busker who has a prolific video catalog of performances around the world, Japan’s Shibaten has redefined what it means to be a traveling minstrel. Shibaten has been seen playing djembe, guitar, gongs, bells and many other world instruments simultaneously with the didgeridoo, during his live performances. His music ranges from deep meditative sound baths to high-energy get-the-crowd-dancing music. Watch and see what he’s like when he really gets going:
9. Zalem Delarbre
French artist Zalem is one of my favorite didgeridoo players because he is equally talented at playing fast complex rhythms, beat-boxing and playing other unique styles. Zalem began to play the didgeridoo in 2001 and first started with a wobble-based style of playing and progressively developed his own style with his rock and electro-rock influences. He has been a part of many successful collaborations including the band JMPZ (rock/electro/tribal), Wadhom (hang drum, violin and dance), Tribal Dance (acoustic trance from Israel), Vibration Visuelle (a duet with Bertox, magician/juggler), Zalyshar (duet with Yshar, tribal fusion dancer) and Milanga, an electro-ethnic band with sitar, heavy beats, singing and dance. In 2010 Zalem released his first solo didgeridoo album entirely acoustic. His constant research for didgeridoo possibilities led him to a new style which he calls “Didgstep”. This video exemplifies Zalem’s many talents:
Visit Zalem’s Official Website
10. Stephen Kent
Didgeridoo veteran Stephen Kent has lived all over the world and became a didgeridoo player when living in Australia and scoring music for Circus Oz. He has since relocated to San Francisco, CA and is very active as a recording artist and performer with over twenty two album credits to his name. Stephen is a member of international touring group Baraka Moon, a mix of Sufi chant, trance grooves, didge and drums.
I hope to write more on the many talented didge players who are out there. Until then, here are some more great players worth checking out:
Dubravko Lapaine (Croatia)
Tyler Spencer (Oregon, USA)
Joseph Carringer (New Hampshire, USA)
Jeremy Cloake (New Zealand)
Jeremy Donovan (Australia)
William Barton (Australia)
Chad Butler (Oregon, USA)
Lewis Walker (Australia)
Mack Yidaki (Chile)
Si Mullumby (Wild Marmalade, Australia)
Ash Dargan (Australia)
Ian Hesford (Telesma, Maryland, USA)
Blake Noble (Australia)
Dan Flynn (USA)
Is someone missing from this list? Email us and let us know.
Photos by William Thoren