This page provides a brief overview of the Australian Yolngu Aboriginal cultural and musical practices that inspire AAI, including several videos that illustrate the contemporary use and performance of the didgeridoo. To view our current inventory, visit our “Available Products” page.
In the North East corner of Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia, Yolngu Aboriginal people continue to develop innovative cultural practices that distinguish the Yolngu people as a nation all their own and imbue the region with a uniquely Yolngu sense of place. Internationally recognized as prolific and advanced producers of visual art and music, Yolngu cultural leaders see tremendous value in developing Yolngu art forms and musical genres, and passing these practices on to new generations. Yolngu arts and music make claim on Yolngu land estates, maintain the vast bodies of Yolngu history and knowledge, provide lifeways for Yolngu youth, and generate significant interest in already world-renowned Yolngu arts and culture.
Central to Yolngu musical practice is the instrument yirdaki — or didgeridoo as it is known colloquially. Yolngu craftspersons transform a hollow Eucalyptus log (read our blog article about our didgeridoo craft apprenticeship with the Gurruwiwi family) into a conically shaped, wooden horn without valves, tuning holes, or any other method of modifying the instrument’s sound — a completed instrument is essentially a hollow, wooden tube. Skilled Yolngu artists adorn the exterior of the instrument with stylized paintings symbolic of Yolngu kinship with the land and figures of Yolngu myth.
Didgeridoos are used in Yolngu ceremonies, during musical performances, and — most often — when Yolngu musicians get together just to jam. Musicians play the instrument by buzzing their lips inside the mouth piece of the instrument, then creating rhythmic vocalizations that are amplified by the instrument’s conical shape. In this way, didgeridoo musicians produce melodically varied and harmonically rich sounds that easily stand alone as solo performances, and are also combined with a variety of contemporary instruments to bring a Yolngu aesthetic contribution to popular music.
Far from the primitive stereotype often attributed to Aboriginal people, Yolngu artists and performers use the internet and smart phones, promote their art and music in museums and cultural centers around the world, and blend Yolngu music with global genres of rock and roll, rap, and hip hop. The didgeridoo appears on stage with — and in the albums of — Yolngu bands like Yothu Yindi, who tour the globe and perform during international events such as the Olympics. Aware that their music must interact with the world beyond Arnhemland, many Yolngu strive to integrate their music into the constantly changing trends of a connected world and to bring Yolngu cultural awareness to people everywhere.