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About the Didgeridoo

Murruppi with a selection of his authentic,
hand-made didgeridoos at Southbank Arts and
Culture Market in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


Didgeridoo is an English name.  Some Australian Aboriginal names are:

  • Mako – Kunwinjku, Kune, Kuninjku Tribes.
  • Liddung, djalubbu -  Rembarrnga Tribe
  • Ngorla - Burarra, Gun-nartpa Tribe
  • Morlo – Dangbon, Dalabon Tribe
  • Wuyimbarl – Djinang, Wurlaki Tribe
  • Ngunebobanja – Nakkara Tribe
  • Mudburuja – Gurrgoni  Tribe
  • Morle – Gundjeihmi Tribe
  • Yirdaki – Other Northern Australian tribes.
  • Yigi Yigi – North Queensland tribes

The didgeridoo originated in only a few tribes in the Northern part of Australia. It has only spread to other tribes in Australia in recent years. One of the tribes who can claim 'cultural heritage ' of the instrument is the Kuninjku tribe in the Northern Territory. Here is what an elder, Tom Djelkwarrngi said in his own language (Kininjika):

Ngabin-nang Balanda birri-buhmeng, minj njale man-dule karrmeninj makka djal dule-yak. Mako konda beh ngad ngarri- karrme minj bedberre walem-beh, la Balanga ngandi-nang ngadberre wanjh ngandi-ngund-jikang ngadberre bedda. Ngad mako ngarri-karrme mulil ken, djabbi, kun-borrk, daluk mararradj man-dule-ken. Ngadberre, mako reykurrmenin minj bedberre walem-beh. Balanda bu birri-mey mako but bale ka-yime bu kabirri-bengkan. Bu kabirri-wernhbekkan man-dule ngarri-wayini kare wanjh kabirri-bengkan. 
Translated into English this means:
I've seen non-aboriginal people blowing, and the way they play there's no tune, no song and no meaning. The didgeridu is ours, from here, and it does not belong to aboriginal people from the south or non-aboriginal people who have seen us and tried to copy us. We use the didgeridu in celebrations such as circumcision ceremonies, for dancing and for love songs. The didgeridu placed itself here for us. Non-aboriginal people have also tried to take hold of the didgeridu but they just don't seem to be able to understand it. Maybe if they listen properly to us singing then they might understand.
In the book 'Kultja Now' the authors inform us that, “....such statements should not give the impression that Arnhem Land musicians totally reject the popularisation of the didgeridoo, particularly in its use throughout Aboriginal Australia. Their real concerns are that the cultural ownership of the instrument should be properly acknowledged and respected, and that new forms of unaccompanied performance that are outside the instruments traditional cultural mode are not promoted as authentic classical didgeridoo music”.
Also, contrary to popular belief, women did play the didgeridoo in the traditional tribes from where it originated and there were some quite good women players. The only time they did not play it was when they were pregnant, perhaps because of the belief that the baby could be affected in some way.
Djirrbal/Ngadjonji Tribe
Rainforest Area.
North Queensland. Australia.


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