World Music Matters

Raphaël Didjaman, the French didgeridoo master

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RFI meets a Frenchman who brought the didgeridoo to France and is determined to change the image of this long wooden pipe - so cherished by Australian Aborigines.

"There’s this idea in France that the didjeridoo is for [people with] dreadlocks who smoke dope on the beach. It’s not true."

Raphael Didjaman started out as a saxophonist but is now one of France’s leading didjeridoo players.

He mixes this 20,000 year old Aboriginal instrument with jazz, electronic and classical music, taking it far beyond hippy clichés in a bid to change the way people see the instrument.

He first discovered it 17 years ago on a trip to Australia.

“I just heard the sound and was very moved. It came deep from the earth.”

And while the sound wasn’t incredible when he first blew into that long pipe, naturally hollowed-out by termites in northern Australia, the sensation was. “I could feel it in all my cells. It was just magic. I knew that this instrument was going to change my life.”

Five CDs, a DVD, a commercial and many concerts later, Didjaman lives and breathes didjeridoos.

He even makes them from trunks of eucalyptus wood, hand-picked on trips to a particular part of northern Australia.

Each instrument has its own individual tone and personality, the different length, width, shape and density of the wood determining the range of notes that can be reached.

While he doesn't believe Aborigines have exclusive rights to the instrument, he has deep respect for their tradition.

“They use it to say thanks, thanks to nature and the earth, to the hunter for providing meat, every time it’s to say thank you for something.”

“This instrument makes people happy," he adds. "We stole it from the Aborigines, so I can’t keep it for myself. You have to spread the music, that’s my message.”

>>Raphaël Didjaman's website

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