Alan Dargin, 1967-2008
I can make it talk, I can make it sing,
can make it do anything.
Didj, Didj, Didjeridu
Bloodwood log - Alan Dargin
Alan Dargin is most likely an Australian artist you haven't heard of
before and its unfortunate that I'm posting today about this man
because I learnt yesterday that He died on Sunday from a brain
hemorrhage. He was 40.
After veins burst in his throat some years ago while he was playing
the didgeridoo, doctors warned that continued playing
would threaten his life.
Admitted to hospital last week with bleeding on the brain.
A memorial service for Mr Dargin was held at 7am on Thursday,
28 February at Sydney's Circular Quay,
where he often busked to appreciative audiences.
He released some 4 Lps, with a 5th due this year, acted in films
and played around the world.
Yet he could rarely have been as happy as when he was sitting
in the Aboriginal tent embassy in Canberra two weeks ago with
elders from the Northern Territory, on the eve of Kevin Rudd's
apology to the stolen generations.
"I am glad," he said. "We have been acknowledged."
I met him one year in one of the Guinness tents at the Woodford
Folk Festival. We stuck up a conversation and he showed me
his bloodwood digj. It was well over a hundred years old,
made from a species of tree that is now extinct, he even showed
me where scientists had taken same samples from it for some
kind of DNA testing. Understandably proud of this instrument
he proceeded to give us an impromptu show.
I think I remember he gave me a bit of a lesson,
I have a couple of didge's I play,
I just can't do the circular breathing thing.
In terms of my personal style, I play strong and fast.
Initially when I started to perform I created a stir with
blackfellows in Australia that were concerned about my
use of the instrument in a contemporary context.
I don't play ceremonial songs so I won't get into trouble.
I compose all of my songs in a contemporary way and
challenge people to push the didjeridu to its limits.
I take a jazz approach in the use of my instrument
playing in any beat or rhythm structure.
In ensemble playing the didjeridu supplies the bottom
end, it fills up all the holes and makes the sound full.
This may account for the popularity of the didjeridu
and its crossover potential into world music.
Bloodwood is a fantastic album, sometimes almost ambient
like on the killer track "storm warning" a mix of didge and
blues slide that sounds like something off the "Paris Texas"
Ry Cooder soundtrack. "Gaia" combines didge and bird
song that strongly evokes the Australian land scape.
"Hitchhikers nightmare" is a live recording of one of his
signature busking performances, very funny.
"Open road" is didge jazz ,"Trinity" didge with a
classical middle eastern feel and "Anthem" an
expansive masterpiece pushing musical boundaries.
I love the didjeridu, its the one instrument that is
this land, when I've been overseas for extended periods
I've had this odd urge to hear and play this instrument
like some kind of grounding and Alan was the master.
Between meeting President Francois Mitterand in Paris
after playing to a crowd of more than 200,000 people on
Bastille Day in 1994 and playing on the opening night of this
year's Sydney Festival, Dargin played, acted and caroused
with the likes of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin,
Don Burrows, Jimmy Barnes, Tommy Emmanuel, James Morrison
and Yothu Yindi.
He taught "didge" to Wallace Buchanan from Jamiroquai
and perhaps 100,000 others. He performed at festivals ranging from
WOMADelaide to Woodford in Australia, Airvault in France,
to Swizzeridoo in Switzerland, and appeared on German television
and the BBC in Britain.