Celtic Didgeridoo

Ancient bronze instruments from Scottish & Irish bogs were played like a didgeridoo, and created a tremendous harmonic range.

The didgeridoo is a Celtic instrument!

I’ll explain. My first didgeridoo was a home-made affair. A birch log sawn in half lengthways, hollowed out with chisels and grinder, then glued back together. Crude, but it worked. Well, poorly. It was hard to play, had a very ‘soft’ tone, and was a poor choice of learner’s instrument.

For my second didge, I noticed one day that the water board were installing new pipe along the road about a mile from where I lived at the time, and there were several long of cut-off blue PVC piping. I ‘liberated’ a six-foot section of one of these whilst just happening to pass by walking the dog one night. The mouthpiece I made the traditional way with beeswax. The diameter was a bit on the large side – I think about 4″ – but the sound was great.

I commissioned my first ‘proper’ didg from an Australian maker, Bruce Rogers [ who passed away in 2015 – obituary]. Bruce was a very well-regarded maker. This was in the ’90s, before there was much in the way of internet shopping, so it was a complex process. Bruce carefully considered my requirements: for it to be in the key of ‘D’ suitable for playing traditional music; that my style was for healing and more meditative – and promised that when he found the right bit of wood for me, he would make me one.

Eventually, it arrived – a beautiful superbly-crafted didge made from solid, heavy, eucalyptus. The energy that comes through it when I play for healing can be incredible.

I had recently read of the instruments dug up from Irish and Scottish bogs. Called the Dord, these are finely crafted bronze tubes that can sound like a trumpet but can also be blown like a didgeridoo. These were very finely masde, and are capable of a subtle range of harmonics, making very expressive music. I emailed Bruce about these, and he replied to tell me that he’d recently toured in Europe, and had played one of the original 2,800 year old bronze instruments…

Armed with the knowledge of these ancient horns, I have occasionally played my didge in a traditional music setting. It fits beautifully on a slow air, accompanying Uillean pipes, and with my partner playing Scottish fiddle. Its unusual, anyway…

My ultimate goal is to make (and play) an ice didge. I have worked out a method to ‘cast’ sections of ice core which would then be ‘welded’ together. All I need is a sustained period of sub-zero temperatures, like we used to get.

Its never too cold and windy!

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