Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Abra-Abra Cadabra, I want to reach out and grab ya

I can usually tell another American from a mile away.  A couple things give us away.  First of all, you can tell a lot about a person from the shoes they wear.  I am usually in flip flops, tennis shoes, or Tom's.  If I get the choice, this is my choice of footwear.  I think this is a good representation of myself: laid back, comfortable, with a small hope of changing the world for the better.  I have never been one of those girls that gets excited about shoes.  For whatever reason, that gene was shifted towards jackets.  I love jackets and sweaters.  But I am still fascinated by shoes.  Just because I don't necessarily want to wear them doesn't mean that I'm not secretly in love with them.

So, on most days when I find myself enjoying my coffee, watching the crowds of people wander by, I am looking at people's feet, trying to ascertain where they are originally from.  It's a little game I like to play.  Americans are easy.  We all wear name brands, usually tennis shoes and usually comfortable.  This is probably because most Americans are tourists so they have packed ready for adventure.  The only reason I say this is because if you want to look at how much we have compared to the rest of the world you simply have to look no further than a person's foot.

Most people don't wear elaborate shoes and the rest of us make up for it by wearing incredibly intricate masterpieces.  What a weird world.

I had another didjeridu class last night and once again it did not disappoint.  I'm getting better at producing an adequate drone sound but still working on the rhythm breathing aspect.  It takes a lot of air and pressure in your diaphragm.  Quick lungs and a strong diaphragm is what you need to be a good didj player otherwise you end up making yourself hyperventilate.

The class is really fun because only about half of it actually involves the didj.  The rest is Charlie telling stories or answering questions.  He says we can only get better with practice so then he just has us drone away.  He told us a story of him coming across a tribe that consisted of nine people that were all one family.  When he reached them (because of water boring) that was the first contact they had from the outside world.  The father had been into the nearest community just to keep up with what's going on occasionally but the rest of them had no contact with the modern world.  This was in 1984.

It's easier to understand their mythology and stories from dreamtime when you imagine them all sitting around a fire telling them for entertainment.  They don't have phones, TV, even radio but they have their stories. It kinda reminded me of hearing older ladies talking about watching their "stories" which ended up being a soap opera.  "Gotta see what's going on in my story."  I wonder if the younger generation ever even realizes that everything comes from an idea which is put into written word and then made for TV.  I guess that's a foreign concept now.  I fear we are becoming a generation of consumers and not creators.  But that's a different blog now, isn't it?

The most amazing thing to me about the Aboriginal culture is the emphasis put on the power of music. Charlie said our word "music" isn't powerful enough.  To them music is magic.  A lot of them are very superstitious.  Being overly spiritual can come with a price if you let the spirits control your actions.  Aboriginal justice means that if you do something really bad like kill someone, the elders can "point the bone" or "sing you".  If you have been "sung" it means that you will soon die. You have been cursed.  It's black magic that they conjure up through song to tell the spirits to take you away.  According to one of Charlie's stories, the belief can be so powerful that one man who had been "sung" ended up in the hospital in Alice Springs.  A few of the tribal men felt bad because they did not think he had killed his wife (she had actually died of breast cancer) so they went to the hospital to "unsing" him.  Sure enough, he immediately recovered, checked out of the hospital and went back to the village.   The mind is so impressive.

According to the Aborigines, music should never be played without purpose.  It is too powerful.  Charlie laughed and said that one tribes words for "rock and roll" literally means to play with wire for no reason. Yep, that's pretty much it.  But to quote the Rolling Stones, "I know it's only rock and roll, but I like it."

So, when creating our own rhythms for the didj, Charlie encouraged us to give them all names that reflect what we are hearing.  He has rhythms named Stone Road, Scrambled and Butterfly that adequately describe what they sound like.  That way it gives them purpose and character and you will remember them and they can grow.  And here I thought I was just learning to play another instrument.  Not so my friends.  I am creating magic.

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