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November 2010 Articles
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Issue: November 2010

Terrabeat
By Alexander Clark Campbell

This item was written in homage to the recent visits paid by Xavier Rudd at Headliners in September and Inlakesh's annual pilgrimage to the St. Jame's Art Fair.

When hearing the sounds of the didgeridoo, or didgeridu — an Australian musical instrument, long, deep-winded, potent and guttural, a sound you've heard before even though you might not realize it — one feels oneself on a tiny, desolate, sandy, shrubby island — sun blazing, beating down — in what should be tropical paradise — water encompassing you — but yet you're thirsty, dirty, and the only water available is a mixture of tears & sweat coming from the eyes when gazing into the hot, glaring sun. In the dreamtime which this instrument conjures up, one senses a sort of simmering annoyance that is about to well up into fury — except that it/its listener is too exhausted to explode — tired & sore — with (here's the instrument's loudly-buzzing-insect dimension) huge, nasty chunks of flesh missing due to angry swarms of giant beach flies with their repetitive, intense, agitating thrum.

All that said, and evoked, I should say that I myself have never been to coastal Northern Australia and the adjacent islands in the Gulf of Carpentaria, the Arafura Sea, the Torres Strait up to Papua New Guinea, and the Great Barrier Reef — so excuse me if my descriptions of the place are woefully innacurate. But these are the sounds conjured up for me from the didgeridoo — not relaxing on the beach, sipping Mai Tais. Welcome to dreamtime — dreams — nebulous, tenuous, murky, amorphus, morphing — Dreamtime has been the source of their cosmogony; of the foundations for how their life is lived, and all the rules, laws, & conduct for their culture that are felt to follow as a result — for a one-minute description on this fascinating subject, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mntq_zD54Ys.

The mind plays tricks — a.k.a. cerebral mirages — in terms of ideas as well. In the case of the didgeridoo, one can think that the instrument is native to the whole nation when in reality it isn't. The didgeridoo has now since long overtaken all of Australia, but it is only native to far North Central & North Eastern Australia — primarily in Northern Northern Territory — a district called Arnhem Land and islands in the Gulf of Carpentaria; Northern Queensland, including the Torres Strait Islands in Papua New Guinea (native to parts of that nation as well), and the Northeastern coastline of the Westen Australia. Here is an interactive map (http://www.ididj.com.au/exhibitions/index.html), showing, in the top end of Australia, where the presence of the Didgeridoo originated.

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