Does playing the didjeridu connect you to Aboriginal People?

There’s no answer for that question.

Dhukal Wirrpanda
Dhudi-Djapu clan leader

Many non-Yolŋu didjeridu players feel that playing the instrument forges a connection between them and Aboriginal People, or between them and “the Dreamtime.” The first thing to understand is that Yolŋu rarely use the word “dreamtime.” It seems to be a loose translation of a word from the central desert, that has since been applied to the whole continent. Yolŋu have learned to use the words “dreamtime” and “dreaming” because outsiders seem to understand it, but they are not translations of Yolŋu words or concepts.

Next is that Yolŋu culture and religion is very specific to clan identities, locations and the songs, dances and paintings that invoke the specific powers. Just playing didjeridu, particularly in another place, is not the same as yidaki as part of the whole of Yolŋu rom it belongs with. Raymattja Marika-Munuŋguritj once wrote, of Yolŋu rom, “…people cannot exist independently of their environment.” Yolŋu exist in theirs, and you exist in yours. Playing the didjeridu may awaken something inside you which may even open you to the power of your own land, and may inspire dreams about the origin of the instrument. Enjoy this and explore it, and yes, consider it a call to visit Arnhem Land to make personal connections and learn something real of the this place and its culture.

Yolŋu like Djalu’ who believe that yidaki is spreading around the world as a way of connecting people and touching their lives still speak of Yolŋu business as very separate from the yidaki that is for everyone to enjoy. As Wukuṉ says, the instrument is not for you to use to become more like Yolŋu, but to become better, as yourself. Yolŋu don’t need people to idolize and try to become like them. They need people who know their own identities from their own homelands, so that there can be equal sharing and help between cultures.

Wukuṉ – yidaki does not make you anything like Yolŋu. It can help you grow with your own identity in your own place.

Many people from overseas have discovered the didjeridu, and then journeyed to Australia to meet with its original owners. Some have worked to bring Yolŋu to their own countries. These are clear cases of the instrument making a connection. This is the type of connection that all Yolŋu recognize; a physical, not a metaphysical one, inspired by this physical object that has reached around the world for whatever reason. As stated by Buwathay earlier, it is only the outsiders who come and live with Yolŋu for a very long time who make deep personal and spiritual connections that Yolŋu recognize.