A musical interlude, brought to you by the didgeridoo

Outback's second and final album.  Used copies can still be found on Amazon.com and likely elsewhere.

Outback’s second and final album. MP3 versions and used CDs can still be found on Amazon.com and likely elsewhere.

Maybe the fact that I’m headed to Australia in another six months made me more open to the musical wonders of the didgeridoo, but I’ve definitely become a fan after hearing Outback’s “An Dro Nevez” on the internet station Radio Paradise in April.

I immediately bought what turned out to be the only two albums Outback ever produced, and they were a bargain — both were used CDs purchased on Amazon.com, and they cost more in shipping (about $3 each) than I paid for the discs themselves. I’ve been wearing them out since, as I find them both interesting enough to listen to but relaxing and unobtrusive enough to be good working music (at least one friend has called Outback repetitive, which I get, but I think it’s great stuff).

Baka, Outback’s first album, was No. 1 on Billboard’s world music chart. Despite its clear Australian ties and influences, Outback can’t really be called “Australian,” although the didgeridoo itself (also spelled “didjeridu”) is an invention of Australia’s Aborigines.

Outback was formed in 1988 by Graham Wiggins and Martin Craddick.  As is often the case, the history of these musicians and their various bands is quite varied and interesting, but perhaps moreso because Wiggins started inventing his own forms of the didgeridoo while a graduate student in physics — a field in which he earned a doctoral degree from Oxford.

After Outback broke up in 1992, Wiggins begain performing as Dr. Didg.  He’s almost certainly the only guy to ever play with the Grateful Dead (you can hear the session at the linked site) and reach an equal pinnacle of success in scientific fields — radio-frequency engineering and magnetic imaging. He’s currently a senior researcher for the Center for Advanced Imaging Innovation and Research in New York City.

Outback's first album was a world-music hit.

Outback’s first album was a world-music hit.

Some of his work can still be found on Soundcloud, including Serotonality (a piece that gives some indication of why he probably was invited to play with the Dead). His web site, Wikipedia bio and Facebook page seem to indicate he no longer plays professionally.

I’ll write more later on the didgeridoo and, I hope, Dr. Didg, as I’ve been learning a bit more about the instrument and expect it and other aspects of Australian music will be a big part of my Winterim 2015-16 COMM 373 course.

For now, I’ll leave readers with another YouTube version of the same song linked at the beginning of this post.  Half the fun of music is listening to — or watching — different presentations of the same stuff, so here’s another video featuring the same musical version of “An Dro Nevez” and some nice footage of a couple of guys riding through the Australian outback with Ural motorcycles and sidecars. (Never heard of Urals?  Me neither).


Closing of Aboriginal communities drawing worldwide attention


Click here to go to the Facebook page “Stop the Forced Closure of Aboriginal Communities in Australia”

As we prepare for our winterim trip to Sydney, we’ll examine more news like this.  A story this morning in USA Today on the potential closure of up to 150 Aboriginal communities in Western Australia is part of a steady worldwide stream of  articles and stories about this issue.

The official government stance is that this is an issue of expense, but Aboriginal rights groups, independent and liberal media, and others are suggesting could be related to international interest in uranium and other mining.  Critics, such as Natalie Cromb in this Independent Australia piece, call the government “puppets for multinational corporations.”

There is, of course, an activist Facebook page related to this issue, and I’ll be following it as part of my effort to keep updated on this issue (along with more mainstream media).

Clearly, this is a complex issue, and I’ve just begun to search out information myself.  Given that our course, COMM 373, is entitled “Communication and Social Change,” issues such as this will clearly be worth following over the next few months.

Here are a few links to international media stories about the potential closures:

I was hoping to find something from China Daily, but the best I could get was a paywalled version of the Agence Presse-France report linked above.

Watch my blog for more Australian news and updates on this story.

Thanks to Professor Mark Tolstedt, coordinator of the Australia winterim program, for sending the link today to the USA Today story.