Andrea Furlan, one of the most talented didgeridoo makers I’ve ever known. Builder of multi-slide hardfiberglass didgeridoos with interchangeable mouthpieces and bells. Totally customized instruments.
- Andrea Furlan -
Hello Andrea, a short interview, just trying to show your art by words. Maybe, that could help people who would like to approach the didgeridoo’s world.
So, how did you start and when you choose to make a profession and being a professional in this art?
You know, sometimes life is unpredictable, I’ve always had a deep passion for art and music in my life, I like to experiment. So, in 2000 I started practising didgeridoo, developing different techniques. During the years I found the necessity to try many different shapes, every shape specific for certain techniques so that Lead me to the path of the didgeridoo maker.
Be a didgeridoo maker is not easy, takes time, I know a lot of people that have a job and they make didgeridoos as a hobby which was the same for me at first. But, at a certain point I realized that if you want to give the best to your customers such as quality and innovations, just few hours on the weekend are not enough. It’s necessary to invest all your time, all your days, making didges and do research to develop new ideas.
First of all, when I look at your instruments I get impressed about the multi slide system and the possibility of infinite customized changes, mouthpieces and bells. Covering a whole octave with tuned toots. Can you give us a description of the process, difficulties you have had to resolve?
As a didgeridoo maker my goal was to make a complete didgeridoo: I mean something detachable that is possible to bring everywhere into its little bag and at the same time chromatic, an instrument that is possible to play a full scale of keys and a slide solution with just one pipe that allows you to change just few keys.
The idea came from Covent Garden at London, one day walking through this place with its nice old fashion market I saw a navy telescope and I got the inspiration to make my project real.
From that day I began my research to get the proper didgeridoo shape and pipes to have a full scale of keys tuned with the same octave toot.
I have always been fascinated about the idea to make a customized instrument, specific for every customer and this telescopic system was the answer.
With this different sliding pipes system customers can adjust by themselves the shape that they like to suit a specific technique, simply by sliding or taking off the different pipes it is possible to change the internal diameter of the didgeridoo.
So, it’s possible to choose different toots with the same key and off course play same key and toot or play single slide,double slide or telescopic (triple slide) just by taking off the first or the second pipe.
As you can imagine there are dozens of didgeridoos in one. So, I realized that I made the didgeridoo of my dreams! 🙂
Another step that I made Is the possibility to change bells. I like experimenting with different shapes and the idea to play the same instrument with different bells is simpy awesome, the choices are a lot.Try to imagine an instrument with two changeable bells one 50cm and another one 1,5 meters with telescopic system.
I am fascinated by the selection of fabrics you use … awayo, kevlar, jeans … Can you tell us how was born the idea of customizing your tools by coating them with fabric?
The world has so many different colours and the didgeridoo, his sound, it’s very colourful .
I’m also an abstract painter and as painter I always wondered how to make art making a didgeridoo.
Fiberglass is light and strong and allows you to make very precise instruments as a shape but, at the same time there aren’t many possibilities about colours.
So I needed to find a ‘dress’ for my didgeridoos, something that could bring the instrument to another level as a visual expression.
My idea started when I had been in Bolivia, in this beautiful country people have a long tradition about painted fabrics that originates before Inca.
Awayo is the name of this traditional Bolivian fabric made with complicated multicoloured drawings
In this country people use to bring everything inside the Awayo, in their shoulders, like fruit, bread even their children.
The idea of a fabric that you can bring everything inside fascinated me, so I got inspired to make my own didgeridoos.
And then I kept experimenting with many kind of different fabric from all the world until in recent years I started printing the specific pattern that the customer chooses on the fabric, that was a further step to get totally customized instruments.
I think a complete chapter should be dedicated to your mouthpieces. Can you introduce us in your world of mouthpieces?
Mouthpiece is a very important thing, every body has his own needs and taste and I guess it happens to many people to buy a good didgeridoo but with the wrong mouthpiece in terms of diameter and shape.
Especially in recent years I have invented or improved many techniques to play the didgeridoo and theorically every technique needs a specific mouthpiece.
So there are two options, or you buy different didgeridoos for different mouthpieces or you buy a didgeridoo where is possible to change mouthpieces as I do.
With sliding didgeridoos there’s a big variation about length and backpressure so, by changing the length/back pressure you should change also the mouthpiece to suit your playing techniques.
Making a mouthpiece for me is such a full creativity moment, I like really love make them! It takes many hours, especially the wooden ones, every time I said to my friends how long it takes me to make one they don’t believe me, but once the work is finished it’s something unique.
I make mouthpieces with different kind of woods, very complicated, a mouthpiece can have even 17 different kinds of wood and even 60 little pieces of wood cut and glued together and then finished with the lathe.
I also like to experiment with other materials mixed with resin to make mouthpieces, people that follow me on facebook and my website know that, I make mouthpieces with seeds, metal,flowers, coffebeans,glitter,pasta,stones, etc….and I keep experimenting new materials.
Every customers have there own taste with mouthpieces and I think it’s nice to realize their specific needs.
Your way of playing is very peculiar too. Overdrives, high toots ….And much more. What is your way to practice? How does your training take places?
My playing technique is inspired indeed from the great contemporary players and also from my students, even a beginner can inspire me, that is one of the beautiful skills of the didgeridoo that I like.
I always saw playing didgeridoo as a duality, from one side you can play long and relaxed sounds to receive energy from the instrument and from the other side play fast and percussive rythms to relase energy,both ways can lead the player in a very transcendental level.
I think in this way a musician, playing both ways can feel thereself completely inside the instrument, at least that was my experience as player.
After the first years I realized about the many ways to play between drone and first toot (or first and second toot etc…) I realized that was possible use technique from trumpet,flute,sing,beatbox etc.. and it was amazing because from that point I realized how many things I didn’t know yet, so it started my new experimental path as player.
You come from Italy and you live in England. Can you tell us how is the didgeridoo scene there?
When I came to England my hope was to meet a lot of didgeridoo players, especially in London, but it wasn’t ; there aren’t so many player here in UK, Europe have much more contemporary players. but here didge players have a deep passion for the instrument, and most of them play didge from many many years.I have many friends that they have been playing from 15-20 years!In Europe the average age as player is less indeed but the passion is the same indeed.
There are different didgeridoo club here like Banbury didgeridoo club, Kent didgeridoo club,London didgeridoo club etc.
You are a Latin America lover and speak a good Spanish as well…Talk us, please, about this passion!
I love all South America and their way to speak and live the life. I had the opportunity to make a series of painting exhibitions in Bolivia until me and my wife Cristina decided to stay there and work in that beautiful country for 5 years. So I got the chance to know deeply Bolivia and South America and their many musician and artists, I travelled a lot from the Andes to Amazonia always with a didgeridoo in my shoulders, they were amazing years that allowed me to improve myself as didgeridoo maker and player and artist.
What would you recommend to a person who begins to play? The most important things to do and the most important not to do.
My advice is play always, everytime you feel like to play just play.In the first years a lot of training is necessary and this feeling to play always is very important to get the advantage to improve quickly.
Another advice is play didgeridoo with a method, many people just play, and this is good but not enough to improve fast.
Nowadays is easy to find information tutorials on line, techniques to improve fast.The study of new techniques should be part of our diary training with the improvisation.
It’s important to play in a silent room and outside in a street or in a park, are both importan things.
Play alone in silence to keep focused and hear yourself and play outside to get use to the presence of other people, see their reaction, it’s very important.
Do you have any suggestion to give people starting to craft?
An important advice is to invest as much time and money is possible, and do it with deep and sincere passion.
Invest time researching, what make the difference is the originality, and the continuous research leads this on to make something that just with a quick look is possible to recognize who’s the maker.
Another important thing is to be a good player, learn as many technique as possible, if you’re not a good player you cannot make a performance Quality didgeridoo.(by chance you can)
Before you buy an instrument I always recommend to hear how the maker plays: that’s the best quality guarantee.
Projects for the next future?
Recently I started a new important step as didgeridoo maker: didgeridoos made of wood.
My idea was to find a great wood maker and share with him my knowledge of telescopic and removable didgeridoos.
Matt Stevens is my wood didgeridoo partner who is well known here in England, he’s one of the best English didgeridoo makers, he makes amazing wooden didgeridoos with passion and he’s very creative and humble. So, with him I decided to start this new path, a new series of didgeridoos that we call the ScaleSlider, made of wood, removable two and three pieces and telescopic.
Lots of didgeplayers would be very happy if you could come to Argentina…Including me, of course!!! We will welcome you by lay down the red carpet!!!
That’s very kind of you Emiliano, I really would like one day to visit Argentina, meet its players and see its beautiful places, at least once in my life I really want to get to Argentina but without any red carpet please! Lol 😀
and you as well when you decide to visit England let me know! Mi casa es tu casa hermano!
A big hug Andrea and thank you very much!!!
A bih hug to you Emiliano!