A didge player with a unique and original style. His devotion to the didgeridoo, as a player and as a crafter, is full of respect.
- Dubravko Lapaine -
A big pleasure to have this interview with you! I had the possibility to hear your concert in the Didjin’ Oz Festival (2014) and it was really amazing. And the same year I had a very interesting workshop with you — a different view of didgeridoo art.
So Du, how did you begin? Who inspired you or what inner voice did you listen to?
This beginning is not easy to pinpoint. Because it was very gradual. But I hope I can tell it in a simple way… I was very attracted to a wooden tube that was in some indy shop in Zagreb and I often passed by it… and I was attracted to it even though I didn’t connect it to the didgeridoo sound I knew about… This doesn’t seem very bright, I know as I even knew what didgeridoo looks like… but I kept returning to this tube in this shop and I kept looking at it and trying it… I returned so many times… and I don’t know why, I just felt some pull to it… Then a bit later my cousin got a didgeridoo and went to his place often as it was just next to my beloved grandfather who was quite ill at that time. I spent a lot of time by my grandfather trying to play this didgeridoo and when I got the drone accidentally he just softly said “pooh nice…” and so this is maybe how this bond became stronger. I was very untalented, but I did not know it… and I was in a very loving environment…. which was important… Later on I bought my first didgeridoo in Amsterdam and then things took its course… little by little.. there was (almost) nothing else I was doing in life.
Your compositions are real ‘songs’ — not just a metrical pattern. You created several albums, each one different and maybe evolving from the previous one – Iz Dubina Besvjesnih,Kosmopterix, Dubokobud, and Vibrapuls, the last one. Is there some patron that guides you in the didgeridoo way, or maybe in your life? Or some kind of symbolism or images that create you inside your mind while you are playing?
It is a bit hard to be precise and concise when I want to describe the inner universe… Each album marked a step in my evolution… Stories of songs and how abstract or how direct they were changes from album to album… I am a lot guided by Sound Itself. If I find something that intrigues me, I will dig deeper and deeper and deeper. People also have some influence, of course, as does the totality of universum. It is hard to point the finger to what exactly it is what guides me externally, but it is closeness, power, beauty and excellence of a sort in both people and events that can direct me… but I think it is like this for many artists…
You use a lot of crazy and superfine skills like extremely high overtones, singing voice, air code technique, and much more. You have to ‘train’ a lot, and I think you need a good method and a strong discipline to make what you do. Can you tell us about it?
My training changed relatively lot during the years in volume and intensity. There were several big steps I did… first when I decided that I will play two hours every day. Then five. For a whole year. I had a diary to keep my progress and actual hours under surveillance. It is not easy to keep this kind of discipline. There are always so many distracting events in one’s life. I even managed to play 8 hours for a while. But those 8 hours were not of the same intensity as if I played 2 hours in this time… however I had a huge amount of very brutal exercising… but it is only a part of the story. The other part is learning about music in a wider sense.. learning about sound in general, sound equipment…and so on. Without the wider knowledge you cannot really get an incredible sound.
I saw some videos where you played ‘deep didgeridoos’ more than 10 meters long, and with a bell diameter of 1.5 meters!!!! It’s a compromise playing instruments so big in every way!!! Very few people in the world do it. Now you play shorter sticks. How was the experience with the long didgeridoo, and what changed inside of you to play now the shorter one?
I was inspired by Ondrej Smeykal who was playing some very long instruments. And I was intrigued if the borders of this world could be pushed further… In some way it is amazing experience for both player and the listener and in some way it is as impractical as we can imagine… however I still contemplate a return to depths… but in a new way. The shorter sticks besides being much more practical are much more sound system- and stage-friendly. They are still long in the classical vision of didgeridoo, but more reasonable. The shorter sticks are more precise. Can have more punch. But are less massive, less rich in overtones and so on… the didgeridoo world is always a compromise… but usually there are tricks that can make good compromises. My biggest reason to stop playing very long tubes is the non practicality and the way that I was connecting them which was quite bad…
Imagine having a time machine and going into the future – 2067: 50 years and more; how do you imagine the didgeridoo future or its evolution?
This is a very interesting question… some years ago I thought that in 50 years the best players of today would look like children compared to best players in the future… but I don’t think it is like that anymore… The reason for this is that playing has changed drastically in last 15 years or so. But the players of the new days invested much more time than players in the old days. Information is much more available… and players have come quite closer to the human limits. It is still possible to advance and play even crazier tunes than today… but I know what my body has gone through to be able to play how it can play today. And I feel that there cannot be much more in human capacity. Maybe I am wrong, but I feel what my body still goes through today to play some of the songs. It is not a child’s game unless the child is from Kripton. So I feel the level will be higher, both in technical aspect and in musical aspect of playing. But not unbelievably higher. How much higher I think depends always on the amount of visionaries who are able to push the limits further. Because 1000 players playing all the same will not change the playing. One that is playing something new will. To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn’.
In a more concrete way I feel the playing and styles will separate and become more clear and refined in their expression. Probably more distinct schools will arise. And a few systems of learning/teaching with them. We will be more familiar about types of didgeridoos that are corresponding to each way of playing, and instruments will be made less randomly… This all should make learning the art of didgeridoo playing more accessible to people, more standardised in a good way, and hopefully it would change at least a bit the concept of people who are not playing didgeridoo what didgeridoo is and how it can be used.
In the same time machine, travelling to the past, would you like to change something in your didgeridoo way?
Also a very nice question. What I would most probably want to explain or help my younger self is how to exercise without having to get hurt. How to make it a bit easier for the body… otherwise, I feel the fresh spirit of younger self could teach me some things as well! =) But I don’t think I did many things wrong. When you try to do something for the first time, of course you have to make many mistakes. I don’t think that to speed up the process is necessarily good.
I know that you drill the wood to carve it. One piece didgeridoo — Duende didgeridoo.
I saw some creations of extraordinary beauty. Your evolution as a didge player is the evolution as a didge maker. Where are you going next? Projects for the future?
One project is to have a line of didgeridoos which are standardised for certain types of playing… some models that are repeated. This will soon be realised. This helps a lot my didgeridoo teaching because then I know what the didgeridoo is capable of and that everything I ask for is player related. Many people play quite crappy didgeridoos, or just inadequate for a certain purpose, and that makes learning unnecessarily difficult. Even more exciting for me is to find new great shapes and to put them inside a very special wood. This is also much harder as the wood I am thinking about is always much harder…. And of course the return to the depths could also be very challenging…
What is the most important thing you would say to a new didgeridoo player – what to do, and the most important thing not to do?
Let’s do another RWE quote here: ‘The years teach much which the days never know’. Many people want everything as fast as possible these days. But learning didgeridoo is a challenging process you need to enjoy rather than just overcome. To become a really powerful player you need to season for years. If you want to become a really powerful pro player, then the intensity of the years also needs to be high. So you need patience and dedication. This you will have easier if you enjoy the process… Also in real life that mostly means that you need to work on your basics much more than you think is necessary. It needs to feel as ‘countless hours’. I know it was one thing that helped me the most with learning… to have really strong basics. So I keep returning to very basic exercises and I try to do them as perfectly as possible. But to become as powerful as possible is just one way to approach the didgeridoo and it is not necessarily the best one. But the core of this advice is also for the people who want to play well and enjoy didgeridoo the most. Because you need to stop struggling to be able to enjoy. And to stop the struggle you need to learn why you are struggling. Breath, lips, movements are the most common reason. So you need to know how to address the weak links in the body. Once you find a place of balance, on whichever level, I feel the most important thing is to enjoy as much as possible most of the time. But to find that balance you might have to make some exercises which are by themselves not the greatest fun you’ve ever had. To find a balance between necessary and enjoyment is also a kind of art.
Another thing I would recommend new players is to travel around as much as possible and meet other players in real life. Because I start to notice ‘laptop sound’ coming out of players who played and learned too much through YouTube. You need to feel the richness, power and intensity, beauty and subtleness of didgeridoo sound in real life. As it is real life experience. Most videos are just a faint projection of that and you don’t want that to embed in your body as your sound. We are alive human beings and in our live mutual (and not virtual) reality that we experience with all of our senses we learn and grow the most!
Mr Dubravko, you are welcome to Latin America!!! All the didgeridoo community here awaits this moment!!!
A very big hug! Keep inspiring!!!
Thank you so much! Big hug returned!!!