London West, UK - It is great fun to use reclaimed materials in unintended ways. An ordinary door could find new life as a clever table. Grandiose antlers can strike awe amongst mammals once again as a chandelier. My wife used an ornately decorated pipe organ segment to ventilate our kitchen stove. The only rule is there are no rules.
With that principle in mind I decided to make a didjeridu out of a reclaimed piece of bamboo purchased from Architectural Forum at Salvo Fair last summer. Painted a shiny black and covered with delicate yellow images of trees, this remnant of a university art class was obviously destined for creative vibrations.
Quite possibly the oldest wind instrument known to man, the increasingly ubiquitous didjeridu (also spelled didgeridoo) was once played only by Australian aboriginals. Traditionally made out of native "bloodwood" eucalyptus branches left hollowed by an indigenous termite, the instrument is otherwise a simple hollow tube. They can be made out of countless materials.
The biggest challenge when making a bamboo didgeridoo is clearing out the interior walls that punctuate the joint connections. For what reason I can only guess, my piece already had those inner walls largely removed. This stroke of luck was a big incentive for undertaking the project in the first place.
At over two meters, this bamboo was too long for ideal didjing. At a certain length they become difficult or impossible to play. I used a simple hacksaw to cut it down to a more manageable five and a half feet. If one is looking for a particular key or pitch, that can be achieved with supplemental cuts.
The next task was making a mouthpiece. Though common, I find pure beeswax mouthpieces can deform over time. In a small pot set in a larger pot of boiling water I melted down three parts beeswax to one part fair trade soy candle wax, giving me a firmer result. The bamboo opening was wide so it took many dips to reach a suitable circumference for my mouth.
Since I was melting wax, I also made candles reusing old jam jars and fancy holders that once held pricy gift candles. I also melted down and reused a large spent candle stump. It took £10 to make six medium sized candles. I reckon they would have cost at least £40 new, if not more. They are a breeze to make.
Like candles, new didjeridus are expensive so constructing your own can save you. But aside from savings, this project changed my perspective. Which objects, I wonder, were born into the wrong identity and long to have their hidden musical potential unleashed?
I also see potential candleholders everywhere.
It is with these new eyes that I look forward to the next Salvo Fair in Henley-on-Thames June 24th-June 25th. I will be on the lookout for materials for my next project, a metal didjeridu.