Douglas Ewart

Songs of Sunlife: Inside the Didjeridu


All didjeridus, roar flutes, and rain sticks designed and constructed by Douglas R. Ewart.


 The didjeridu is an ancient musical instrument. It is also an implement of ritual. It is one of our oldest musical instruments. The Aboriginals of Australia invented the didjeridu over forty thousand years ago. Though many cultures throughout the globe utilize tubes of similar acoustical design to the didjeridu, none produces a sound like it. The Aboriginals employ an array of techniques to persuade myriad sounds and songs from the didjeridu. Some of these techniques are buzzing, circular breathing, tonguing, guttural sound, humming, nasal sounds, inflated cheeks, large intervallic leaps, changing air pressure, and velocity. Didjeridu playing originated in Northern Australia and spread to other areas and cultures of the continent. Traditionally, the didjeridu is utilized in male rites and rituals. Some traditional Aboriginal laws forbade women to hear, see, or touch the didjeridu. The didjeridu is also utilized in numerous social events at which both men and women are present, although the men are the ones who would, by custom play it.  Some Aboriginal cultures still maintain the didjeridu as an aspect of male cultural precepts. However, there are many Aboriginal cultures in which there are no restrictions on women playing the instrument. There are numerous accounts and recordings of women playing this unique woodwind. The didjeridu has evolved into an icon for all Australian Aboriginals despite its name being derived from an anglo word. The earliest forms of didjeridus from Australia were made of bamboo. Contemporary Aboriginal Australian ones are made from eucalyptus branches whose cores have been largely eaten away by termites and further altered by the Aboriginals. The contours of the insides of a eucalyptus tube that has been eaten by termites, is usually quite asymmetrical compared with the inside of typical bamboo, cactus, ceramic, metal, glass or plastic didjeridu. The asymmetrical didjeridu tends to be more resonant and richer in complex overtones. I am a self-taught didjeridu player.


I became acquainted with the instrument in the 60s through field recordings. I made a didjeridu out of bamboo but could not play it due to lack of circular breathing technique. I picked up the instrument again in the 70s when I began learning how to circular breathe, or cycle breathe. Because I am aware that many Aboriginal cultures are concerned about how we tend to utilize what is for them a sacred instrument, I have endeavored in this recording to maintain a high respect for those cultures that provided this vital ritual and sound source implement. I play the instrument in a respectful manner while exploring its potential for my work as a composer, craftsman, musician and student of cultural anthropology. From my early childhood I have had a profound interest in my own culture and those of others that I have either had the opportunity to experience first hand or to learn about. This interest has been a way and means of sustaining in me an abiding respect for all humanity.


The Earth is really one country and people are its citizens. I think that when we come to understand and believe that, we will no longer need any of the barriers and divisions that we now experience and find necessary to construct.


 1) "Alone, Not Lonely" Ceramic didjeridu, tramcar double bell in key of D.

 I began experimenting with clay didjeridus while serving as a visiting professor at Mills College in Oakland, California in 1999. The response of clay to the vibration of its standing air column is quick, buoyant, crystal clear and bell like in its clarity. This realization made me use a variety of clays to build many didjeridus. Different types of clays can be fired at different temperatures.  The type of clay, degree of hardness, length of tube, type of tube (conical, cylindrical, or parabolic, etc.) and thickness of the walls aid in determining the resonance of the tube.


 2) "Mud Bath II" Mud bath was recorded at Mills College.

 Three different bamboo didjeridus were utilized in this recording. They ranged from 1 ft 5 ins to 9 ft 11 ins. The largest has a joint which facilitated its construction and makes transportation more convenient. Mud Bath II is a work that focuses on the lower limits of the human hearing spectrum. Many of the sounds have to be felt more than heard. The composition is about our beginnings as humans, as beings made of star dust, beings who must eat mud, dirt,.in order  to remain healthy. As children we play in the dirt with relish. Children who play outside, in dirt, and around animals have a stronger immune system.


Recording engineer Alex Potts


 3) "Dancing Inside of Soul" Bamboo (Bambusa Vulgaris from Jamaica)

 didjeridu,  and string bass.


This piece is dedicated to dancers: Christina Jones, Clyde Evans, Rennie Harris,  Sabela Grimes, Osha Pinnock, Clyde Evans, and Bill T. Jones.   I was introduced to Adam Lane by composer, educator and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. I became reacquainted with Adam while living in Oakland, Calif. 


 4) "Mud Bath III"  Composed and performed by Douglas R. Ewart. Recording engineer Alex Potts  


5) "Song for Count Ossie and The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari." Ceramic

 didjeridu and computer.


Count Ossie and The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari are a group of Rastafari who reside in Rock Fort, Eastern Kingston, Jamaica. Their music and philosophy have had an enormous impact upon my life. Count Ossie died in a tragic automobile accident in 1976. The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari continue their work.  Count Ossie's son, Time, is a master drummer. He continues the tradition. I was introduced to Stephen Goldstein by my wife Janis Lane-Ewart in Chicago during the ‘eighties. Steve sat in with me on a solo concert I had at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. We worked well together. When Janis and I relocated to Minneapolis, Steven and I began to collaborate.  


Composed and performed by Douglas R. Ewart and Steven Goldstein.


 6) "Ginep" For solo plastic slide didjeridu.  


The ginep is an edible fruit that grows in Jamaica. It can be sweet or sour.  One has to be careful when eating it as its juice, if it falls on one’s clothing, will make a permanent stain if not immediately removed. I love experimenting with many different materials. There was a time when I used to feel that one material was superior to another. However, I no longer have that notion. I feel that different materials have different sound characteristics, and that one has to use what is available. I do feel that biodegradable items are best for the planet. As a result, bamboo is my favorite material for constructing almost anything. 


7) "Seeds of War" Louis Alemayehu poem and recitation, Stephen Goldstein

computer, Douglas R. Ewart slide didjeridu. 


The poem was written by Louis Alemayehu. Louis is a fantastic artist that I met upon my arrival in the Twin Cities in 1989-90. We have worked in numerous aggregations since. I love his originality, delivery, sense of time, and musicality.


Composed and performed by Douglas R. Ewart, Louis Alemayehu, Stephen



8) "Walk and Drop" For solo ceramic didjeridu and rain stick.


This piece describes the manner and rhythm in which many Brothers I knew as a boy...strolled the path. 


9) "Ancestors Flying" This is a work for an ensemble of roar flutes and one small bell.


These roar flutes are made of bamboo. They are spun in the air like a bull roar or like a button on a string in order to initiate the sound. The roar flute gives off flute, bird, insect and bull roarer types of sounds.  The pitch and texture can be altered by varying the velocity at which the flutes are spun. Each flute transmits several pitches simultaneously.


Composed and performed by Douglas R. Ewart and Inventions. Recording engineer Alex Potts. 


10) "Draghopping"


Visualize someone in a walk dance mood as they go down a public street. The person tiptoes, saunters, slips and slides, leaps and turns around in a very nonchalant manner. 


11) "Mizu," Ceramic didjeridu and rain sticks.


Mizu means water in Japanese.  


12) "Mud Bath I" 


13) "Constant Springs" Slide didjeridu and rain stick.

Constant Springs is an area in the parish of St. Andrew, Jamaica. The area once contained numerous springs. There was a constant babble of water and a constant array of sound. 


All works composed and performed by Douglas R. Ewart.and recorded by Brian Heller except as indicated.


Douglas your songlines tell of the shapes of Kingston hills Jamaican waves Minneapolis powderhorn Chicago wind African plains on your endless walkabout through bamboo grove mud rituals and dark basement breathing the air and returning it again to us not in solitude for company but alone and with us and for us and for the world that breathes with you the big dreaming that is the creole spirit shared by lizards birds bulls and things that buzz in the mind

Philip Blackburn



Douglas Ewart

His kaleidoscopic talents have expressed themselves in so many forms---instruments that double as sculptures, music that combines the traditions of four continents with fresh inventions, masks and costumes fit for rituals ominous or joyous, improvisations combining master musicianship and acting---that the whole might be mistaken for the work of a small culture rather than one man. Ewart is known in some circles as a maker of brightly colored rain sticks , man-tall totem flutes, percussion instruments, and panpipes. Elsewhere he is known as a past Chairman of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and as a performer of music with Muhal Richard Abrams, Cecil Taylor, George Lewis, Anthony Braxton, Mwata Bowden, Vandy Harris, and others. He founded his own recording label Arawak Records.


Bassist/composer Adam Lane has recorded with a broad range of highly regarded musicians from free jazz pioneer John Tchicai to rock legend Tom Waits. He has made four recordings under his own name that feature his work for extended improvising orchestra as well as his work for small ensembles. He has received numerous awards and grants including the Julius Hemphill award for jazz orchestra composition and a Patternings scholarship for study at Darmstadt where he attended master classes with Karlheinz Stockhausen.  His recordings can be found on the Cadence Jazz and CIMP record labels.


Stephen Goldstein

Acoustic & Electronic Percussion

For over 30 years, electronic and acoustic percussionist Stephen Goldstein has performed professionally throughout the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean in the musical genres and idioms of experimental, jazz, funk, South Indian classical, commercial, and numerous others.  Goldstein has performed or recorded with a wide array of artists including: Joseph Jarman, Fred Ho, Hamid Drake, Nirmala Rajagopal, Gerry Mulligan, Allan Eager, Jerry Coker, Mixashawn and others.  In 1989, Goldstein began extensive studies in the application and theory of South Indian rhythmic structures with world-renowned ghatam (tuned clay pot percussion instrument) master Sri T.H. Subash Chandran. Goldstein also credits hand drum virtuoso John Bergamo for his invaluable lessons, advice, and friendship throughout the years.  In 1997, Goldstein was awarded a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship.





C P 2003 Nkoranza Publishing BMI Affiliate

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Unauthorized reproduction robs artists of valuable income for their hard work.

Keep Your Heart Right! Don't do it please! 

Cover art and composition description by Douglas R. Ewart

Design and layout by Philip Blackburn

Mastered at Beat N’Track Studios, Fallbrook

Photograph by ???


Douglas R. Ewart appears courtesy Aarawak Recording Co.

Other recordings of D.R.Ewart:

"Red Hills" AA 001

"Bamboo Forest" AA 002

"Bamboo Meditations At Banff" AA 003

"Angles of Entrance" AA 004

"New Beings" AA 005


Aarawak Recording Co

P.O. Box 50471

Mpls., MN 55403