Aboriginal shofar celebration

'There is something very spiritual and moving about playing and listening didgeridoo.'

September 16, 2007 08:51
3 minute read.
Aboriginal shofar celebration

didj 224.88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

If Noa Zulu has anything to do with it, we'll all be breathing easier soon. It's not that the 20-something musician has come up with a magical method for settling political issues, it's really just a matter of, well, breathing. Zulu is a member of didgeridoo-playing troupe Tribal Dance, one of the star attractions of the fourth annual Didgeridoo Festival, to be held this weekend (August 14 and 15) at Kibbutz Horshim near Kfar Sava. Elsewhere on the roster is the San Francisco-based didgeridoo and percussion player Stephen Kent, who lists collaborations with Indian tabla-playing superstar Zakir Hussein in his resumé. As far as Zulu is concerned, playing the didgeridoo (for the uninitiated, this is a traditional Aboriginal wind instrument shaped like a long irregular wooden cylinder, measuring 1-2 meters in length) is far more than just a means of entertainment. "There is something very spiritual and moving about playing and listening to the didgeridoo," she says. "When I first heard someone playing it I was transfixed. It was an experience." At that time Zulu got her kicks from going to trance parties out in the wilds. "I loved going out to nature and getting a buzz from all that energy and the celebratory ambience of people coming together to lose themselves in music. But I also felt something was missing." That changed when she caught her first didgeridoo show. "I was 19 at the time and had been into music - playing as well as listening and dancing - for some time. The sound of the didgeridoo at that gig was like something really ancient, but also had the vibe of music produced by a 21st century computer. What really got me was that the musician was so lost in what he was doing." And that was that for Zulu. Turning her back on several years of classical training in piano and trumpet, followed by some dabbling in jazz, rock and reggae, she began trying to master the didgeridoo. In fact, had it not been for the aboriginal instrument, Zulu may have given up playing entirely. "I did my military service in an IDF orchestra, and had a terrible time," she recalls. "The didgeridoo brought me back to the essence of what music is all about, to the spiritual adventure of it." Her resolve was further enhanced during a trip to Africa. "I went to Zimbabwe and I saw, at the tribal ceremonies I attended, the real power of music." Zulu also understood the universality of the art form. "There I was in the middle of the Zimbabwean capital, experiencing the most powerful and intense music show of my life. I realized then that this music is capable of transcending all worlds and reaching out to people of all cultures... I think we all have something tribal in us. All ancient cultures have some sense of human yearning, and a strong bond with the intensity of music - and that includes the Jewish culture." Today, besides the performing side of her work, Zulu uses her skills to help people with special needs. "I work with a special theater group of deaf-blind people and also with autistic and retarded children. The vibrations of the didgeridoo provide a meeting point and a means of communication when words are no longer effective." In addition to Zulu and Tribal Dance, and Kent, the Didgeridoo Festival has plenty of other intriguing acts lined up, both from abroad and Israel. There's Jew's harp specialist Steev Kindwald from Thailand, who will be on stage on the second evening and will run a workshop for budding players. Then there's the Didjaboo troupe from France, who combine didgeridoo, Jew's harp and overtone singing. And there's a return visit by Hungarian Jew's harp player Aron Szilagyi, as well as all manner of local didgeridoo players performing a wide range of styles, from high-energy dance rhythms to more meditative fare. Naturally, food and beverages will be readily available, and there will be an abundance of children's activities on offer. For more information about the Didgeridoo Festival, go to www.israeldidjfestival.com

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