Kombumerri Traditional Custodian Contributor: Uncle Graham Dillon OAM

This resource is related to the following Learning Area –

And responds to the following Enquiry Question –

Q75.Indigenous music and instruments and who is allowed to play them?

Resource transcript –

Yes, I suppose trying to compare that… the old people, my old people with today’s use of instruments… Today if it was tennis a child would have a special… a favourite racket, tennis racket. Cricket bats, you’d have a favourite… in the boy’s club, cricket, you’d have your own favourite special bat, cricket bat. So, along those lines but way back in the olden times, it was a given that you’d only play the instrument that a male was supposed to play or, indeed, woman. Woman’s business, and we must be precise here or very careful, woman’s business and men’s business and here we have… when it come time for music, corroboree, getting together, sitting down, having music now… you’d have the women they were not… absolutely forbidden to play men’s instruments, yidaki or as what Max was saying didgeridoo. English name, didgeridoo. Men’s business only. Absolutely, unequivocally, no negotiations on that. Men only. But what about the women? Well the women, when they’d have music, sit-down music… Now, the women would have possums, kangaroo skins, possum skins, if possible stitched together, wallaby skins and they would have that across their… they’d be sitting up. Music on now, singing, dancing. The women would have what they called the laptop. Across their laps, they’d have the skins of the animals and they’d be able to beat time with them. That would be the extent with which the women would participate in a convent… sorry, not convent, a music get together. They would sing, of course, and if I may, when there was sorry business women would… they would wail the song. Like, today we have songs, you know, hymns at church, things like that but in those days they would wail sorry business. The men play the didgeridoo. They would stamp the ground. Women, also, when it came to corroboree, they would use their feet, stamping the ground. And I remember my uncle… my cousin told me this and that would be true. No gamming in those days or growing up, we spoke the truth always. He had a place over in Ferny Avenue in Surfer’s Paradise. Not far from the Marriott, the big Marriott highrise hotel there and he had a little hut over there. Uncle John was his name, John. Cause his father, he was a white man. He said of a night time you could hear the old fellas, that’s the Elders, in groups further along the riverbank there, along Marriott road. He said you could hear them, the sounds and the echoes of them, singing out for whatever reason. Maybe just having a sit-down concert or something like that but there was that difference between what was permitted for women to use and what was permitted for men to use. And that was the difference there on laptops, on skins, wooden instrument, didgeridoos.