Yidaki are didjeridus that are specific to North East Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory, where the instrument originates. The term yidaki is used in Yolŋu (North East Arnhem Land Aboriginal) languages as the generic name for the didjeridu. The name yidaki is most correctly used for instruments from this region that have been solely made and decorated by Yolŋu people.
Yidaki were originally limited to the northern extremes of Australia, in particular Arnhem Land. In recent years, yidaki spread to other parts of Australia and the rest of the world. Yidaki began to be manufactured in different ways and with different types of materials. It became commonly known as the didjeridu, a non-Aboriginal term for the instrument. Through it’s international popularization as the didgeridoo, it has been somewhat displaced from it's spiritual and cultural roots that are still held by the Yolŋu in Arnhem Land today. The Yolŋu are masters of making and playing the yidaki and are well known internationally for their quality instruments and complex yidaki playing styles.
Yolŋu artists carefully select naturally occurring termite hollowed tree stems which are cut and shaped into suitable sounding instruments. They are made with certain desired acoustics that can vary dramatically between different clans, from high pitch to very low. Typical yidaki have small natural wooden mouthpieces around 30mm in diameter and taper out to a diameter of around 100mm at the distal end. Having a small mouthpiece means they require less air to play and produce sound easily as a result.
In appearance yidaki seem to be a simple instrument, however the playing styles of the Yolŋu are complex and require many years of practice. Yidaki are played by vibrating the lips which produces a basic tone. This tone is maintained continually using cyclic breathing and is varied through use of the playing pressure, the tension in the cheeks, the use of the diaphragm, the tongue position and the use of the voice.
Traditionally, yidaki are painted with naturally occurring red, white, black and yellow earth pigments. In recent years acrylic paints began to be used. Both the artwork and the sound and overall style of the yidaki denote cultural history and law. Yolŋu artists produce yidaki for sale through their community owned not-for-profit art center, Buku Larrŋgay Mulka (Yirrkala arts).
Jeremy Cloake was employed by Yirrkala arts in 2001 to manage yidaki production and sales. His work together with the yidaki makers was fundamental in the development of the International yidaki industry. Between 2001 and 2005 he worked closely with the Yolŋu yidaki makers on site in the forests, local communities and at the art centre. The result of this work boosted the annual exports of yidaki so significantly that the Northern Territory government presented the art centre with two export awards over consecutive years.
Jeremy currently works in association with Yirrkala art centre as the manager for the production and sales of yidaki from North East Arnhem Land. This job involves purchasing, selling and freighting yidaki on behalf of Yirrkala art centre. Jeremy Cloake supplies many businesses throughout the world with yidaki. If you are interested in selling yidaki as part of your business, wholesale enquiries are welcome.
Jeremy occasionally sells some of his own yidaki, please join the email list to be notified when instruments are available. All of these instruments come with certificates of authenticity.
If you are after something specific and cannot find it, ask Jeremy to source it for you.