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Renowned Australian didgeridoo player Lewis Burns finds solace at Alpine ranch

He is “probably my most regular guy”

Lewis Burns
Lewis Burns

Warner Recabaren is telling me one of the Australian origin stories of the didgeridoo, as he remembers it. It begins with a group of guys sitting around a campfire. One of them throws a stick on the fire and sees termites in it, and they’re crawling out. He doesn’t want to harm the termites, so he picks the stick up, points it towards the sky, and blows out the termites. They fly into the sky, and a sound comes out along with them. That was the birth of the first didgeridoo, and when you look up in the sky today, you can still see the termites up there, twinkling.

On the Alpine ranch where he has made his home since 1989, Recabaren has regularly recreated the atmosphere that his story captures — the sonorous burst and drone of the instrument, the community, the campfire, and the night sky — at the didgeridoo gatherings he hosts there. These are private parties, technically, but they are also open to the interested public. He tells me that “there used to be more festivals. Right now in the U.S., it’s pretty much InDidjInUs” — Oregon’s annual didgeridoo festival — “and then here.”

Warner Recabaren at home, with Lewis Burns' mural of the Recabaren family story behind him.

He’s glad to do it, and says that the “easy-going” and “very tight group” of people that comes make for wonderful guests. “Out here, when these things are done, there’s not even a scrap of paper on the ground.” The events usually feature prominent didgeridoo players, long jam sessions into the morning hours, and lots of food. Recabaren encourages people to “bring the food you’re most proud of. We love eating well. That makes it extra special.”

But. Nothing has gone on at the Ranch for more than three years. “It’s been a horrible, horrible dead zone,” Recabaren notes. There was Covid of course, but also an earlier series of unhappy coincidences that got in the way of the gatherings. So he’s especially pleased that on August 20th, Lewis Burns will be coming to visit. Burns, a Wiradjuri man from Dubbo, Australia, is a renowned didgeridoo player as well as a visual artist, and is “probably my most regular guy,” Recabaren says. He has come over to Alpine most years of the last couple decades. In addition to the music and the storytelling, Burns has also featured traditional painting, didgeridoo-making, and Aboriginal body-painting with white ochre. He also brings elements of Aboriginal ritual life with him, as a matter of course: fasting before the performance and smudging himself with eucalyptus smoke before beginning. Recabaren says that the gatherings are “a great chance to see a whole other culture.”

Recabaren discovered the didgeridoo at the Del Mar Fair. He bought some “horrible Indonesian sticks” there, which were enough to get him hooked. From there, his interest and his connections with other enthusiasts grew. He loves “the one-to-one” connection with the instrument, its union with the player’s breath and rhythm. “And then you get special times on it,” when the repetition and rhythm become “very hypnotic. You will be drawn into it, and you end up on journeys — a lot of fun. When you hit the special times, you just stop and smile. It’s just amazing.”

More here: http://www.ididge.com/

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Lewis Burns
Lewis Burns

Warner Recabaren is telling me one of the Australian origin stories of the didgeridoo, as he remembers it. It begins with a group of guys sitting around a campfire. One of them throws a stick on the fire and sees termites in it, and they’re crawling out. He doesn’t want to harm the termites, so he picks the stick up, points it towards the sky, and blows out the termites. They fly into the sky, and a sound comes out along with them. That was the birth of the first didgeridoo, and when you look up in the sky today, you can still see the termites up there, twinkling.

On the Alpine ranch where he has made his home since 1989, Recabaren has regularly recreated the atmosphere that his story captures — the sonorous burst and drone of the instrument, the community, the campfire, and the night sky — at the didgeridoo gatherings he hosts there. These are private parties, technically, but they are also open to the interested public. He tells me that “there used to be more festivals. Right now in the U.S., it’s pretty much InDidjInUs” — Oregon’s annual didgeridoo festival — “and then here.”

Warner Recabaren at home, with Lewis Burns' mural of the Recabaren family story behind him.

He’s glad to do it, and says that the “easy-going” and “very tight group” of people that comes make for wonderful guests. “Out here, when these things are done, there’s not even a scrap of paper on the ground.” The events usually feature prominent didgeridoo players, long jam sessions into the morning hours, and lots of food. Recabaren encourages people to “bring the food you’re most proud of. We love eating well. That makes it extra special.”

But. Nothing has gone on at the Ranch for more than three years. “It’s been a horrible, horrible dead zone,” Recabaren notes. There was Covid of course, but also an earlier series of unhappy coincidences that got in the way of the gatherings. So he’s especially pleased that on August 20th, Lewis Burns will be coming to visit. Burns, a Wiradjuri man from Dubbo, Australia, is a renowned didgeridoo player as well as a visual artist, and is “probably my most regular guy,” Recabaren says. He has come over to Alpine most years of the last couple decades. In addition to the music and the storytelling, Burns has also featured traditional painting, didgeridoo-making, and Aboriginal body-painting with white ochre. He also brings elements of Aboriginal ritual life with him, as a matter of course: fasting before the performance and smudging himself with eucalyptus smoke before beginning. Recabaren says that the gatherings are “a great chance to see a whole other culture.”

Recabaren discovered the didgeridoo at the Del Mar Fair. He bought some “horrible Indonesian sticks” there, which were enough to get him hooked. From there, his interest and his connections with other enthusiasts grew. He loves “the one-to-one” connection with the instrument, its union with the player’s breath and rhythm. “And then you get special times on it,” when the repetition and rhythm become “very hypnotic. You will be drawn into it, and you end up on journeys — a lot of fun. When you hit the special times, you just stop and smile. It’s just amazing.”

More here: http://www.ididge.com/

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