KATHMANDU: After travelling to many countries and sharing the story of didgeridoo, the world’s finest didgeridoo player Mark Atkins is in Nepal, courtesy the Australian Embassy. Did-geridoo is an indigenous Australian instrument.
“Didgeridoo enables me to express myself,” shares Atkins shares of the the instrument which he compares to the saxophone in terms of expressive feature.
Traditionally didgeridoo is ‘Sound of the Mother Earth’; precisely, “it is the sound of Australia”.
Atkins believes “music is expression and communication which touches different senses. Music brings people together”. In other words, music is life which makes people happy as well as changes a lot of things. “It can change the perspective and attitude about instruments,” he says.
Atkins is in Nepal for a concert, supported by the Australian government through the Australia International Cultural Council. This is his first visit. Atkins is the recipient of the Golden Didgeridoo at the Tamworth Country Music Festival. When he initially started playing the didgeridoo, he wanted “to take didgeridoo to a bigger market and a bigger audience” and he has succeeded in many ways.
“For the last 30 years, the instrument has come out of the indigenous community. It has become big,” says Atkins who is a descendant of Western Australia’s Yamatji people. His vision has come true as the world has non-aboriginal didgeridoo players. Even Nepal has a few didgeridoo players.
“It was an underrated instrument,” Atkins recalls sharing “my uncle used to play the instrument. He told me that the instrument could do things!” Hence taking the traditional sound of didgeridoo, he transformed the sound of it into “contemporary and modern sound”.
Didgeridoo which can be played in a variety of genres from rock to country and can produce different sounds depending upon musicians.
“I don’t play the instrument traditionally. It is different from what it used to sound like,” he elaborates.
When he started it, there was a mixed response — the new audience loved the sound, meanwhile, people outside the country was “What is this instrument?”
But Atkins showcased what didgeridoo is all about. “Slowly the instrument was recognised and accepted,” he says.
However, Atkins is just not limited to didgeridoo. He sings, composes pieces as well plays other instruments like the guitar, harmonica and drums. In fact, he started music as young as six years with drums. And he likes to mix all the instruments while performing.
With his talent and dedication to music, he has been travelling to different festivals around the world in Europe, the US, Japan, the UK among others, working with different artistes and musicians. As a composer and performer, he has worked with Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Sinead O’ Connor, Peter Sculthorpe, James Morrison among others which he feel “great”.
“The world is becoming a small place. We are breaking barriers,” he says. He has learnt and is learning music. He has albums like Didge Odyssey, Creeper Vines and Time under his belt.
Moreover, at the age of 54, he feels “it is just the beginning” in what he is doing in music. “I hadn’t thought I would get here. But I am happy that I have this job.”