Jeremy Cloake


Hi Jeremy, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Before the other questions can you tell us something about yourself?


Well maybe I'll just tell you a little bit about who I am and what I am interested in.

I am of Irish and Maori decent. My Irish family name is Harpur. It is a celtic musicians name that literally means harp and pipe player.

My father was an adopted child and was given the name Cloake. It was not until March 2005 that my father found out about his birth family. It is interesting and perfectly logical that what I naturally love doing is what my ancestors have done. The memory in my cells being activated through the action of following my heart and trusting the integrity of self love.


Mostly I play Yidaki (an aboriginal pipe) and N'goni (a West African harp) I love the sound and feeling of playing these instruments. I believe that when they are used well they can greatly assist with the process of positive change. I also play djembe and dunduns and have studied with several west African masters including Epizo Bangoura and Mohamed Bangoura from Guinea and Pape M'baye from Senegal. I have also toured and recorded with them.

I also play Rarotongan log drums and a wide range of Taonga Puoro (Maori musical instruments) - wind instruments in particular. I am currently making several instruments for recording and performance purposes.

My Maori ancestry is from Waimate in Te Wai Pounamu (south island of New Zealand) Ngai Tahu iwi (tribal group). My Whakapapa (family tree) is recorded in song and more recently on paper, it goes back to the beginning of time. Ngai Tahu iwi are, in contrast to what is commonly conceived of north island Maori, peaceful and highly spiritual people. My ancestors were highly regarded Tohunga (ritual experts/shamans)

So I draw a lot of strength and power from where I have been and what I have learnt so far.

My father was an eccentric professor who recently passed on to another place. He lectured advanced calculus and physics at universties and translated ancient Greek and Latin. He lived to learn and literally lived in his own library of 4600 books. He was very interested in languages and the truths of mathematics.

Similarly I am interested in language and have completed have recently completed a certification training in neuro linguistics recently. I am a competent speaker of Dhuwala (a Yolngu language) and I am also learning Dhangu (Galpu, Rirratjingu and Wangurri clan language) as well as Japanese and Te Reo. The maths I apply to music.

What truly excites me are ideas that encourage expansion of human consciousness and experience by promoting possibility.

I love travel, the natural environment, people, culture and sunshine.



How did you end up in Arnhem Land?


Initially and like so many I was following the Yidaki path back to the source.

Before I shifted there to live, I was living in Sydney. I had heard that one of the co-ordinators of Buku Larrnggay Mulka was leaving. I visited Djalu the previous year and had worked at Nambara arts. I had also met Will at Buku Larrnggay that same trip. I called Will and offered to come up and volunteer my skills to the art centre. Initially I worked for minimum wage as part of a community development employment programme, which the Northern Territory government fund. I got on well with Yolngu and later that year I became a co-ordinator of the art centre along side Will and a big family of Yolngu.


Your didge playing style is unique, being a non-trivial combination of Yolngu and contemporary techniques. How did your didge playing evolve, in particular with reference to your stay in Arnhem Land?


In Arnhemland, my Yidaki playing evolved simply through being there. As with most cultures who have an oral history, learning is done through observation. When in Arnhemland I learnt from example, from the sights, sounds and feelings around and within me.

Constantly hearing Yidaki being played was an absolute pleasure and something I miss dearly, whether is was the boys practising at the art centre, ceremony happening at Yirrkala, or Yolngu just sitting around playing Yidaki.

Inspiration is often education

Naturally, my experiences of the land and the people shaped my Yidaki playing. Hunting alongside crocodiles and dancing with snakes. The subtle feeling of the wind gently smoothing over the footsteps on the beach or the sunset on my face changing from yellow to red. My Yidaki playing evolved as a natural part of the environment. Just like when you plant a tree in top quality soil, naturally it grows well.

I can also answer this question from a more technical perpective.

'Yolngu Yidaki playing techniques' are individual sounds that are used together to create a rhythm. Sounds such a Dhid, Dhit, Dhirrl, Drroom, Dherrk - the type of sounds that Milkay teaches on his instructional cd.

'Yolngu Yidaki playing style' is the combination of 'Yolngu Yidaki playing techniques' to form a composition. This is languaged and recited as a phoenetic phrase - such as Dhit dherrk dherrk Dhit dherrk dherrk etc.

My 'personal Yidaki playing style' are rhythms that I have composed that use 'Yolngu Yidaki playing techniques' as well as 'balanda style' on occasion

I choose to play Yidaki in this way as I believe it is the most ecological way to use Yidaki in a contemporary context. Ecology is the study of consequences within systems. By studying the ecology of my Yidaki playing, I am making sure that everybody and everything who are affected by it are affected positively. It is wholistic. It relates to me, my friends, my audiences, my students, my environment and most importantly the Yolngu.

I came to this understanding within the first year of living at Yirrkala. At Garma 2001 I discussed with Djalu the most appropriate way in which non-Yolngu didjeridu players can respect the Yolngu Yidaki traditions. It was agreed and very clear that the best way is for non-Yolngu didjeridu players to learn Yolngu Yidaki technique and make up their own rhythm. This became the basis of Yolngu Yidaki teaching from that point on.

Yolngu sometimes (although rarely) teach complete Yidaki compositions to non-Yolngu who are interested and capable. I choose not to play complete Yolngu Yidaki compositions as I know that it can be offensive to some Yolngu.


Do you have any recommendations for didge players in Europe who wish to deepen or expand their ability through a trip to Arnhem Land to learn yidaki?


Yea, go and do it, most people learn much more than what they thought they would. You can fly to Nhulunbuy (Gove) from Darwin or Cairns and you don't need a permit to stay in the town at Nhulunbuy or to visit the art centre at Yirrkala. Permits are required to visit communities and can be arranged through Dhimurru land management in Nhulunbuy town.

I am currently talking with elders at outstation communites about the possibility of arranging groups of people to stay for a week or so and learn more about Yolngu life, Yidaki included. I'll keep you informed on how it develops.



Coming back to your music you have two albums, Resonance and Transformation. Resonance in collaboration with Kenneth Sands and Transformation a solo album. Two interesting titles and each with it own flavour. Can you tell us something more about these two cds.


The Resonance cd was produced at a time when there was a lot of didj music being made which was mostly slow and sometimes a little boring (in my opinion anyway) Organic dance didjeridu was done with the intention of showing other ways in which didjeridu can be played in a contemporary non-aboriginal context. It was well received by most people and I have heard that it has inspired many didj players to learn more.

Transformation was essentially a personal recording where I experimented with various sketches, compositions, styles and instruments. I composed the music whilst I was living in Yirrkala and I am playing all of the instruments except for the saxophone on dissolve. Actually I wrote that track around the time of the terrorist bombings in Bali, essentially it is a message of taking it easy on ourselves. Renewal was really enjoyable. A the sounds on that track are frogs (with the obvious kick drum, snare and shaker) I recorded most of them around Yirrkala during the wet season. I spent hours creeping up to frogs in an effort to capture a clean call and many more hours editing tracks as individual frog calls. Loads of fun! I love Australian wildlife. Overall making transformation was an enjoyable learning process. I am currently refining aspects of it. The lack of text was purely because I like to do things differently. It is music after all.


The final track, Malu, of Transformation has quite a traditional sound compared to the rest of the album. What is the story behind this track?


In Yolngu languages, malu means father. That track is my way of acknowledging the sacredness of my relationships with my Yolngu fathers. The rhythm structure, the sound of the Yidaki and the lightning strikes all represent something sacred for those that the track was composed for.


You have in the last couple of years travelled to Iceland and Japan to present and teach what you learned in Arnhem Land. Hopefully next year you will also make it to Italy. Can you explain a little about the message that you wish to communicate?


That is a big question. I can answer it in 2 parts, what I communicate as a musician and performer and what I communicate as a Yidaki teacher.

As a Yidaki teacher it is my intention to support Yolngu as owners of the Yidaki by teaching accurate information that Yolngu have taught me. It is my intention to promote more complex playing styles by teaching Yolngu Yidaki playing technique and the development of individual styles (as mentioned above) I have been asked to do this by several senior Yolngu lawmen in an effort to break Yidaki stereotypes. I have the support of Yolngu in doing this as they understand that it is often difficult to communicate effectively with non-aboriginal people given that there are significant linguistic, cultural and spiritual differences and also circumstantial conditions that prevent communication to the wider world (ie, no computer or internet provider, lack of passport to travel etc)

The information I teach is usually in a workshop or seminar context.

Music is my main way of communicating what I feel is most important in life, my fundamental human values. My intention as a musician and performer is to support the current global paradigm shift to a point of balance within our relationships with the entire environment, all human beings included as a natural part of it. I have a vision of the world as a whole shifting back to earth based values, to a point of balance with technology and the environment. I believe from that point we can achieve peace.

When my spirit chose to bond with my body and enter in to this life as a human being, it was with that intention. I have no doubt about that.

As ideas grow, develop and change, many more people are remembering what is most important in life and are finding ways to live it. Everyday.

My music is a part of that.

For example Tsunami, track 3 on Transformation, is a metaphor for the rise and momentum of a change in consciousness. We are all part of that change simply because we are human beings. There are numerous studies that have been done that show that what we learn somehow emits to others and is absorbed as learning by them. In order to survive on our planet our consciousness must expand in to wholeness. As positive ideas grow and change they naturally become better. The wave grows and grows until it crashes and things are transformed. It is a fast and powerful track in recognition of the struggle that it is for so many people on the planet and the urgency we all feel with environmental issues. So lets do it now, not tomorrow.


Somehow, there are a lot of people who feel that humans are separate from our natural environment. We talk about 'the earth' and 'us' as separate things. This is just one simple idea about 'our self' that I feel is limiting our development as a species.

Governments are trying to achieve peace with each other (human to human) without remembering that we humans are all part of the natural environment. Most governments are not looking at the violent way in which we are relating to the earth. Most often, they are just using it for imbalanced economic gain, the love of money...

We are all inter-connected with everything.

Personally, I believe we must be at peace with the earth in all ways before we will experience peace with each other. We need to remember what is most important. Peace with water, peace with the mountains, peace with the forests and the sky.

I am currently working on a new show and cd/dvd which I will share with the world in support of this message. For this show I am combining what I refer to as 'original sounds' or if you like 'earth instruments'

I am combining the sounds of these instruments with the specific intention of creating and supporting positive change, with the vision of world peace through loving our environment as a whole. Essentially that is what all of my music is about.

Sometimes we hear something that simply touches a part of us deep inside and makes us feel connected. That is what I am talking about. And keeping and deepening that conection. This is easy with music as it is 'the universal language'

Often people experience connection to the earth (people included) through playing or listening to Yidaki. In my observation, this connection is strongest when Yidaki is being played with old techniques. I believe that is the fundamental purpose behind so many people becoming interested in Yolngu Yidaki playing techniques and styles. Connection. I believe this trend will continue to grow and is a vital part of maintaining a healthy balanced energy distribution around the earth given the fact that there are so many imbalances with wars, famines and so forth. Yidaki has power to cut through all the bullshit in the world and adress the heart, if played with suitable technique and intention.

I regard 'traditional knowledge' or what I commonly refer to as fundamental knowledge as highly valuable. I believe that patterns in nature are cyclic and we as a part of nature are moving back to an understanding of the earth as a whole, rather than as parts.

Being human at the core level means experiencing connection with all things.

The type of world instruments that I am working with my new music have significant strength and integrity within their sound. Their sounds are very old and resonate with parts of our body, mind and spirit. Sounds that make us feel connected to the whole environment (again, people included). Sounds that connect us to our self and help us remember the value of the earth and parts of 'the old ways' of human culture. Sounds that we can see as a beautiful picture, whatever the picture might be.

Currently I am working with many of my own Maori instruments such as Putorino, Porutu, Porotiti, Pukaea, Koauau and Poiawhiowhio. These instruments are wind instruments and therefore relate to the sky and the spirit. I am making and recording them with the above intention. I am also using Rarotongan log drums, Djembe, Dunduns, N'goni and of course Yidaki. Together with this I am using voice (words, lyrics and chants) from different pacific languages, Maori, Hawaiian and Japanese. I believe words have resonant qualities that can positively affect us if used well. I believe languages of the oceans have strong and healing vibrations.

I am doing most of this work in my home of Aotearoa (New Zealand) with assistance from Aokua. I choose to do this here as the earth energy in Aotearoa is very fresh, supportive and gently strong. I take in a lot of energy from the environment I work in and I give it back with my work.

Friends of mine who do animation will be making images to match my music and I hope to make a dvd of it so people can take it home and hear 'the message'. I call it 'the message' as I don't feel it is my message. I feel it is the earths' message of peace to her children and I feel I am working on her behalf. People who are prepared to engage with the terrors in the world know what I am talking about, to others my comments might sound ridiculous. But it is simple to me. I feel the earth communicate to me within each beat of my heart. Isn't that what it means to be alive?

and yea, I'll be coming to Italy sometime, I love the lust for life that Italian culture is so well known for :)

Kia tau te rangi marie... hold the purest light... the source of all creation... and walk with it holding it with truth, honor, respect and integrity... to your self... to our self... living and demonstrating peace.


And a few questions from the italian didge forum


The choice of a nasal didgeridoo/yidaki sound in the CD transformation is a stylistic choice? Is this sound due to technical choices (referring more to equalisation/compression) or is this the typical sound of a true yidaki (or of the actual instrument used)? or was it a sylistic choice - giving a sort of underground sound?


Hi Christian, thanks for your question. It is mostly a stylistic choice. When didjeridu is used in composition with lots of other instruments and sounds it is sometimes best to equalise and compress is so that the other sounds can be heard. Didjeridu covers such a broad sound spectrum it can drown out other bass and mid tone frequencies if it isn't mixed well. I recorded that cd in a small soundproof room (padded walls) so that would have had an effect on the end sound Too. Also, I mostly play instruments that are on the flatter side than on the brighter side as I prefer that type of sound and how they feel to play. Typical ceremonial quality Yolngu Yidaki often have this quality.


Do you use yidaki made by some artist in particular? Who are your preferred Yidaki makers?


Hey Luca, thanks for your question. I only use Yidaki. I don't own any other type of didjeridu. I don't have a preference as to who has made the instrument, just a preference as to the quality of the instrument.

To me a good Yidaki is more than just the sound of the instrument. When I choose a Yidaki for my self these are the considerations. How it feels to play, where it has been cut and made, how it has been painted, the history of the instrument (in the case of instruments used in ceremony or personal instruments of Yolngu) the playing style most suited to it and the natural characteristics of the wood (ie, internal bore, rare features etc)

I lived and worked at Yirrkala for 4 years and got to know all of the better known Yidaki makers very well. I worked with them extensively in the bush. I am of the opinion that any trained Yolngu Yidaki maker is capable of making a fantastic instrument. Mostly it depends on being in a part of the bush where good stems are.

To me it would be unfair to say that I prefer a particular Yolngu Yidaki makers work over anothers. All I can say is that I like Yidaki that play well and feel good to play, regardless of who has made it. Instruments that are made with cultural pride. I have an instrument that was made by a 10 year old Yolngu boy that is fantastic. I have several that were cut and made solely by women that look and play very well. That's all.


Track 10 on Transformation has me completely stumped and I love it! Beautiful photo under the grand tree inside the Resonance cd notes. What does the snake on the cover of Transformation represent?


Hi Fabio, nice to hear you love track 10 and thanks for the comments about the picture on the Resonance cd, that is a very sacred place for me.

Snakes often represent the process of transformation, which is title of the cd I did in 2004. Snakes shed skin and renew. This can be used as a metaphor for human processes. Often they do it at a point when they are strong. They are powerful and magical teachers that hold enormous power. The pictures were taken by a friend of mine and yes, it is a live snake. It is an olive python, known to Yolngu as Wititj, the rainbow snake.


Copyright © 2006 Martin O'Loughlin