One man's mission to craft culture in a rainforest hideaway
COORABELL busker Tristan O'Meara is helping Aussies and other nations connect to indigenous culture, one hand-crafted didgeridoo and performance at a time.
A chance-encounter with the culturally-rich instrument 15 years ago in North Queensland quickly morphed into a life-long passion for the musician who now produces his signature high-end creations from his forest workshop near Byron Bay.
"The didge is a whole community," O'Meara said.
"It changed my life by the people I met, the places I went in search of learning how to make them and learning how to find the timber. I love making them, playing them and teaching people how to play them."
O'Meara said it was fulfilling to be able to help the unification of non-indigenous and indigenous, not just in Australia, but globally through his craft and skills.
"The didgeridoo creates more awareness of indigenous culture, the importance of it and people's connection to it," he said.
"It is an indigenous instrument, that's where it's roots are but the didgeridoo is huge globally. It's way bigger in Europe than it is in Australia, people are so into it, they are so into Aboriginal culture and it helps connect people to wanting to learn about Aboriginal culture."
Kicking off his busking career in Europe 10 years ago, O'Meara said he had since lived on street performing full-time with didgeridoo making on the side.
"I never planned to become a full-time didgeridoo-maker, I wanted to play different didges in different keys so I travelled Australia looking for indigenous and non-indigenous people who knew how to make them and play them and could teach me," he said.
"Playing the didge is fun, not difficult to learn and it's relaxing to play. Now I get to tour Europe every year and share my passion with the world."
O'Meara doesn't take the process of making didges lightly and begins by spending a few months in the Northern Territory sourcing the perfect timber which he ships back to his workshop.
"I mostly use NT blood woods and eucalyptus miniata or Darwin black woolly butt timber, which is the most commonly traditionally used wood to make didges. When we source the timber, we are looking for the best bore in the log which is eaten out by termites," he said.
"I Strip the log back, chisel it, use the machetes, draw-knives and hand-blades to shave it back and to get it back to it's raw form.
"Then I coat and sand it and cut it back to get it to the final finish stage. Sometimes I can spend up to a week making one custom creation."
See O'Meara showcase his skills with his makeshift worksite at the upcoming Buskers by the Creek festival next month. To find out more head to www.buskersbythecreek.com.au or O'Meara didgeridoos australia on Facebook.