We live in a time where Kaltja is all but overwhelmed. I use the word Kaltja to mean culture or cultural practice that has its base in ethnicity. ( Ref: Kaltja Now. Indigenous Arts Australia, Wakefield Press.) Kaltja in this sense is an expression of a people’s spirit or religion. It is profoundly connected to the land that gives them life. It provides a vehicle for turning the wheel of daily life with rituals for birth, for death, for all the transformations in between and even preparation for the after-life. It gives a people a sense of their communal identity and integrity.
Much of our modern 'Western' culture is pale in comparison to the bright sun of Kaltja. Fractured and disconnected, western culture has a real identity crisis. Opera, ballet, classical music and fine art have little relevance to most of the tribe. There is no overarching spiritual view that they represent, except for their historical connection to the Judeo- Christian world that gave them birth. In my opinion these forms have not expanded and redefined themselves enough to be relevant to most people.
Culture has not allowed the interaction with other Kaltjas to overhaul it. Culture has instead appropriated elements of Kaltja. Divorced from their source and compressed to fit into the mainstream, these elements are reduced to a phantom existence and more often than not they 'die' to their original role in their society of origin.
When an instrument, for instance, is removed from its original cultural context there is a strong pressure on the player to “fit” the instrument into their own cultural context, particularly when their cultural context is the dominant one. This “fitting” has the potential to expand the new context but it can also reduce the instrument’s potential for certain kinds of expression.
As a digeridoo player I am aware that most of the digeridoo playing that we hear today has little of the rhythmic complexity that is there in it’s original context. This instrument has, however, the potential and the capacity to help us completely renew our relationship with, and understanding of, the nature of rhythm and it’s fundamental connection to language and to human expression.
We live in a time where we are exposed to a wonderful variety of cultural expressions and we can make of this time what we will. As creative individuals we can humbly accept these gifts from cultures other than our own and be prepared to let them change us rather than us changing them. We can use this time of meeting to renew us, to renew our society and reform it’s cultural practices.