Didgeridoos bring Australian outback to library

Rob Thomas plays one of his many didgeridoos.

By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff

Rob Thomas, an expert in all things Australian, visited the Sherborn Library on Wednesday July 31. The show was the perfect respite for families struggling to find something to do with their kids during the severe weather of the day. Thomas’ program included a set: a few different collages of images, a giant blowup globe, a stuffed crocodile, and, of course, a collection of didgeridoos.

Thomas began the program by showing off his didgeridoo playing skills. “I want to make sure that you can hear the sound of my didgeridoo,” he told his audience. After a few exaggerated failed attempts, Thomas started playing the instrument. Soon, Thomas accompanied the sound of the didgeridoo by banging on the instrument with some tools and later, by swinging a bullroarer through the air to make a sound resembling a plane propeller right before takeoff. At one point, Thomas asked his audience to recite a tongue twister. “Can you guys say ‘didgeridoo down under’ three times fast?” he asked before his audience launched into a series of attempts, as well as giggles.

Thomas then moved onto describing how a didgeridoo is made. Termites hollow out the trunk of a tree. The person looking for the perfect tree trunk will then bang on it to see if it’s hollow. If it is, they will cut down the tree and shake it out to remove all of the termites. Part of what makes it so interesting is that the didgeridoo is a naturally created instrument, dependent upon the elements of the outdoors. Without termites, the instrument would never have ever existed.

Rob Thomas explains how didgeridoos are made.

Rob Thomas explains how didgeridoos are made.

With a duffel bag filled with a litany of stuffed animals, Thomas began showing the audience some examples of common Australian wildlife. He began with perhaps the most well-known, the kangaroo. Then, he moved onto to describing the qualities of wombats and Tasmanian devils. “Good day, Sasquatch,” he said to a plush ringtail possum. Thomas shocked his audience - and precipitated more than a few screams - by throwing a stuffed snake into its midst. A Tasmanian tiger served as a sad exemplar of how extinctions are occurring right in front of our eyes. Thomas also threw a stuffed sloth at the globe, only for it to bounce back and land right back in his hand.

The famous platypus, meanwhile, became an example of how being different isn’t a bad thing. “Be as different as you want to be. And if you need inspiration then look no further than the platypus,” said Thomas. As one of the only three monotremes (egg-laying mammals), the platypus is as different as one can be.

Though the program was centered around Australia, Thomas made sure to teach his audience about the importance of acceptance and respect of other cultures, treating the environment better than previous generations, and - of course - the best noises a didgeridoo can make.

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