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Alan Dargin Feb 29 2008 PDF Print E-mail
Alan Dargin - France Summer 2007Alan Dargin 1967-2008 RIP

Alan Dargin first burst into my life in the mid 1990's as he swung through San Francisco in a robust whirl of larrikin good natured  bonhomie, cackling laughs and sparkling, twinkling eyes. He was the first Global Aboriginal Superstar on the Didjeridu/Yidaki, playing in a dynamic and explosive style that blew all previous experience of what could be possible rhythmically on the Didj to smithereens and raising the bar for all who came both before and after.

For those who had no previous experience of Aboriginal Australians he showed a surprising worldliness with his trickster-like persona and extraordinary ability to take on the West at it's own game, give more than as good as he got and run away laughing to the next encounter. Enormously popular he exuded positive energy and with his almost superhuman dynamism  seemed indestructible. He was a born showman, a great tall-story teller, performer par excellence and a friend to all. We will all miss him.

Obituaries:

Sydney Morning Herald

The Australian 

But sadly, tragically, this giant sized outward persona shielded what was clearly a much more complex and vulnerable person underneath. Over the years, although I never could say I got to know Alan Dargin well I saw him many times, hanging out with him in both Europe and the USA and was witness to a drastic and devastating decline in his health as he struggled with the twin demons of alcoholism and diabetes and, in the space of less than 15 years, burning himself out until he was a shell of the Alan Dargin I first met, still talking the talk, still with his wit as sharp as ever, but his body destroyed. The last time I saw him on the Didjeridu festival circuit in Europe in the summer of 2007 he had returned from being a lost boy, having given up alcohol some 4 years previously. His spirit was still strong and I was encouraged by his apparent survival - sitting among friends he drank nothing but tea. But physically and in performance on the didj he seemed a shadow of his former self. This past week to the shock of everyone who loved him and who came into contact with him over the years, he passed away in Sydney, the result of a brain hemorrhage. He was only 40 years old.

This tragedy is something that hits me hard and I know that, among all the thousands of didjeridu enthusiasts around the world who were touched by Alan's life and by his playing, I am not alone in this. I deeply believe that the story of Alan's life and untimely death brings up many questions that, though mirrored in the stories of numerous other personal and celebrity tragedies/premature deaths around the world over the past 40 years or so, should be resounding sharply throughout the global didjeridu community for years to come. Alan Dargin was his own person and with his own complex relationships to his own complex life. But what could we have done differently in our relationships with him, and by extension to the indigenous culture that he came from, that could have helped to avert this sad outcome?

 

Alan Dargin was a person who was, as the Sydney Morning Herald obituary says, a 'Mentor to Thousands'. His standing in the world as a Master of the Didgeridoo should have made him a national treasure. Yet he, like many other talented Aboriginal musicians in Australia, wasn't supported by the system in his own country - he mostly made a living busking for tourists in Sydney at Circular Quay, if he wasn't touring in the wider world. His recorded output was also meagre for one with such extraordinary promise. This too is tragic. I can only hope that that oversight is rectified posthumously. It's the least he deserves that his music can live on to be shared by all. Let us hope that he also lived to see the beginning of a new spirit of tolerance and understanding  of Aboriginal People by Australians and by people around the world in general as he died less than 2 weeks after Australia's new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, made the first Official Apology to the Australian Aboriginal people for their inhumane treatment over the past 200+ years, in particular the story of The Stolen Generation, where Aboriginal children were systematically taken from their families and raised in institutions and foster homes far from their own tribal homelands, for over 70 years. 

 

Rest in Peace Alan. I will miss your stories, your smile and your spark..............

 


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