Once you’ve heard a didgeridoo, you never forget its vibrating, stimulating sound. A drone instrument of the ancients, purportedly originating in Arnhem Land (Australia) about 50,000 years ago, the didgeridoo is created from the limbs of the eucalyptus and gum trees that are naturally hollowed out by white ants and termites. No two sound the same. The instrument, which traditionally was only played by males, was used during ceremony and to communicating with different aboriginal clans. It is said that it can be heard from a distance of 500 miles.
Because of its innate healing qualities, when listened to or played, the didgeridoo has been heard more and more in recent years on recordings that stimulate healing, personal growth and transformation. One such musician who has adopted the didgeridoo for such purposes is Phil Jones, a native of New South Wales, Australia.
Jones, formerly a blues, jazz and rock musician, led a spiritual rock band called Quintessence during his heyday in the ’70s throughout Europe and the United Kingdom. A student of the Hindu master Swami Ambikananda in London, Jones incorporated chanting and Eastern philosophy and influences in the band’s sound. Quintessence recorded five albums and also performed two solo concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, and the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
After moving back to Australia for quite some time, Jones connected with the native instrument of his homeland. The musician re-emerged a new man, intent upon sharing the transformative, healing power of the didgeridoo with those who want that experience. Aside from recording numerous dideridoo albums, he and his wife, Jennifer, continue to crisscross America, where they present workshops and leave no one the same in their wake.
Didgeridoo Transformational Workshop: Australian sound therapist Phil Jones will be using the unusual sounds of this ancient Aboriginal instrument to heal body and soul during his workshop and private sessions while in Kansas City in August. His workshop will be from 7-9:30 p.m. Friday, August 2, at Buffalo Lodge in Kansas City, Mo., (816) 942-5418. A limited number of individual private healing sessions are available. The sessions are scheduled for the following day after the workshops. Workshop prices are $25 and private sessions are $95. Authentic Australian didgeridoos, handcrafted by the Aboriginal people, will be available for purchase.
Phil Jones spoke with The EDGE from the road, somewhere near St. Louis.
How long have you been on the road in this way?
Phil Jones:We got back here about seven years ago. Things kicked off shortly after that with our connection with Deepak Chopra. I just called him up and said I think I’ve got something you should see and hear. I played for him and came into his healing center as a visiting speaker and sound therapist. That started the ball rolling. So for the last seven years, it has been grassroots, word of mouth and networking extensively throughout the country through references and people who come to see us and say, “Come to our place next time.”
Your musical background began with the blues, followed by some jazz and rock, and then you blended Eastern philosophy and influences into your music. At what point did you then move into the didgeridoo?
Jones:I’d say about 13 years ago. Jennifer, my wife, and I went back to Australia to see my folks, thinking we’d stay about six weeks. We stayed six years. During that time, we connected with the instrument, and I sought out an aboriginal teacher. He taught me an intuitive style of playing. Once I connected with the instrument, I realized that there were very strong common bonds between yogic procedures and aboriginal traditions, especially with regard to breath work and heightened levels of willpower and consciousness. I realized I could use this in my meditation, in my personal development and then share it with other people.
Was it difficult finding a teacher of the didgeridoo? What’s the reaction among aboriginal people toward people wanting to learn the didgeridoo?
Jones:They are very open and very sharing about this instrument.
The way it appears to me is that it was released to the West as a musical instrument about 10-12 years ago. It became really popular. Over that period of time, people have wanted to go further with it and were more interested in personal development as another side of it, not to diminish it as a musical instrument. It’s fun and great to play, but it also is a powerful echoer and accelerator into deep, clear and focused states of consciousness. From my personal view, I think that’s the primary use of this instrument. But of course, I’m just one other white guy from Australia!
Did they share very much about their uses for the instrument?
Jones:It depends on what level you connect with them. As you go deeper into your intuitive self, a lot of information is shared on that level. A great insight was given to me by my spiritual master regarding intuitiveness. He said, “Intuitiveness is the enhanced movement of conscious energy, minus the intellect.” So once you go into those realms of egoless consciousness, information is transferred on a different level than word of mouth. These people are extremely intuitive, from my observation.
For an hour or two, you can say nothing and find yourself receiving all kinds of information as long as you relax into that state. If you get antsy about it, you lose the plot, you know? Some people are uncomfortable with silence. But I always stress that I know I speak for the native people of my country.
People say, “What is a white guy doing running around pretending to be one of them?” But what we do is support the foundations to work with the reconciliation process about the atrocities that were perpetrated upon them by the European settlers. There is still a lot of pain to be worked through. We work to support their culture so it is not absorbed into Western society. My little piece in that is that we have helped create an industry for them with the didgeridoo and we export them all around the world. That way the Aboriginal people are off of welfare, and it gives them an opportunity to be their own boss.
Is there a particular clan of Aboriginals who create didgeridoos for you?
Jones:We work with several different regions. We go from northwestern New South Wales, which is where I am from, to northern Queensland to the central desert region. There are some wonderful instruments out of there, on up into the Northern Territory. There are clans all over the place and they all have different dialects, but they are joined together by the song lines and their traditions.
Is there a difference in the didgeridos produced by different clans?
Jones:One of the main differences would be the art work and the symbology. There are two primary different styles of art work and then degrees in between and variations of that. Some put more of a modern spin on it, their own flavor into it.
The first of the two primary styles is dot art — millions of dots — and we call it molecular art because it creates an energy that is like looking into a molecular field. And it is topographical, as well. It’s as if the artists are outside of their bodies looking down onto the scene. There is a lot of symbology in that, depending on how much detail is put into it.
The other kind of art work is called raarkk or cross hatch, and that will have a lot of totems and tribal symbology. It’s also expressed in other areas as X-ray art, where the artists actually look through the body of the individual they are painting, almost like a psychic surgeon. It’s cross-hatching art with thin lines going in different directions.
What is it about the didgeridoo that stirs something inside of everyone who hears it?
Jones:I guess if you’re not actually playing it and playing it with spiritual intent and just hear it, it is probably the connection with the primordial sound of the instrument, which from my perspective parallels the sound of OM. It’s like listening to the Tibetan monks chant OM. It stirs that same thing within you. It triggers a cellular memory or ancient memory of spiritual connection. People say, “Oh, that’s mysterious, I’ve heard that before.”
Once you actually pick the thing up and start doing the breathwork combined with the sound, that’s when it becomes a powerful accelerator. It’s the imbibing of spirit combined with primorial sound. As you play it, the self clears the cellular memory. And the breathwork expands your consciousness.
When you talk about clearing cellular memory, what is clearing out?
Jones:Let’s say that when you connect with this thing, it begins to play you. So let’s look at it as though the instrument were a musician. Let’s say the didgeridoo is the singer. It’s singing into the microphone, which is the mouth, and the microphone is connected to an amplifier, which is the body, and the amplifier is connected to speakers, which vibrate and push the sound out. The speakers here are the cells of my body. As the sound begins to move through me, it vibrates the walls of the cells and pushes the sound out into my harmonic auric field on a subtle level, reorienting and clearing my auric field. When it vibrates the walls of my cells, it begins to shake loose the cellular memory, binding with the sound of OM.
That must be a pretty powerful process over a period of time. It would create innumerable changes within you.
Jones:It sure does. I call it a profound tool for self-empowerment.
Describe how it has changed you since you began playing the didgeridoo?
Jones:It’s given me more clarity and focus on an emotional level, more objectivity. On a physical level, it enhances the lymph system and cleanses the blood. The AMA has now proven that breathwork will do that. When drug therapy no longer works and diet or exercise doesn’t work, they are now recommending deep breathing and guarantee that it will lower your blood pressure. They have a little tone box you can buy, and it’s prescribed to you for $500 bucks. They want you to do deep breathing along with this tone. It lowers the blood pressure. While playing the digeridoo, the vibrating lips also help regulate the pituitary gland, the central processing unit within the head, and pineal gland, balancing the hormones. Some people say it is the doorway to the soul.
Spiritually, for me what it has done is clean out the physical and emotional body, helping to open gateways to deeper spiritual communication.
To be making a living with something as obscure and esoteric and as simple as playing one note is something I would never have expected. I often use this little story: At the height of my musical career, I had just finished a solo concert at the Royal Albert Hall, which I did, and it was a sellout. If someone had come back stage that night and said, “Phil, I am a psychic and I see in 20 years’ time, you will be playing one note, people will love it, and you will be making a living,” I would have said, “Get this guy out of here!” But the didgeridoo is only one note.
I often say at the beginning of the workshop: “Listen, ladies and gentlemen! This is only one note tonight. If you cannot play one note, may I suggest you do not quit your day job!”
Is it a difficult instrument to play?
Jones:That’s what’s great about it. It really is only one note. It’s interesting when you pick this thing up and we go into it to see the levels and degrees of tension and uptightness of people. Some people can relax instantly, while others take a little bit longer to let go. Playing the didgidoo is about playing one note. All you have to do is put it to your mouth and blow and start to feel what it is doing for you.
What are the steps involved in learning how to play it?
Jones:There are four steps in how I teach it. The meditation comes first. That involves very simple breath work, simple pranayama and yogic breathing, using the space between the breaths to slow down and regulate the breath. The breath is directly connected to the thought patterns. As we begin to slow down and regulate the thoughts, it gives you a stronger handle on self-analysis and how to appropriately integrate the personality.
I always do this little thing on the blackboard when I’m at the workshops. I write these two phrases: Put one or two hands up if you’ve ever suffered from either one of these symptoms: Monkey chatter, mind clutter. Most people, the honest ones anyway, put up two hands. I say, “The didgeridoo is the duster that wipes the blackboard of the mind clear.”
Why would you want to do that? Why would you want to clear your mind? What are you going to do when you are in that clear space? We talk about the various possibilities. Do you want to integrate your personality? Do you want more fulfillment? Do you want to be a great artist or a spiritually elevated being? The bottom line is clarity and focus — heightened levels of clarity and focus. As you think, so you become. You are enhancing your willpower and your ability to be the person you want to be.
So we go through the meditation. We talk about what it is doing for us, what it means, where is the breath taking us, how we feel. Playing the didgeridoo is like playing a tuba, opposite of playing a trumpet, which is tight-lipped. Loose, slapping lips. You put your mouth into the mouthpiece, and you always breathe through the nose and out the mouth. We are getting ready for the circular breathing. We talk about the kundalini energy, and how this process can awaken these energies in the body.
Circular breathing is continuous breath coming in your nose and out of your mouth, so you are breathing in and out at the same time. It’s just a technique you can learn, and it involves a little coordination. Once you learn the coordination and practice a little, you get it. I’ve developed an exercise that keeps it really simple, in line with the simplicity of the instrument. If you complicate and intellectualize it, it’s hard to learn. If you do the exercise that I teach, which is about as intuitive as you can get with an exercise, it doesn’t take long. Sometimes I have students who get it straight away. I’d say the average person who spends half an hour or an hour a day relaxing with the instrument will probably get it in about five days.
After the circular breathing, the third step is the twang. When you hear the instrument, it’s not just “woo,” it’s “woo-wa-ou,” almost a wavelength being shifted. That is the twang and it is the enhancement harmonics. I feel harmonics is an important part of the healing process of the instrument. In the workshop, we talk about harmonics and how to create them with the movement of the tongue within the mouth, and we have exercises around that.
Step four is the projection of the voice while playing the instrument. Some people make animal sounds, and we create new sounds. This process opens up the throat chakra, and as you use it, it begins to clear all the portals in the body that can receive energy.
Those are the four basic steps and how I teach it. Then, at the very end we usually have a sharing moment for people if they are inspired to share, about the purpose of their life, why are they here, what do they want to achieve, where do they want to go. The majority of people really have strong spiritual intentions. Admittedly, I attract that group. If people are fairly focused about what they want, it’s just a matter of how can they get it. How do they get there?
I look at this instrument as a wormhole through consciousness. It’s the shortest distance between A and B, rather than doing a dance around it or going in a circle and taking the long way, which is what I used to do. This is the shortest distance between two points.
Describe the healing work you do.
Jones:My healing sessions are intended to be self-empowering. I don’t come in and do everything for you. That part is done at the very end when I feel I have really made a connection on a self-empowering level.
The foundation of my healing work is based on forgiveness, and generally speaking, people are locked in the heart chakra due to some form of trauma or some kind of incident in their life that they haven’t been totally able to release, so we look at ways of releasing this — and the easiest way is through forgiveness. Not easy to do, but when you understand what forgiveness means and how it releases you and how it has nothing to do with the person who did the act, it is a really great medicine to free you and bring part of yourself back to the here and now that may have been stuck 10 years ago.
Forgiveness is the foundation of my work. So then we go on an intuitive journey through one’s life, if that’s where you want to go, and we look at ways of integrating these things back into place. We set up exercises that people can do on a daily level, and if they combine it with the breath work and the sound, then all these exercises and affirmations bring clarity and focus, which you can multiply by the power of ten.
What I like about the instrument, the didgeridoo, is that it has no denomination, no religion, no sticker, no tag on it, so it can be applied to any form of practice that you do, whether it’s religion or art, in my case promoting clarity and focus. It is an enhancer of consciousness.
The forgiveness thing is a really poigniant issue in the work. We look at examples throughout history, especially Jesus the Christ who forgave people for something and in my opinion he pointed out to his followers that this is not about payback, this is about learning how to free yourself from the shackles of human karma. If you forgive them, you are free. If you pay them back, you’ll be caught on the merry-go-round of karma and human payback. What do you want to do?
We imprison ourselves.
Jones:Exactly. So that’s where I go in the healing sessions. And at the very end, I use the didgeridoo to align and tune up the auric field. If I feel there is a block in the throat, I’ll move it to the throat. I work mainly in the heart chakra, the throat, the crown, the spine and the portals in the back of the hand. I only do these alignments if I feel it is appropriate.
Do you stay in one place for a while or are you constantly traveling to do workshops?
Jones:We are constantly traveling. The only place we get to spend more than a week is Taos, N.M., and at the end of the three- or four-month tour, we will go back there. Our intention then is to relax and do nothing, but we always find ourselves taking care of and running around doing stuff!
We have a motor home and a car and we drive separately for logistic reasons. My wife drives the station wagon and I follow her, and we’re connected with the walkie-talkies, and we’re talking as we go down the highway. She’s the navigator and I just follow her.
Any end in sight? Any plans on doing something different in the near future?
Jones:No, not other than expanding on what I’m doing. I’m just following the intuitive guidance as to where we’re to go for now. It’s like Forrest Gump. He just kept running until one day he stopped! If I feel it’s time to stop, I’ll just stop! “No reason, we just stopped!”
But I still make music, and up until recently, the music has been didgeridoo music with either a shamanic or devotional or spiritual slant. I’ve just gone back into doing what I guess you’d say rock-based music — rock/new age/deeply spiritual and devotional music, which was what Quintessence used to do.
A guy sought me out in Zurich, Switzerland, and said, “I saw you in Zurich in 1972. I saw every English band come through. I’m a musician and a producer today. How would you feel if I started interpreting the songs you wrote for Quintessence with a modern spin on it?”
I said, “Yeah, go for it, knock yourself out, whatever!” So he spent a year on this project and put an album together of the songs I did for Quintessence, and that’s just finished. Now he’s starting on a second generation of the music. This guy is full on. I’ve got this album now, and we’re looking for a deal on it, and I like it. It’s songs, it’s music, it’s got some really good dance stuff, definitely bombarding you with strong spiritual concepts.
For more information on Phil Jones and the didgeridoo, go towww.philjonesmusic.comor cal (505) 776-2034.