The best in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Music

Ash Dargin

Adopted at birth, Ash Dargin was brought up by a Caucasian family on the Queensland/ NSW border. They enrolled him in a private school, where he started taking trumpet lessons at age seven.

Ash was a natural and studied the trumpet through the London-based Trinity School of Music Examinations, reaching the level of Grade 8 in his final year of high school. But then something awful happened.

“My lip blew out and I could no longer play,” says Ash. “This was the end of my career, or so I thought at the time. I had been playing in jazz ensembles and even full orchestras.”

When Ash was 21 years old, the government lifted the ban on adoption information. “I applied straight away and found my real mother,” says Ash. “In my childhood I’d never been told about my Aboriginality. So I sold everything I owned and bought a one-way ticket to the Northern Territory.”

Ash moved out to the Acacia Reserve where his Aboriginal grandma lived. It was here that his real education and discovery of the didgeridoo took place.

“Even though I grew up with English people, I was always in close contact with natural wildlife,” says Ash. “My adopted parents were nature crazy ” my adopted mother would stop for any injured animal on the side of the road. I actually grew up with four eastern grey kangaroos! Later, I found out from my Aboriginal grandmother that it was my totem.”

The first time Ash picked up a didgeridoo, he could play it right away and even make animal sounds. His uncle showed him how to breathe properly.

“They recognised my spirit when I played and encouraged me to continue,” he says. “I sat with the elders of Kakadu and they said I should go and sit at the front of K-Mart and busk for money. But my playing has taken me much further than that.”

Ash travelled to the US for a time and lived with Native Americans. He met legendary producer Jim Wilson, with whom he recorded a track on Wilson’s compilation Tulku Season Of Souls. That album ended up in the US Top 10.

Back in Australia, Ash won a didj competition and was approached by Indigenous Australia, a company that had recently recorded the David Hudson series. They asked him to become a session musician with them.

After recording with them, Ash travelled overseas again, journeying through Asia, South America and the Pacific Islands.

Sales of the Indigenous Australia series on which he had played soared, and Ash was asked to do his own series of six titles for the organisation. He was even given full creative control.

Just as he was adding the finishing touches to the mixes, Ash was offered contracts with Sony Australia to do a compilation with David Hudson and the Tjapukai Theatre. How’s that for a dream run?

Ash believes that the sounds he’s been making on these projects are his best yet.

“Indigenous Rhythms features favourite tracks from my own series that haven’t been released yet,” he says. “I’ve also composed lots of dance music and chill-out grooves, exploring African and Polynesian rhythms and traditional Indian music.”

Most recently, Ash has been working with a young rapper from Cairns called D Kaz Man. Together they have produced a song, “Snakebite”, released on Sony Records.

Says Ash: “I use the didgeridoo as a colour, not as the main voice. This is what separates my music from other didgeridoo mixes. I also play a very percussive style that is more like another drum voice. Some very powerful sounds have evolved in this way for me.”

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