It is claimed that making a Diddley Bow and learning how to play it is not difficult.
I’m fairly cautious when people claim something is not “difficult”, especially when that something involves making stuff and/or learning stuff; two disciplines which by definition of the term can cause me great effort and enduring hardship.
So perhaps I need to put some context to the notion of “difficult”.
It’s difficult to imagine a world without The Beatles.
Difficult because it would take great effort to mentally erase the Beatles’ pervasive influence on popular culture and difficult too to endure the hardship of a world, lesser for the absence of their music.
Consider then, George Harrison’s unequivocal statement “No Lead Belly, no Beatles” and take a minute to imagine that Beatless world. Worse still, imagine a world without the music of Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain and all the other great musicians who attribute their careers to Lead Belly. That’s difficult.
Now imagine a world without Lead Belly; a realistic possibility given the limited prospects afforded a slave in America’s deep south in the late 1800’s. More difficult still, try imagine the great effort and enduring hardship of Lead Belly’s daily plantation life.
Fortunately, the music of the plantations has endowed us with a record, albeit difficult to bare, of that hardship. Listening to that music, it becomes less difficult to imagine a young boy, named Huddie Ledbetter, amidst the hardship, playing the songs of the plantation to raise the spirits of his kin. Less difficult again is to marvel at the career and influence of one of the greatest bluesmen ever; an extraordinary career borne of those humble beginnings on the humblest of instruments; the Diddley Bow.
Diddley Bows are likely derived from simple West African traditional instruments constructed by plantation slaves who adapted the meagre materials available to them. The children would learn the songs and rhythms of the plantations and go on to create their own music, in young Huddie’s case, music that changed the world.
The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues is fundamentally committed to providing access and encouragement for people, particularly young people, to embrace music. This year, the festival board are launching the Diddley Bow Project, a series of workshops teaching people how to make and play a Diddley Bow, culminating in world record attempt to assemble the largest ever Diddley Bow ensemble.
For those who can be be in Wangaratta here’s some workshop dates otherwise check out the simple tutorial and register for the record attempt to be held at the Wangaratta Civic Square on October 11.
August 28: Down by the River, Wangaratta
August 24 – September 4: Schools Workshops
September 30: Family workshop at Wangaratta Library 4-6pm
September 26: Relay For Life 4-7pm
October 4: Pimp Your Diddley Bow @ Wangaratta Art Gallery 1-3pm
I can’t imagine a world without The Beatles and thankfully I don’t have to, in no small part because of the humble Diddley Bow.
So I think I’ll have a go at making a Diddley Bow this weekend with my son. I am challenged as a handy man and as a musician but all things considered, how difficult can it be?