Q&A With Didgeridoo and Harmonica Player Peter Harper Ahead of March 24 Gig at DDC

From bluesy Americana to age old Australian tribes, England-born and Australia-raised Peter Harper's influences are some of the most wide-ranging and unique of any performer working today. Audiences can see him play the didgeridoo, the harmonica, and a plethora of other instruments when he stops by DDC on March 24, and see for themselves why his latest album reached the third spot on Billboard's Blues Albums Chart.

Below, Harper tells us about the potential (and ridiculous) medical benefits of the didgeridoo, how he is honored to be part of Australia's most cherished musical traditions, and his history as a self taught harmonica player.

Some medical journals say that playing the didgeridoo can help cure sleep apnoea and snoring. Based on your experience, are such findings accurate?
Yes I've heard that too! And the women of the world have rejoiced in that finding. Fortunately I am yet to fall asleep on stage, so you will definitely not hear any snoring from me!

In all seriousness, have any Aboriginal people in Australia seen you play the didgeridoo and given you feedback?
My Aboriginal friend Tookabee (Turtle) actually helped me pick out my first didgeridoo. I asked permission to play the instrument from the Tribal Elder in Byron Bay, Australia. I did this out of respect and the Tribal Elder appreciated me asking. My Aboriginal friends have told me that I have a "black heart" which for indigenous people is high praise indeed. I have to say it is very daunting to play the "yidaki" (one of the local tribal names for the instrument) in front of Australian natives because it's usually handed down from father to son [at a young age]. I took up the instrument much later in life.

I bet when you travel the world and start playing the didgeridoo on stage, you get some interesting reactions from audience members who have never seen such an instrument, let alone heard it played.
Yeah, when I play the didgeridoo for the first time at a show I see at least 100 mobile phones come out to take video and pictures. It's an amazing sight to see, to be surrounded by phones. People have a look of shock but mostly people just love to hear the deep, woody tones. It has also inspired some crazy dance moves from the crowd. It's a lot of fun for sure!

Aside from playing such an impressive instrument, you've also taught yourself to play the harmonica. How did you get so far without a teacher? I've read that listening to copious amounts of Stevie Wonder had something to do with it ...
I was already playing euphonium and trumpet in my school brass band, so I had some education with regards to wind instruments. I guess I just picked up a harp and started to jam to other harp players. A lot of hit and miss, mostly miss! But yes, listening to amazing harmonica players such as Stevie Wonder, Sugar Blue, Sonny Boy Williamson 11, and Little Walter was the best education of all.

You've come a long way since then. In fact, your album Show Your Love debuted at number nine on the US Billboard Blues Albums Chart last year. Tell me a bit about how that felt, and also what attributes helped make the album so successful.
It was very exciting. The CD got to number three on Billboard and stayed in the Top 10 for six months; this was huge for me. I think the CD really spoke to people in a lyrical/spiritual sense. Show Your Love has a very positive message. Musically it's the best CD I've written so far.

What's next for you? What are you working on and what are some of your goals?
Well I have to say that I am really looking forward to touring China. I never thought I would have this opportunity. I would like to purchase a sheng and learn how to play it. I have more tours coming up in the USA and Canada. I'm currently on tour in Australia, and really enjoying being here, and I am also starting to think about my next album. I've been working on some film soundtracks and plan to do more in the future.

I am privileged to have such an very adventurous life and I always enjoy meeting new people and going to new places.

For more information about the upcoming gig click here. Tickets are RMB 60 at the door, and RMB 50 advance.

More stories by this author here.
Email: kylemullin@truerun.com
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Photos: CJ Online, The Age, The Topeka Capital-Journal


Harper is finishing up his China tour and will make one last Beijing stop before heading home. So if you missed his DDC gig, check him out at Temple on April 2. More info below.

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