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Rudd's music brings down under roots to Canadian stage

T.K. Dallman | Interrobang | Lifestyles | February 4th, 2008

Xavier Rudd's bringing Canada closer to Australia, one didgeridoo at a time

It often becomes the job of an artist to assess the state of the world, interpret it, and create a reflection of society from his or her perspective out of material, words, sounds, sometimes all three.

Political unrest can be fuelled, social injustices brought to light, or, for example, in the case of Xavier Rudd, environmental issues can become the focus of music and balladry. His folk-style incorporates an organic spirituality and genuine concern for the problems that the Earth faces. I suppose, without using the term out of context, Rudd is a hippy.

Growing up in the small town of Torquay, Australia, Rudd has always been fascinated by both nature and music. In fact, these two passions have consistently overlapped at many points throughout his life. In his younger years, Rudd spent hours in the wild with friends searching for the perfect yidaki, better known as a didgeridoo. This type of aboriginal instrument, as he explained, is created in the hot, dry Australian climate by termites who burrow through the centre of certain hardwoods, creating hollow tubes. Years ago, aboriginals discover that these yidaki could actually produce a deep, droning sound, and ever since, they have been considered a traditional instrument. Rudd's live set-up includes several yidaki, but the use of native music isn't the only thing that sets him apart from other artists.

Most musicians are lucky if they can competently play one instrument at a time; in a typical Xavier Rudd song, however, it is not uncommon to see him play up to three or four simultaneously. The beat of his compositions are generally carried by hand drums, a kit set-up around him, or a series of percussion instruments played by foot. Guitars or other stringed instruments provide the harmonic elements of his songs, and these are met with his voice, a harmonica or the sound of the yidaki.

To even most musicians, these simultaneous tasks would seem daunting, but to Rudd, they're nothing of the sort.

“It's not something I find really too hard,” Rudd said over the phone. “It happens fairly naturally for me... It's almost like dancing, you know, just sort of expressing myself and all the rhythms coming from my limbs and from within.”

Whatever it is he does, exactly, there is no doubt that audiences, particularly in Australia and Canada, have been quite receptive to his unique style. Rudd's first album, Solace went platinum in his native country, and since then, he has been able to tour the Western world several times while continuing to write, record and co-produce two other albums, Food in the Belly and his most recent effort, White Moth.

Canada is a special place for Rudd - his wife is Canadian-born, and many of his recordings have been done in British Columbia. One can't help but to make the comparisons between his home and ours.

“The ground is a lot softer in Canada, the air is different, the trees are different, the fires smell different, the birds sound different... but there's a similar feeling, a similar spirit in the land,” Rudd explained.

Many of the same social and environmental issues also plague both countries, including deforestation and aboriginal rights. After this tour, Rudd will be returning home before playing a benefit in Tasmania, where a pulp mill currently threatens to destroy old-growth forests that hinge on native lands.

Although, political activism can become time consuming for an artist who has been constantly expanding his global fan-base.

“I sing and write about what I feel when I travel around the world, and I express that stuff, but I'm so busy doing that, that it takes up the majority of my life, you know?” said Rudd. “I don't have a lot of time to be selflessly defending our environment like the many activists that I'm inspired by around the world.”

Nevertheless, Rudd has been able to take his message around the world, and perhaps due to his unconventional musical arrangements, has had the opportunity to perform at jazz, rock, folk and world music events on the summer festival circuit in Canada.

He has also shared the stage with contemporaries such as Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews.

“In my experience I've been lucky in that most people I connect with and travel with, there's a great connection,” Rudd said. “Their music is coming up from an old place and to connect with people like that, you're also getting a spiritual connection that's really strong too, and can change the fate of your journey sometimes, and open your eyes to a new set of things, so it's very powerful.”

Now, on a headlining tour of his own, Xavier Rudd will be performing at Centennial Hall in London on February 4 with opening act Mishka.
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