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South Whidbey man to try for didgeridoo world record

BY ROY JACOBSON

South Whidbey Record

LANGLEY — If you feel a good vibration spreading on Thursday, thank Bob Effertz and his didgeridoos. He’s after a world record, and he wants your help.

He also may have you jumping through hoops to get into the record books.

The record for the number of people playing the didgeridoo — a traditional Australian aboriginal instrument — at the same time is 238, set in England a few years ago, Effertz said.

A longtime Whidbey music instructor, he will conduct a didgeridoo clinic at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Island County Fairgrounds in Langley as part of Aqua Chautauqua. He said he’ll have more than enough instruments for everyone looking for 15 minutes of fame. Well, maybe two minutes.

“I’m hoping there will be enough people standing around,” Effertz said. “One quick lesson, then we’ll try to get a rhythm going and play for a minute or so.”

If he can’t find enough volunteers, there’s Plan B. He’ll team with the Vortex Sisters — Vanessa Vortex and Kelsey Strauch — to attempt a world record for the number of people playing didgeridoos while Hula-Hooping.

Vortex and Strauch will be conducting their hoop clinic nearby, Effertz said, adding that he’s not sure what the current hooping didgeridoo record might be.

Didgeridoos are tubes of varying lengths and materials that, when played correctly, emit what Effertz describes as a “peaceful rumble.” They are traditionally made of various lengths of wood — an authentic aboriginal didgeridoo is a branch from a eucalyptus tree that has been hollowed out by termites. A beeswax mouthpiece is applied, and away you blow.

He said Europeans probably came up with the name “didgeridoo” because that’s what one sounded like to them, but each tribe of aborigines has its own name for it.

Didgeridoos needn’t be wood, Effertz said. Although many are of bamboo and other natural materials, the first one he made, in 1990, was plastic pipe.

Most of those he uses in his classes — and will use for the record attempt — are 99-cent black plastic golf-club holders.

“They have a good sound, and they’re cheap,” Effertz said. “And they’re the easiest to play — perfect for beginners.”

As a psychologist for many years with the Mukilteo School District and now with South Whidbey schools, Effertz, 58, noticed the benefits of didgeridoo therapy when he used the instruments as part of a world music club.

“They saw them in the corner of my office and were really interested,” he said. “The club pulled in kids who often didn’t want to belong.”

A didgeridoo works great on fussy babies, too. “It calms them right down,” he said.

Once at a festival, he aimed his instrument at a group of rowdy boys. “They just stood there mesmerized,” Effertz said. “Why don’t you just follow us home,” one parent suggested.

Effertz also is exploring didgeridoo health benefits. Volunteering with patients at Whidbey General Hospital, he’s experimenting with rhythms and pitch, aiming didgeridoo vibrations at tender areas of the body.

He said a recent British study found that playing the didgeridoo may decrease sleep apnea and snoring by building up muscles and opening air passages.

Effertz plays his didgeridoo using circular breathing through his nose to sustain a continuous melody with a variety of tones and rhythms. As Bacall said to Bogie: “You just pucker up and blow.”

Effertz said the longest he has played a single ditty is about an hour.

If he gets enough players Thursday for the record, he’ll take a picture and collect signatures for validation.

“My goal is to get a large number of people and have a lot of fun doing it,” he said.

If Effertz can’t get the world record, he hopes at least to go for the North America/South America mark.

“They don’t have many didgeridoo players,” he said.

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