John Thorpe is a top notch didgeridoo player from Cornwall, whose vibrant sound reflects his love of traditional Aboriginal music and western dance music.
John's music is "evocative, expressive and exciting". He creates rhythmic, primal and powerful grooves yet nuanced with colour and subtle tones. The didgeridoo (yidaki) is an ancient Aborignal woodwind instrument from Australia, originating at least 2000 years ago. John captures that timeless sound in a contemporary style and his live shows incorporate didgeridoo solos or mixing it up with drum beats, clapsticks, shakers and mouth harp. Blue Ocean, white sands and secret reverberant caves on the dramatic Cornish coastline is the backdrop for John’s inspirational playing. "John's music: You could categorise it as acoustic dance, contemporary world music or perhaps even coin a new phrase such as didgeridance - but it's rather hypnotic." Gareth Bartlett, Journalist – Cornish Guardian.
His distinctive sound has enabled him to perform at some interesting venues. In 2014 UK TV hired him to play the didgeridoo at The London National Theatre for the promotion of John Torode’s new TV series. He has performed many times at the UK didge festival scene at Tapely Park in Devon and on the Isle of Wight. He has also played at the Eden Project a few times. In 2016 John made a debut performance with respected DJs Fabrizia and Joffrey at the lavish event held by The Mansion in London. In 2019 he performed at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall with the group White Rose (Samuel Jenkins, Tenor; Christina Jones, Soprano; Jonathon Bielby, Keyboard) - Jonathon Bielby’s: This Precious Earth.
One summer’s evening in 1999, deep in the outback of a North Cornwall farmhouse, John’s imagination was stirred by the sound of the didgeridoo. Although the instrument was new to him it echoed a memory of something he’d heard long ago. Intrigued by the feelings it evoked, little did he know this moment would lead to an extraordinary musical journey.
Born in Brighton, John had moved to Cornwall in the late 1980s. Once his passion for the didge was sparked he taught himself to play and in 2008 John performed his first UK didge festival in Devon. It was the beginning of his performing side, no easy task for a shy man who had lived as a hermit in his Delabole farmhouse. But his enthusiasm drove him on to gain confidence and perform at new and exciting events. How did a man who had never contemplated becoming a musician end up playing on radio stations such as the BBC. And more than that, forging his own distinctive sound? It’s a question John has often asked himself. “What an amazing journey it’s been! The twists and turns of life. At times I’ve felt overwhelmed with it all, at other times, completely at peace. All I can say is that I want to make the most of what I am able to do!”
David Hudson, a leading exponent of Aboriginal music, gave John the go ahead to go out there and perform on the didgeridoo, after listening and commenting on John’s didge playing, which gave him confidence to do it! Lynn and Ant Scott, who ran the UK didge festival for over a decade, with some world class players, have also given high praise to John’s didge playing (comment below).
As a contemporary didge player, John has been influenced and inspired by traditional and modern didge players and western dance music – David Hudson, Ash Dargan, Plack and Soames for example. And an early decision to make his own didgeridoos helped him to hone a sound that is a unique expression of himself. “It’s taken many years to grasp the sound characteristics of didgeridoos (yidakis). It makes you appreciate the skilled craftsmanship of the Aborigine yidaki makers who are not only able to harness some great quality sounds, but also nuance these traditional instruments so that they’re precisely ‘tuned’ to their associated clan or songman – amazing!”
He has recorded several albums from ambient to upbeat. The Cornish caves and coastal waters inspired John’s first atmospheric album in 2005: Out The Back. He recalls: “It was great to record something that felt so close to the Cornish shore and the landscape. I have a real connection to nature here; It is my Outback.” Almost a hermit, he mixed the album in his quiet secluded farmhouse. And a few years later the well established De Wolfe Music Productions took on board his album. He has recorded several music albums and, after listening to Seasick Steve's music with his wicked stomp box, John decided to create his own stomp box and a bass beat that worked so well with the didgeridoo that he hasn’t looked back since! A further progression was to include drums and of late the Cajon. He is currently exploring new didge and percussion sounds along with recording.
Along with walking and surfing, the didgeridoo/yidaki gives him an added dimension to his connection and love of nature. He has a great respect for the originators and traditional Aboriginal players of the yidaki and their healthy, symbiotic relationship with nature that has existed in Australia for thousands of years.
“The didgerdoo (yidaki) originated in North East Arnhem Land, Australia. I have great respect for the Aborigines and other contemporary players, from whom I have gained so much from over the years – it has inspired me in both playing and performing."
John Thorpe - Didgeridoo Player - Musician (aka John The Didge)
"John Thorpe is a master of the didgeridoo, listening to his music is evocative, expressive and exciting."
Warren De Wolfe – De Wolfe Music Productions
"John's music: "You could categorise it as acoustic dance, contemporary world music or perhaps even coin a new phrase such as didgeridance - but it's rather hypnotic."
Gareth Bartlett, Journalist – Cornish Guardian
"All Good Re your playing style. You certainly have the licks happening."
David Hudson – a leading exponent of Aboriginal music
"The didge intro with Joffrey and John was incredible: I saw people literally leaving the bar to go check it out!"
"Thanks for always being here and for your wonderful performances and energy you have given us so many times, you are a star xx" Ant Scott & Lynn: organiser of UK didge festivals over past decade….
"Of all the acts on both stages, it was the didge and belly dancer who people were talking about"
Rock Oyster Festival 2015 – festival organiser – Charlie Anderson
"Thanks so much for your performance at Holifair – it was really amazing! Someone even said to me it was the highlight of the festival for them – high praise indeed!!!…hopefully see you next year at Holifair."
"A fabulous performance - thankyou ..... it was fun!"
UK TV & John Torode @ The London National Theatre 2014
""A fabulous sound, wish you could have played for longer!""
Leicester Tigers Premier Rugby Club 2015
"John has enthralled audiences at LostFest for the last few years. He is a real crowd-puller with the amazing things he can do with a didge. By popular demand, he has been booked to play at the 2015 LostFest as it would not be the same without John’s performances - "
"John recently performed at our monthly Acoustic Café after booking him as a complete unknown, and not our usual type of performer. So glad we did. His talent is remarkable and thoroughly engaged our mixed audience (15 – 60 year olds) such that they were either spell-bound, or foot tapping and jiggling around. His time slot was only 1/2 hour, but our clientelle were having none of that and demanded an encore (doesn’t usually happen for the 1st act on).
You would think that playing the same musical note would get repetative after a short while? Think again. The mixture of additional rythmn from both the didgeridoo and his drums or shakers gave more than enough diversity in the performance.
We look forward to welcoming him back sometime next year."
Sarah Goodwin, organiser of Aoustic Cafe - Jerichos - Launceston
"Thank you very much for performing at the festival...I managed to catch about 5 minutes of your performance and that was the longest of anyone that I saw! I really enjoyed it and I agree it was well received. It has been a long time since I have heard a good didge 'player' and I was reminded of how much I like it."
Charlie Anderson – Organiser, Rock Oyster Festival 2014
"Amazing night!!! I've not had a dance like that in ages. Check this guy out...Fantastic gig on Saturday down Mill House, we had a great evening...reminds me of Xavier Rudd!"
""Our feedback was very positive and folk loved your performance and were quite mesmerised by it.""
Sara Hamidi Ashtiani – organiser of Overland Motorcycle travel event 2015
"We got your CD right here and listened to it! Wow!! Congratulations. Great playing man! Horizon Dawn is very creative with poetic tune. The sound balance is amazing… And good capture of live…"
Didge Breath – Australia
"amazing, incredible... we were all hypnotised..." "great fun, thanks for letting us join you on stage!"
"I certainly enjoyed your playing and appreciate your skill. Keep up the good work."
Alastair Black – Musician, didgeridoo performer & teacher worldwide
"I was a little concerned that a didgeridoo being played for 40-50 minutes would not work, so I asked John if he could do three shorter 30 minute sets on two locations. Watching the first set on the main stage – I quickly realised that my worries were unfounded. John went down a storm!"
Neil Hipkiss Festival organiser of Looe Music Festival
"John is the didge-man, his ambient sounds vibrate the very soul. I first met John at a jam session I organised in Tintagel Cornwall, he instantly impressed with how he could change the obvious rock structure and predictable thrash of guitars, with the use of this most natural of instruments, and create a fresh need for imagination.
The didge is a hard instrument to master, the circular breathing is just the start, its the creation of unpredictable sounds and the understanding of the tribal, the spiritual and of race memory that only an accomplished musician can grasp.
John is an innovator of the art and is massively respected for his grasp of perfect rhythm"
Si Johnson from Dusk At Dawns and previously from Sacred Turf
"And as for your appearance at our Air Ambulance Retro Surf Day, I have had some great feedback from people who were there on the day. Your sound was unique and resonated beautifully over the terrace at Harlyn. Thanks for coming and sharing your sound with us."
Dan – landlord from the Harlyn Inn