Australian musician Xavier Rudd plays more than a dozen instruments across his seven studio albums, but none are more striking than the didgeridoo. The long and narrow, droning and yelping wind instrument — developed by indigenous Australians and traditionally called a yidaki — is a signature part of Rudd’s feel-good folk rock.
“I was always drawn to the didgeridoo,” Rudd says. “It’s from a small part of [Australia], but it became an instrument for the whole country eventually because it was the most prominent Aboriginal tool recognized around the world.”
At age 8, Rudd picked up the instrument and took to it quickly, practicing on makeshift yidakis crafted out of vacuum cleaner hoses and old speaker stands.
“It was separate to music,” Rudd says, of his early experiences with the yidaki. “It was something that I did for meditation.”
Rudd started slowly incorporating yidakis into his music, taping them onto chairs so he could play guitars and drums at the same time, one-man-band style.
“I had never seen anyone do that before,” he says.
Rudd believes that a traditionally crafted yidaki holds the spirit of a warrior named Yidaki, who accompanies those who play it.
“The spirit of yidaki is like a guardian for the song and the journey of my music,” Rudd says. “As I carry around this spirit and make a lot of connections around the planet, Yidaki — the warrior spirit — has been really important.”
Rudd had to harness that warrior spirit in 2011, when he underwent an extensive back surgery that left him physically incapacitated.
“The best wisdom comes from the hardest struggle,” Rudd says. “I’ve come out of it, though. I feel like I’ve been released from that and I’m feeling very strong and ready to present the things that I’ve learned.”
Rudd says he’s excited to start recording a new roots reggae album — his first since 2012’s “Spirit Bird” — when he returns to Australia following his U.S. tour, which stops at the 9:30 Club on Sunday.
“There’s different artists from different cultures around the world, it’s really groovy,” Rudd says of the album, which he hopes to release next March. The eight-piece band includes “a Samoan drummer, a South African bass player, a Papua New Guinean on the organ, two Aboriginal sisters on back-up vocals, and two Australian guys on the flute and trumpet.”
Using a big band is a new direction for Rudd, who is currently touring with just a bassist and drummer.
“On this new record, it’s more about playing less,” he says. “As soon as we start to play, it’s the right fit, it’s proper roots and it’s really cool.”
9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW; Sun., 7 p.m., $25; 202-265-0930. (U Street)