Acknowledged as one of Australia’s finest didgeridoo players, Mark Atkins is also recognized internationally for his collaborative projects with some of the world’s leading composers and musicians. A descendant of Western Australia’s Yamitji people, as well as of Irish/Australian heritage, Mark is known not only for his masterly playing, but also as a storyteller, composer, percussionist, visual artist and instrument maker. Through Mark’s lips the air blows as a natural desert sound, in old ethnic chants and in polyphonic melodies of astonishing rhythm.
Mark has incorporated the didgeridoo sound into some unlikely musical environments, adding its primal pulse to orchestral works, theatrical productions and dance presentation. He has performed alongside and composed with artists and ensembles such as Philip Glass, Led Zeplin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Sinead O’Connor, Peter Sculthorpe, Donald Lunney, Ornette Coleman, Gondwana, Jenny Morris, John Williamson, Rony Barrak, James Morrison, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Canberra, Melbourne, West Australian and Cologne Symphony Orchestras, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Queensland Theatre Company and many more.
Mark co-wrote Voices for didgeridoo and organ with Philip Glass for the inauguration of the newly refurbished Melbourne Town Hall organ, which was subsequently performed at the Lincoln Centre, New York, and toured to Amman, Jordan. As a regular collaborator with Philip Glass, Mark performed live for the Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Arts Centre seasons of Naqoyqatsi and toured with Glass’ Orion. Orion premiered at the Cultural Olympiad in Greece and has subsequently toured to Italy, France, the UK, the USA, Mexico and Australia.
Mark’s solo work Grungada has toured Australia, France and Hong Kong (Melbourne International Arts Festival commission). Performance engagements include Womadelaide (Australia); WOMAD Seattle (USA); Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s “OzFest” (India and Nepal) and “Australia Now Brazil”; NAB Asia (China, Japan and Hong Kong); and Australian Festivals Port Fairy Folk (Victoria), Tamworth Music (Tamworth, NSW), Festival of the Winds (Bermagui, NSW), Aurora (Parramatta, NSW), OzAsia (Adelaide, SA) and Gascoyne River (WA); Tura New Music (WA) and across Europe, the Americas, Canada and Asia.
He was a founding member of performance ensemble Black Arm Band. Featuring Australia’s legends of indigenous contemporary music Black Arm Band has now created, performed and toured Murandak, Hidden Republic, Ngangwarra and Dirtsong into major venues in Australia and overseas, and to regional communities in Australia. His ensemble, the Mark Atkins Trio, was launched in April 2013 in La Reunion and then toured Latin America (Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico) and Europe (Belgium, Germany and France)
Mark is a prolific instrument maker, creating and painting didgeridoos from logs which he collects in the bush near his home in Tamworth, New South Wales. Exhibitions of his traditional and contemporary visual artwork have been shown in Japan, Europe and the United States.
Mark has numerous recordings and compositions to his credit. His awards and achievements include the Golden Didgeridoo at the Tamworth Country Music Festival and a Silver Medal for Best Original Score (co-composer Adam Starr) for the sound track for the documentary Take Heart.