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Mumbai Memoir 63- Mumbai nurturing the ‘art of whistling’!


Mumbai is a melting pot of various artistic pursuits. Many artists from all nooks and corners of the country are seen migrating to Mumbai, who try their luck here. Being commercially viable and intellectually receptive, many painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers and actors have reached the pinnacle of their success as they pursued and promoted their art in the city. A recent evolving art that is splashing news on the city’s art canvas is the ‘art of whistling’!

My attention towards this art form heightened when Nikhil Rane, a Mumbaikar, won the 1st prize in the ‘Hikifuki’ category at the World Whistlers Convention held at Kawasaki, Japan in July this year! Here is a video link of his performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yqFLKpg8PY I literally whistled after hearing the news to express my joy and pride of seeing a Mumbai’kar achieve the award along with his Chennai based team mates who won first prize in their respective categories too: Recorded Accompaniment (Female) & Allied Arts category winner- Swetha Suresh, Recorded Accompaniment (Senior) winner- Jagat Tarkas. Here’s a video link about the World Whistlers Convention event 2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkPhr3v28WU


The winners are associated with the Indian Whistling Association (IWA) and ‘A Whistling World’ (Chennai). Mumbai based IWA has been founded and presided by a ‘maverick whistler’ Rigveda Deshpande in 2004. IWA is a non-profit organization aiming to bring all serious-minded whistlers from across India under one roof. IWA looks forward to promote whistling in the art circles to the extent that it gains a ‘performing art’ status in years to come.

Exploring the world of whistling further, I realized that historically the act of whistling was a tool used by shepherds in the ancient world to direct their sheep and call their dogs near them. Its surprising to know that an Island in Spain called La Gomera (part of Canary Islands) has an entire language based on whistling!! The whistling language referred as Silbo Gomero has 4000 words base which are translated in a whistling sound. Click this link to see a UNESCO sponsored short film about Silbo Gomero. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgEmSb0cKBg


Its impressive that the government of Canary Islands have included Silbo Gomero language in their school curriculum too! Its their educational system’s effort to restore the skill & art of whistling as they treat it as a cultural legacy which deserves a respectable status, both as a survival skill & as an art form.

Every culture has their own stereotypes related to whistling. It is believed that people from certain parts of Russia consider whistling to be a bad omen that leads to draining of earned money! In parts of United Kingdom too its considered as a bad omen as the myth goes that ‘seven whistlers foretell death’! Well I believe its just a mindset and way of looking at things that will define them. Here in urban India, the conservative view of the act of whistling was that it’s an act that road side Romeos, eve-teasers and flirtitious men indulge into. Such generalizations are irrational and now people are gaining more awareness that whistling can be pursued as a hobby, survival skill (to communicate) &/or for entertainment purpose in the form of performing art. Organizations like Indian Whistlers Association have been on a crusade since long to elevate the standards of whistling in public & government eye so that appropriate patronage can be procured for public shows and organizing workshops based on the art of whistling. IWA also has created a Limca Book Record for conducting a chorus whistling session with 48 whistlers who whistled the patriotic Indian song ‘Saare Jahan Se Accha’ in unison! Click here for a glimpse into the making of the record: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZinESzuBFXk Yet another effort to promote the art of whistling is IWA’s Whistling Courses (both online/in person that are regularly conducted since April this year for both kids and elders. One of their upcoming project is to bring about 1000 whistlers and create yet another record, for which they are searching sponsors. For more information click here: http://www.whistleindia.org/


I believe, every society takes its own time to accept emerging arts. There was a time in India where acting profession was considered absolutely characterless & degraded, especially for women, but today India produces largest number of films per year! The key is to keep pursuing one’s art with a devotional approach & by keeping good intentions at the core of one’s initiative. Rest will fall in its place, as it’s the case of all established art forms which have gained respectable place both in government & public eye! The key is to ‘never give up’ especially if you strongly believe in your skill & art. It’s a known fact that only those art forms have gained recognition over the years when the artists of that art form have broken the societal resistance with all their might by consistent & collective effort with an eye of determination! Through my article, I also wish to urge influential people outside the realm of the whistling world too to help contribute to the efforts of the whistling enthusiast for their art to gain recognition. For example, documentary film makers like David Heilbroner & Kate Davis, who has made a film on the art of whistling titled ‘Pucker Up- The Fine art of Whistling’ is worth appreciating or Event management companies too can introduce a performance act of Whistlers so that the art gets good exposure in front of the classes as well as the masses. Myself as a writer can hardly whistle, but if this article acts as a catalyst to even fractionally help promote the art of whistling then I would feel happy to have contributed. Like it is always the case, an intellectual renaissance has to be created first by writers, sculptors, painters and other artists for revolutions to occur, including the ones in performing art field. May the Indian winners of World Whistling Convention, Japan’16 & the rest of IWA associates ‘whistle their way to success’. And may the art of whistling gain due status as a performing art in India and abroad in times to come.

Photo courtesy: Rigveda Deshpande & free internet source

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