All of us are familiar with whistling. Many of us love to whistle in our leisure time. But hardly any of us believe that it can lead to a full-fledged music career. Geert Chatrou from the Netherlands is one such person who developed the art of whistling and made a career out of it. Chatrou, 48, has carved a niche for himself as a whistler and has been regaling music lovers all over the world for years. He was crowned the world champion of whistling in 2004, 2005 and 2008. He was also among the judges at the World Whistling Convention in Tokyo.
In a tête-à-tête with Guardian 20 during the Muscat International Film Festival, Chatrou lamented that whistling was never considered a serious form. “In fact, some of your Indian friends told me that whistling on the streets is associated with ‘eve-teasing’ in your
country,” he said.
But situation has changed considerably in the last few years. “In 2004, at the World Whistling Championship held in USA, there were 35 contestants and only 3-4 were from outside the US. But in the 2017 championship, there were contestants from as many as 15 countries. So, whistling is getting more popular, more recognition and considered as a serious instrument,” he said.
Is whistling an instrument for you? “Yes, for me, it’s an instrument as vocal chords are used in it,” he told us.
When we asked him if he was ever trained in whistling, his reply was, “I did not have any teacher for whistling as such. But yes, my dad was a good whistler and I would just imitate him. I grew up in a family of musicians. Both my mom and dad were into classical arts. I used to take lessons of music on the flute, saxophone and oboe [a woodwind instrument].”
What would he choose between a solo performance and a group show? “Most of the time I give my performance with a symphony orchestra,” he said. “At times, there are accompanists on violin, viola, piano and guitar. But normally is are no percussion artist during my performance.”
Chatrou is very fond of Indian classical music and has great regards for it. “Indian music is way older than any other form of music. It is very ancient, centuries old. It has been my dream to do a fusion kind of performance with an Indian classical musician. I would really love to do it. I have heard the shehnai concerts and found it amazing. I would love to do one with the shehnai,” he said.
He said he was once made the judge in a music competition featuring an Indian artiste. “Let me tell you, it was ‘nearly impossible’ for me to judge Indian music.” Chatrou said he has never been to India but would like to perform there. “This is one of the things on my ‘bucket list’,” he said.
According to him, unlike other forms, whistling is very difficult, as there are no fixed places for notes for the musician to follow, unlike, say, the guitar, and the notes (swaras) need to be applied only through hearing.