Whistling away to glory

If you walk into a restaurant and hear a group of people whistling to an old Mohd. Rafi song or the latest chartbuster, take heed.

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If you walk into a restaurant and hear a group of people whistling to an old Mohd. Rafi song or the latest chartbuster, take heed. These are no ordinary whistlers but members of a group called the Indian Whistlers Association (IWA).

The USP of the organisation is the fact that, at IWA, whistling is taken very seriously. Members learn how to perform to live or recorded music, replacing vocals with their whistling. IWA has a collection of around 1000 ‘minus one’ (songs without vocals) tracks. Old Hindi songs of Kishore Kumar, Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar are very popular.
Kal Ho Na Ho
is engineering student Bhagyashree Pujar’s (19) favourite whistling song and her ‘lucky charm’.

“I won a prize when I performed to it and also, it is a favourite with audiences at every performance,” she says. Pujar is one of the few active women members of IWA. Though she faced opposition from her family when she joined, her first stage show changed everything. “I think whistling is the greatest stressbuster, as it provides an outlet for my emotions,” adds this trained singer.

Although considered a hobby, whistling is taken as a serious art by those at IWA. It is a fact that new members learn very quickly. “Till I joined, I used to whistle for fun, when in the company of friends or if a great song was playing," says Sharad Karnad, 44, a civil engineer who joined IWA last November. Now, besides stage performances at Kala Ghoda, his whistling is put to good use — as a lullaby. He says, “My younger relatives tend to fall asleep if I start whistling. I guess it’s the soothing melody.”

Karnad’s favourite practice time is late at night or during his office breaks.   
Last year, 48 IWA members whistled their way into the Limca Book of records for whistling a song — Saare Jahan Se Acchha in unison. Manoj Karam, who heads a research and development company, was one among that group. This ‘home whistler’ was surprised to learn about an organisation dedicated to whistling. After joining in 2007, he began holding meetings, once a month, in Mumbai. Earlier, meetings were conducted only in Pune.

“We regularly hold whistling competitions which are theme-based, like picking songs of a particular music director.” Members are required to do research and practice their songs before-hand and someone from the music industry is invited as a judge.

At IWA, members are also taught how to perfect their whistles — be it pucker whistles, bird whistles, finger whistles or teeth whistles. Health is another aspect that is focused upon. “Proper breathing, a fit body, lots of water for lubrication and a strict no-smoking policy are what we advocate,” adds Rigveda Deshpandey, 23, one of the founders of the organisation.

Deshpandey was a college student in Lucknow when the thought of starting a Yahoo! group for whistlers occurred. “In college, I could not find friends who liked whistling, like me,” he reminisces. Once Jagat Tarkas, a businessman from Chennai (now the secretary and mentor to members) joined, the yahoo group gained momentum.

“He invited some of us to perform in Chennai. The response we received after that, prompted us to start the organisation.” IWA was formed in 2004, and now is a community of over 400 members. Some of the recent achievements of IWA have been organising a charity show, performing at the Kala Ghoda Festival and being selected as finalists for a talent based reality show.
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