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Wednesday, February 24

Public Languages of Drumming and Whistling, or how to talk to others if satcom fails

"With practice, Silbo Gomero whistlers can convey any message."

Drum Language
Doudou N'Diaye Rose often recalled this early period of his life, when he learned that the tapping of the drums was a surefire method of communication between villages. Drums were played at marriages, baptisms, naming and circumcision ceremonies and other social gatherings.
In 2010, he told the French News Agency AFP he had "never wanted to play blindly! I met the elders so that they could teach me the very precise language of the drums that everybody recognized then."
He said it was important to know "how to announce a bush fire; that a snake has bitten someone and what kind of snake; that a woman who has just got married has gone to the conjugal home and that the husband is happy with her." [1]


Whistled Language
Whistled language of the island of La Gomera (Canary Islands), the Silbo Gomero
Description: The whistled language of La Gomera Island in the Canaries, the Silbo Gomero, replicates the islanders' habitual language (Castilian Spanish) with whistling.

Handed down over centuries from master to pupil, it is the only whistled language in the world that is fully developed and practised by a large community (more than 22,000 inhabitants).

The whistled language replaces each vowel or consonant with a whistling sound: two distinct whistles replace the five Spanish vowels, and there are four whistles for consonants.

The whistles can be distinguished according to pitch and whether they are interrupted or continuous.

With practice, whistlers can convey any message. Some local variations even point to their origin. Taught in schools since 1999, the Silbo Gomero is understood by almost all islanders and practised by the vast majority, particularly the elderly and the young. It is also used during festivities and ceremonies, including religious occasions.
To prevent it from disappearing like the other whistled languages of the Canary Islands, it is important to do more for its transmission and promote the Silbo Gomero as intangible cultural heritage cherished by the inhabitants of La Gomera and the Canary Islands as a whole.
Country(ies): Spain
© 2008 by Juan Ramón Hernandez y David Baute. Gouvernement des Canaries [2]



1)  His Drum Talked And Everyone Listened: Remembering A 'Human Treasure'; Ofeibea Quist-Arcton; NPR; August 27, 2015

2) Text accompanying above video posted to YouTube by UNESCO 

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