Seventeen years after the death of my father, I still have not met anybody that could have matched, or beat, him at whistling. I still have not met another person who could work their jaw muscles and other bucco-labial organs to produce that deep and somber moan of the accordion; that pitched cry of the violin; that bark of the trumpet or that wail of the electric guitar.
To be honest, I have heard very good whistling in movie soundtracks and in pop music including Tuface Idibia’s ‘You No Holy Pass’. But then, it would be unfair to compare them with my father’s since they have most certainly been ‘touched’ in the studio. My father could make that kind of sound you hear in the dream or in the trance which you cannot reproduce in your wakeful state no matter how hard you try. Sometimes, when I think of his whistling prowess, I think of the mythical Orpheus who moved trees and rocks with the sounds of his harp.
Music has been therapeutic right from prehistoric times. Not satisfied with having it play in their minds, humans eventually developed the skills of humming, singing and whistling. It is still normal today to hear people hum or whistle a tune while busy in the bathroom or at the workshop; however, more and more people are relying on digital sounds from their mobile devices. For a lot of people, it doesn’t seem sensible for anyone to waste time humming or whistling a song when their mobile devices could deliver the song in the artiste’s own voice. And bearing Lamark’s evolutionary theory of Use and Disuse in mind, I understand why my hope of ever meeting a whistler of my father’s calibre continues to wane with the passage of time.
Today, technology is shaping our lives faster than forces of nature have done centuries. I have no doubt that even though my father’s whistling skill survived the age of the portable audio players such as the Sony Walkman, it couldn’t have survived the age of the more sophisticated digital players such as the iPod.
For now we do not seem to have a full inventory of the damage technology has done and continues to do to human civilisation. But judging by the speed with which the synthetic is replacing the original, I for one would not find scandalous any hint that human speech would completely give way to some form of digital expression in the nearest future.