In N.C. Town, Whistling's No Idle Pastime


It's been a long week: talk of a partial government shutdown; another big earthquake in Japan; continued fighting in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq. What better way to end the week than checking in at the International Whistlers Convention? It wraps up this weekend in Louisburg, N.C.

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The world may seem a bit out of harmony these days with turmoil across the Arab world and a political stalemate here at home. But in a small town in North Carolina this week, there are peaceful tunes in the air as hundreds have gathered for the International Whistlers Convention.

Leoneda Inge of North Carolina Public Radio dropped by to listen in.


LEONEDA INGE: Whistling is serious business in Louisburg, North Carolina. And they're not whistling Dixie.

Carole Anne Kaufman is from Monrovia, California. This is her seventh year competing at the International Whistlers Convention. She's won twice before. Kaufman doesn't just whistle "Air on G" by Bach, James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" is also a favorite.



INGE: It doesn't even seem like you're whistling. It just doesn't seem like - I don't even know where the air comes from. It looks like your lips are actually closed.

CAROLE ANNE KAUFMAN: Yes, well, it is a very small, tiny hole there. I am what we call a pucker whistler. So I whistle like what you would expect a whistler to do. I put my lips together and I blow, and it's just that simple.

INGE: There are exhaling pucker whistlers, inhaling pucker whistlers, some hold their tongues to the roof of their mouth while whistling and others throat whistle. What's clear, they love it and travel the world to compete.

There are more than 130 performances at this year's event. Contestants stand on stage at Louisburg College adorned with flags from around the world. Charun Thattai is a native of India and is now a graduate student living in Texas. Unlike most of the performers, he sat on the stage with his legs crossed and whistled a traditional Indian song.


INGE: Ironically, the founder of this event does not whistle at all. But Allen de Hart says it's a language he can relate to and hopes other do, too.

ALLEN: Whistling was a language before that it became the art that we know it. But we're going to have to say that art, like in literature, like in speech and singing, it goes on and on.


INGE: The 38th Annual International Whistlers Convention blows its final tune Sunday.

For NPR News, I'm Leoneda Inge.

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