When Kiko whistles, he changes his face. It looks very curious when he puts his fingers in his mouth and starts “chatting”. There are only two vowels and four consonants because it all depends on the tonality. Kaiko played whistles such as Katja, Anita (author and photographer’s names) and Buenos Dias. Then in German: Hello and Butterfly. As soon as he knows the pronunciation of a word, he can whistle it. Kiko participated in a study on the subject, measuring brain waves while whistling. The part of the brain responsible for speaking was the most active, the islanders say. So he speaks – theoretically – every idiom in the world. “You don’t even have music,” he says with a laugh. But it takes patience.
Communicate miles and miles
Whistle for more than four kilometers can be understood? There is no problem. Seven kilometers is also possible when the wind moves in a favorable manner. In the past, doctors or midwives used to whistle when needed. And people were warned of the dangers: for example, when dictator Franco’s operatives attacked the island. Even today, there are still opportunities to hear the whistle on La Gomera. For example, in restaurants or cafes, where waiters order their colleagues on El Silbo for the pleasure of tourists. The coffee is drank, the view of the harbor is now after a journey into the interior of the island. Kiko drives an old Toyota, Gomeirans don’t care much about cars.
The island is very green especially at this time of year. “This is due to the fog at high altitude here. Not in the rain, ”Keiko explains. It goes upstream, and then you can see the jagged rocks and narrow valleys where the islanders grow bananas, mangoes and avocados. In 1440 La Gomera was conquered by the Spanish and created a supply island for the imperial fleet. The native people, the Berbers, lived back in the caves – they neither caught fish nor went to the sea. The residents knew a whistle language that they used to communicate from mountain to mountain. Spaniards found it practical like a tool that once seemed irreplaceable as you have come to know it.