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TEDxRotterdam 2010

Geert Chatrou: A whistleblower you haven't heard

June 4, 2010

In this engaging talk, world champion whistler Geert Chatrou performs the whimsical "Eleonora" by A. Honhoff, and his own "Fête de la Belle." In a fascinating interlude, he talks about what brought him to the craft. (Filmed at TEDxRotterdam .)

Geert Chatrou - Whistler
It all started as a practical joke: Geert Chatrou's sister-in-law entered him in the International Whistler's Convention in Louisburg, NC. To save face, he went … and won! Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
(Whistling)
00:16
(Applause)
02:19
Thank you.
02:22
(Applause)
02:24
Thank you very much.
02:26
That was whistling.
02:28
I'm trying to do this in English.
02:31
What is a chubby, curly-haired guy from Holland --
02:34
why is he whistling?
02:38
Well actually, I've [been] whistling since the age of four, about four.
02:40
My dad was always whistling around the house,
02:44
and I just thought that's part of communication in my family.
02:46
So I whistled along with him.
02:49
And actually, till I was 34,
02:51
I always annoyed and irritated people with whistling,
02:55
because, to be honest,
02:59
my whistling is a kind of deviant behavior.
03:01
I whistled alone. I whistled in the classroom.
03:05
I whistled on [my] bike. I whistled everywhere.
03:08
And I also whistled at a Christmas Eve party
03:11
with my family-in-law.
03:14
And they had some, in my opinion,
03:16
terrible Christmas music.
03:19
And when I hear music that I don't like,
03:21
I try to make it better.
03:23
So "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" -- you know it?
03:26
(Whistling)
03:29
But it can also sound like this.
03:32
(Whistling)
03:34
But during a Christmas party --
03:37
at dinner actually -- it's very annoying.
03:39
So my sister-in-law
03:42
asked me a few times, "Please stop whistling."
03:44
And I just couldn't.
03:47
And at one point -- and I had some wine, I have to admit that --
03:49
at one point I said, "If there was a contest, I would join."
03:52
And two weeks later
03:55
I received a text message: "You're going to America."
03:57
(Laughter)
04:00
So, okay, I'm going to America.
04:02
I would love to, but why?
04:04
So I immediately called her up, of course.
04:06
She Googled,
04:09
and she found this World Whistling Championship
04:11
in America, of course.
04:13
She didn't expect me to go there.
04:17
And I would have lost my face.
04:20
I don't know if that's correct English.
04:23
But the Dutch people here will understand what I mean.
04:25
(Laughter)
04:27
I lost my face.
04:30
(Applause)
04:32
And she thought, "He will never go there."
04:35
But actually I did.
04:37
So I went to Louisburg, North Carolina,
04:39
southeast United States,
04:41
and I entered the world of whistling.
04:45
And I also entered the world championship,
04:48
and I won there in 2004.
04:50
(Applause)
04:53
That was
04:56
great fun, of course.
04:58
And to defend my title --
05:01
like judokas do and sportsmen --
05:03
I thought, well let's go back in 2005,
05:06
and I won again.
05:08
Then I couldn't participate for a few years.
05:11
And in 2008 I entered again
05:13
in Japan, Tokyo, and I won again.
05:15
So what happened now
05:18
is I'm standing here in Rotterdam, in the beautiful city, on a big stage,
05:21
and I'm talking about whistling.
05:24
And actually I earn my money whistling at the moment.
05:26
So I quit my day job as a nurse.
05:30
(Applause)
05:33
And I try to live my dream --
05:38
well, actually, it was never my dream, but it sounds so good.
05:40
(Laughter)
05:43
Okay, I'm not the only one whistling here.
05:45
You say, "Huh, what do you mean?"
05:47
Well actually, you are going to whistle along.
05:49
And then always the same thing happens:
05:55
people are watching each other and think, "Oh, my God.
05:58
Why? Can I go away?"
06:00
No, you can't.
06:02
Actually it's very simple.
06:06
The track that I will whistle
06:08
is called "Fête de la Belle."
06:10
It's about 80 minutes long.
06:12
No, no, no. It's four minutes long.
06:15
And I want to first rehearse with you your whistling.
06:18
So I whistle the tone.
06:22
(Whistling)
06:24
(Laughter)
06:26
Sorry. I forgot one thing.
06:28
You whistle the same tone as me.
06:31
(Laughter)
06:33
I heard a wide variety of tones.
06:35
(Whistling)
06:41
This is very promising.
06:56
This is very promising.
06:58
I'll ask the technicians to start the music.
07:00
And if it's started, I just point where you whistle along,
07:03
and we will see what happens.
07:06
Oh, hah.
07:13
I'm so sorry, technicians.
07:15
(Laughter)
07:17
I'm so used to that.
07:21
I start it myself.
07:23
Okay, here it is.
07:26
(Laughter)
07:28
(Music)
07:30
(Whistling)
07:33
Okay.
07:48
(Whistling)
07:51
It's easy, isn't it?
08:38
(Whistling)
08:41
Now comes the solo. I propose I do that myself.
09:15
(Whistling)
09:21
(Applause)
11:34
Max Westerman: Geert Chatrou, the World Champion [of] Whistling.
11:45
Geert Chatrou: Thank you. Thank you.
11:48

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Geert Chatrou - Whistler
It all started as a practical joke: Geert Chatrou's sister-in-law entered him in the International Whistler's Convention in Louisburg, NC. To save face, he went … and won!

Why you should listen

Geert Chatrou has been whistling as long as he can remember. He plays the recorder and flute, but prefers whistling -- using only his lips as an instrument. In 2004 he won the whistling World Championships, and returned in 2005 to successfully defend his title. The 2008 World Championships were held in Japan, and Chatrou proved to be the world's best once again.

Chatrou was part of a prizewinning documentary about the 2004 International Whistling Convention, made by Emmy winners Kate Davis and David Heilbroner. This documentary, called "Pucker Up: The Fine Art of Whistling," has been screened in over 40 countries. Together with the Dutch group Ocobar, Chatrou made his debut album, "Chatroubadour" in 2005, with all songs specially written to fit his virtuoso whistling. In 2008, Chatrou released his latest album, "Ornithology," which brings out the "whistlability" of different music styles -- from jazz to klezmer to classic to pop.

The original video is available on TED.com
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