Whistle to the Wind
Thembo, an Igbo tribesman, sat at the top of the evergreen Congo Chulu hills in utter silence. Not a single breath of air disturbed the tranquillity that encompassed him. He was 27 years old, a man of some repute in his village and revered for his good looks, his stature and his kindness.
He had been alone in his solitude since he was six years old, after the slaughter of his father, mother and two younger sisters. He had escaped the advancing army of the Congo president Joseph Kalibi by chance while searching for bee hives in the nearby forest.
It was dark when Thembo returned to his village, female bodies lay everywhere but there were no signs of any man, including his father, to be found amongst the burning wreckage of the thatched roof buildings.
Many a year had passed by since he became a wanderer and Thembo had made his own mark on his life in the village below the hill.
As he looked across the valley below he felt at ease, his sheep and goats grazed peacefully on the sweet grass of the hillside, the evening air was cool and still, a single tear rolled down his cheek to the corner of his lips and he tasted the wet salty flavour with his tongue.
The only possession he had left of his father was the small boyish whistle he always carried with him. He reached into his pocket and withdrew the wooden whistle, ran his fingers over its full length then placed it between his lips.
The sweet musical sound drifted aimlessly across the hillside, downward to the village below with its melodious echoes and Thembo cried within his silent soul.
Thembos’ wife Chinwe, a bride of two years and a Zulu maiden of some beauty, pulled aside the rattan curtain that hung at her hut doorway. She tilted her head slightly as she listened to the music that flowed serenely downward from the hillside. A silent smile creased her cheeks and her eyes widened in the knowing that the music was meant for her ears only. Her man would be home within the hour, his arms would caress her, his smile tantalise her and his kiss would set her heart beating like a war drum.
She ran her hand gently across her swollen belly, knowing that in a few weeks time the boy inside her would be born to the gentlest kindest man she had ever known. A man of honor, a man of truth, with a love so deep within him it made her heart cry out with joy. Adazi would be his name, the name of her husband’s father, a chief above all men and the son of a wood whistling herdsman.
As the years passed Adazi grew strong and forthright. Each day at sunrise would accompany his father and gather the animals from the Penn then lead them up the hillside to graze. His father walked with him as the six year old boy led the animals to graze. Adazi loved his father, he loved the stories he told of day’s gone bye. Of bee hives, river fishing, climbing trees and playing hide and seek in the forest.
One day Thembo took his son to the river. Today would be the day they chose the Marimba stalk to fashion the wood whistle he would make for Adazi. It had to be the thickest straightest stalk with no new buds showing upon it and it had to be dry. It was late afternoon when the right stalk was found, the stalk was similar to the one Thembos father had selected for him. The wood was bluish green in colour, not quite dry enough so the piece of wood was buried in the river sand and a fire was lit on top of the wood stalk.
“The fire will dry the wood without warping it” he told Adazi. “The whistle must be as straight as the arrow fired from the bow string. We will wait until the red moon appears in the night’s darkness, it will then be ready to cool and gather from the spirits of the night the magic of song.”
They slept through the night together in the blanket his wife Chinwe had given them; she had sprinkled a magical Zulu potion upon it to enable a deep sound sleep.
“This potion will take you both into the darkness of the spirit world, there you must ask permission to speak to the spirits, if granted you must ask for forgiveness on entering their world of darkness and then state your wish. It must be a simple wish, a wish for music in your hearts so you may sing the song of the songbird spirits from the whistle you will forge from the Marimba stalk.”
As morning broke the rising sun cast its fingers of warmth across the land, whisps of water vapour rose from the stillness of the slow running river like mystical dancers and there was a sense of quietness that covered the earth.
Thembo and Adazi ate the bread covered in honey they had brought with them, and then Thembo turned his attention to the dry wood stalk.
Thembo’s sharp knife trimmed off the outer skin from the Marimba stalk, the bronze coloured skeleton of the stalk was straight and true, the making of a fine whistle. The placed the wire he had brought with him into the embers of the fire, once flaring red in colour he pierced the inner stalk from end to end. He trimmed and shaped the mouth piece, then bored the finger holes of different sizes that would define the whistles musical notes.
Adazi watched his father in silence, one day he would make a whistle for his son, a whistle that would melt his heart with the joy of music that would travel across the mountains of the land.
Adazi eagerly placed the whistle to his lips and puffed his breath into it as his father had shown him. As each musical hole was covered by his finger, a new note blossomed forth and mingled with the mystical dancers on the river surface.
“It will take time for you to master the sound of the song bird; I will teach you well my son so you may teach your son when you are full grown and have a wife to comfort you in the long nights.”
Adazi learnt to play the magical notes from the whistle forged from the love of his father. His Dobo stands alongside his fathers Dobo and his wife stands at the door listening to the songbird singing from the whistle that travels from the top of the hillside. Adazi’s young son Onyeka sits beside him and his father on the hillside, the sheep and goats grazing quietly below them. The sound of both whistles travel across the land and for the first time in Thembo’s life he felt at peace with the world.
Written by: Terrence Forster
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