Do you know about the ingenious Panamanian golden frog which lives near loud waterfalls and communicates by waving? The people of Kuşköy, a small Turkey village, have proven that they can be just as creative and resourceful as the little poisonous frog. Long before they even had electricity, they invented a brilliantly simple way of communicating over long distances, by whistling.
They call it the “bird language” or “kuș dili” as it originated in Kuşköy, which itself means “bird village”. This fascinating means of communication was created over 400 years ago as a consequence of working in the fields of the Pontic Mountains. The terrain is irregular making travelling very difficult even on short distances, and because of this, the villagers felt the need for an alternative to speaking and shouting , one that made long distance communication easier. Inspired by the songs of birds, they started whistling the syllables of Turkish words which proved to be much more effective and less energy-consuming than yelling or walking all the way to the person they needed to speak with. Villagers notify each other about visitors, ask for help and make invitations for tea. They can even have complex, long conversations just by whistling. The songs of the bird people resonate over distances as long as 1km. If the distance is longer, the neighbors are kind enough to pass on the message to each other until it reaches its destination.
The Kuşköy people are a close community and have been even closer since 1986 when they finally got electricity. The younger folk soon learned the benefits of living in more developed cities and moved there, leaving the elders behind. Now since they all have cell phones, the language is dying, an undesirable consequence of technological advancement. Kuşköy lies in the Canakçı district governed by Mehmet Fatih Kara. He believes that efforts should be made to preserve the bird language and make it more popular among the young folk. Şeref Köçek, head of the Bird Language Association, has thus been organizing annual festivals for the last 15 years to promote the language and the village hoping to boost its economy and to encourage young folks to practice their whistling. People like Ibrahim Kodalak, a 45-year-old hazelnut farmer, participate in the festivities every year as well as in the bird language competition which consists of communicating a message in kuș dili to judges located on the other side of a valley.
Around 2,000 people take part in the Kuşköy festival every year. Everyone has a good time but the event is also a bit disappointing to some of the village elders because in recent years the younger population seems more interested in dancing and the music than in the one thing that makes this village unique, the Kuşköy bird language.
Kuşköy is one of the few places in the world where people used the whistled language, another one being La Gomera Island, of which we wrote about a few years back