Verve and vexation – the vuvuzela

I have watched my first game of the World Cup (2010). I was surprised by the constant, boring bee-drone of the crowd – I had never heard anything like it before. Of course, I soon found out it is the vuvuzela, the soccer horn. It is plastic, a metre long, brightly coloured and sounds like an amplified bee! The instrument is played with huge enthusiasm by the South African and visiting fans but is also causing a huge amount of annoyance to television viewers.

The vuvuzela can perhaps claim ancestry from the kudu horn. The kudu horn came from a large antelope and was the traditional call to African villagers to attend village meetings.

There are two explanations of the origins of the word vuvuzela One theory suggests it comes from isiZulu for making noise. The other, that it comes from township slang for shower, because it showers people with music and looks like a shower head.

The vuvuzela has created the tournament’s early controversy. Many people hate them and there have been calls to have them banned. BBC broadcasters are contemplating turning off the crowd noise after receiving hundreds of complaints. However, many of the local and visiting fans are enjoying the noise far too much. The FIFA president, Joseph Blatter, has ruled out a ban, saying on Twitter that:

I don’t see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country. … Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound.

Boogieblast, a South African manufacturer of vuvuzela, suggest a simple explanation (and a nice little piece of marketing):

… you only hate them, if you don’t have one …