Vuvuzela: The Buzzing Sound of the World Cup
Vuvuzela: The Sound of South African Soccer at World Cup 2010
That bee-swarm sound coming from the stands is made by countless buzzing vuvuzelas. If you're in South Africa, you're no doubt hearing the buzz of the vuvuzela beginning far too early in the morning, and carrying on throughout the day. The only time the sound doesn't annoy you is when you're blowing your own.
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The vuvuzela is a plastic horn blown by South African soccer fans, which first drew global attention during the 2009 FIFA Federations Cup, and not in a good way. FIFA wanted to ban the vuvuzela from stadiums. This was not due to the noise, though, but because of fears that the vuvuzela could be used as a weapon, or to present unsanctioned advertising (FIFA's attitude towards advertising is similar to the IOC's).
Vuvuzelas Detrimental to Human Hearing
The vuvuzela is not banned, so long as it is shorter than one meter (three feet) in length. Tests have shown, though, that the vuvuzela emits 127decibels, which is louder than a chainsaw. Prolonged exposure to that level of noise could cause hearing damage.
Origin of the Vuvuzela
While sometimes claimed as a descendant of the kudu horn, the vuvuzela is actually less than ten years old, adapted from a failed toy imported from the USA. With a local business grant, Masincedane Sport formed in Khayelitsha (in the Cape Flats) to manufacture an adapted version in 2001. Now, Masincedane sells vuvuzelas for R320 ($41), though there are countless, less-expensive knock-offs.
Tourists are buying the horns as well as locals, as was no doubt the intention of the manufacturer. Meanwhile, Bafana fans hope that the constant buzzing sound, with which non-African teams won't be as familiar, could give Bafana Bafana an extra advantage; as underdogs in the tournament, the South African side needs all the help it can get.
Journalists covering warm-up games have realised they cannot communicate by phone over the noise and that is before Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium fills up for the opening match on Friday with 90 000 people, many armed with trumpets.
What starts as something like a car horn when played in isolation, builds through the day until when I’m at my desk in a Johannesburg office tower you can hear from the streets below what can only be described as a giant swarm of bees. Loud bees.
There's uncertainty on the origin of the word "vuvuzela". Some say it comes from the isiZulu for - wait for it - "making noise". Others say it's from township slang related to the word "shower", because it "showers people with music" - or, more prosaically, looks a little like a shower head.
In case you are wondering, the world's largest vuvuzela is 114 feet long, perched atop that unfinished flyover near the Victoria & Albert Waterfront.