Saturday, June 26, 2010

Origins of the Vuvuzela

What's plastic, a meter long, brightly colored and sounds like an elephant? It's the vuvuzela, the noise-making trumpet of South African football fans, and it's come to symbolize the sport in the country.

It's an instrument, but not always a musical one. Describing the atmosphere in a stadium packed with thousands of fans blowing their vuvuzelas is difficult. Up close it's the trumpeting of a thundering herd of elephants, sure, but en masse the sound is more like a massive swarm of very angry bees. This fitting description is taken from webpage, accessed June 26, 2010.

No one knows for sure the origins of the vuvuzela. According to the website for FIFA, soccer’s governing body, it’s commonly believed the instrument is related to the kudu horn, used to summon African villagers to meetings.

Another story tells of the popularity of the trumpet at football matches in the late 1990s that a company, Masincedane Sport, was formed in 2001 to mass-produce it. Made of plastic, they come in a variety of colors – black or white for fans of Orlando Pirates, yellow for Kaizer Chiefs, and so on – with little drawings on the side warning against blowing in the ear!

And of course, there have been popular attempts to link the origins of the vuvuzela to the penis sheath (also referred to as koteka, horim or penis gourd), traditionally worn by native male inhabitants of some (mainly highland) ethnic groups in New Guinea to cover their genitals.

There's also 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.

The announcement, on 15 May 2004, that South Africa would host the 2010 FIFA World Cup gave the vuvuzela a huge boost, to say the least – some 20,000 were sold on the day by enterprising street vendors.

It's a noisy thing, so there's no surprise some don't like it. Journalist Jon Qwelane once quipped that he had taken to watching football matches at home – with the volume turned low – because of what he described as "an instrument of hell".

The infamous loud drone produced by the horn has proved unpopular with many visiting football fans in South Africa and even more watching on television around the world. FIFA officials did not enforce any rules on the use of the instrument but FIFA CEO Dr Danny Jordaan stated that "2010 will be the loudest world cup ever; South Africa hopes that the Vuvuzela will be recognized as a unique part of what will be a very special African world cup celebration."

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