Learning to Love the Vuvuzela

Learning to Love the Vuvuzela

If you're one of the millions of people around the globe (yes, US finally included) who have been watching the soccer World Cup taking place right now in South Africa, then we don't have to explain to you what a "vuvuzela" is.

This simple plastic trumpet, ubiquitous in South African soccer stadiums for quite a while now, has turned into a protagonist of the tournament. Its sustained drone is inescapable throughout the matches, providing a unique soundtrack that underlies any efforts to announce the game.

The initial reactions of TV spectators and the sports press to the vuvuzela have been largely negative. The BBC has reportedly received so many complaints that it's said to be working on a vuvuzela filter for the rest of its transmissions. The wire report (quoting the Guardian) says that "the broadcaster has received 220 complaints about the noisy monotone trumpets and is believed to be looking at how it could provide a 'clean' feed with most of the crowd noise stripped out."

More culturally sensitive observers, however, have pointed out that some Europeans (and Europeophile Africans as well) have been complaining about African music for centuries now and that the invectives against the vuvuzela ("it's annoying," "that's noise, not music," "why can't they stop?," "it's inappropriate," "why are they doing this (to us)?") should be familiar to anyone who remembers reactions to ritual drum music or early rhythm'n'blues or rock'n'roll. (That call to provide "a 'clean' feed" that can magically erase the vuvuzela says it all.)

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Also, any exposure to the thriving noise or drone scenes (or even to much mainstream dance music) should have prepared ears for the challenge of the popular South African soccer trumpet.

In fact, musician Pedro Espi-Sanchis was so impressed with the possibilities of the humble instrument that he tuned several of them to different notes and trained a "Vuvuzela Orchestra," which played the World Cup anthem backing an opera singer:

Watch at documentary about the Vuvuzela Orchestra:

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