Monday, June 21, 2010

2010 World Cup- vuvuzela is not all about noise making

 link here
Is it that troublesome; home made, a meter tall according to Macmillan Dictionary, born in the tribe of trumpets, an unruly noise maker, attractive in vibrant orange, yellow and green, wide mouthed, trade marked as South Africa's soccer identity and a talking-point now to the soccer fanatics in South Africa and elsewhere, I am talking about the vuvuzelas.  

Ever since I came to South Africa, those queer things were there. Their piercing noise was deafening while watching soccer on the TV.  There was hardly any music in their drone; thousands of spectators blew them giving out simply a harsh rhythm. In the stadium it  reverberated like a noise tsunami marking the South African soccer identity and festivity. No doubt the spectators enjoyed it to the bone.  
 link here

In the 90s they were hardly known beyond the local fans.

But by 2010 or even earlier, it rose to international fame. South Africans were determined to transform 2010 Soccer to something of an African phenomenon.  Without shying away from entertaining  guests and soccer spectators with their own merchandise, however queer it appeared to others, they embarked on giving a face lift to the game with clear cultural and economic motives. Vuvuzela seems to be their pilot scheme in that.  Now it seems that the global soccer is borrowing a leaf out of its success. 

No wonder, it has become the talking-point to so many people and the media alike all over the world.  Many criticisms leveled against the noise-maker that needs a 'practiced combination of lip and lung action' to bring into action are unchallengeable.

That their noise makes communication between coaches and players on the ground problematic and that it dominates the T.V broadcasts are a few among them. With a loudness of 127 decibels, 130 for a jet engine, it causes serious sound pollution. 

According to  Jaspal Singh , lecturer in Laws at Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar,  '60 decibels is the level of normal talk: 90-95 decibels may cause irreversible changes in the automatic nervous system' 

 I have seen coaches on the sideline contorting their faces to shout out tips to players.  That those tips  do not reach them is a cause for concern. The problem is very severe to the guest teams, who are not used to its drone.  

South Africa in my understanding is an extremely hospitable country; it would never want to displease its guests.

My family and friends from Kerala also complained to me over the phone that they are not able to hear anything clearly on the T.V because of the drone in the background.

B.B.C quotes former England captain Bryan Robson, now

manager of Thailand soccer team: "with that noise they (South Africans) could have an advantage in the World Cup,". 

However, after South Africa's terrible loss to Uruguay(0-3) on 16 June at Pretoria one doubts as to what that advantage might be.

Fifa chairman Sepp Blatter was initially in favour of banning the noise instrument from the 2010 world cup, but later he was dissuaded from taking that decision by the South African Football Association. 

What is its history?

History of vuvzlea does not seem to be certain. 

According to the MacMillan Dictionary, one version links it  to the Kudu horn a 'tribal instrument used to summon villagers to meetings'.  Initially made of tin, it became famous when South African Soccer fans added it into their games accessories in the 1990s.  Its destiny took a magnificent turn when Masincedane Sport, a South African-based company started mass producing its new generation plastic version in bright red, green and yellow in 2001

According to Daily FinanceNeil van Schalkwyk, who co-owns Masincedane Sports, created the vuvuzela, pronounced as Vu-vu-ZEl-uh. He defines its meaning as 'to sprinkle you, to shower you with noise'.  He hopes that the company would generate $2.6 million through the sale of the instrument during the 2010 World Cup. The company also claims to have sold 1,5 million vuvuzeals in Europe since October last year.

There is more; van Schalkwyk's company has partnered with Uthango Social Investments in South Africa to 'manufacture and sell ear plugs at park and rides for noise protection'.  It employs 70 people in Cape Town and '120 vendors around stadiums and fan parks'.

China has already scooped out a major part of the vuvzela business. Its manufacturers are struggling to cope with the on-line demand for the trumpet.  The Chinese made vuvuzelas cost much less, only  one third of the South Arican price which stands at R70.  The china version is shorter too.

From the look of things, vuvzela is now on its way to taking on the world on a noise mission. According to, van Schalkwyk has partnered with a German company to produce vuvuzelas and the United Kingdom too is interested in it.

The craze is all over.  According to June 18 Business News, "A vuvuzela was confiscated in New York this week.  In Britain grocery store chain Sainsbury's said it had sold 43,000 vuvuzelas at the cost of 2 pounds each - at a rate of one every two minutes".

Russians and Brazilians have trying to make 'cooperation deals to get the authentic vuvuzelas" in their countries.  Brazil is hosting world cup 2014.

In short, vuvuzlea is not all about sound making. It has a sound economic story behind it. World Cup is a billion Dollar investment in South Africa and elsewhere; trickling down its benefits to the masses is a market economy principle.

 Neil van Schalkwyk -the man behind the vuvuzela

According to Neil van Schalkwyk, the 37 year old South African, born in Cape Town, was a football player himself.  Fifteen years ago, as a defender to his team, Santos Cape Town Youth, he made a tying score against the opponent, Battswood. That game fired in him the idea of inventing a noise maker similar to the one he saw among the crowd being blown, 'a long, homemade, tin trumpet'.

With the idea conceived there, working in a plastic factory he 'figured there had to be some way to produce a horn with a similarly blaring sound'. 

After spending many sleepless nights, he slowly managed to give the  ultimate expression to his dream which turned out to be the most bothering headache to some and  all smiles to some others in the Fifa Soccer World Cup 2010. 

Initially, 'he could not trade mark the horn as itself', he says,"because a trumpet is a trumpet and has been around for centuries". Hence his company Masincedane Sport "trade mark protected the name 'vuvuzela'", which he defined "to sprinkle you, to shower you with nose".

His company started with 500 vuvzelas in 2001, a 'year later he caught a break when a company bought 20,000 as a promotion'. That was the beginning. Now demand for vuvuzelas is growing globally. 

His philosophical rationale to vuvuzela in South Africa is "we got 11 different languages... and certain songs are not understood by everyone...(t)here is one language they do understand and is the vuvuzela".

In South Africa his support spreads across the racial spectrum.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu is an avid supporter of him.

Now, the industry is a 50 million rand worth business in South Africa.



MKERALAM said...

Is it that troublesome; home made, a meter tall according to Macmillan Dictionary, born in the tribe of trumpets, an unruly noise maker, attractive in vibrant orange, yellow and green, wide mouthed, trade marked as South Africa's soccer identity and a talking-point now to the soccer fanatics in South Africa and elsewhere, I am talking about the vuvuzelas.

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