The vuvuzela //, also known as lepatata (its Tswana name), is a plastic horn, about 65 centimetres (2 ft) long, which produces a loud monotone note, typically around B♭ 3 (the B♭ below middle C). Some models are made in two parts to facilitate storage, and this design also allows pitch variation. Many types of vuvuzela, made by several manufacturers, may produce various intensity and frequency outputs. The intensity of these outputs depends on the blowing technique and pressure exerted.
A modern plastic Vuvuzela
(Tubular end-blown trumpet with mouthpiece)
|Varies by instrument, typically around B♭|
Traditionally made and inspired from a kudu horn, the vuvuzela was used to summon distant villagers to attend community gatherings. The vuvuzela is commonly used at football matches in South Africa, and it has become a symbol of South African football as the stadiums are filled with its sound. The intensity of the sound caught the attention of the global football community during the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in anticipation of South Africa hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
The vuvuzela has been the subject of controversy when used by spectators at football matches. Its high sound pressure levels at close range can lead to permanent hearing loss for unprotected ears after exposure, with a sound level of 120 dB(A) (the threshold of pain) at one metre (3.3 ft) from the device opening.
These plastic horns have been marketed and available in the United States as "Stadium Horns" since the mid-1960s. Similar horns have been in existence for much longer. An instrument that looks like a vuvuzela appears in Winslow Homer's 1870 woodcut "The Dinner Horn".
The origin of the device is disputed. The term vuvuzela was first used in South Africa from the Zulu language or Nguni dialect meaning to make a vuvu sound (directly translated: vuvu-ing). Controversies over the invention arose in early 2010. South African Kaizer Chiefs fan Freddie "Saddam" Maake claimed the invention of the vuvuzela by fabricating an aluminium version in 1965 from a bicycle horn and has photographic evidence of himself holding the aluminium vuvuzela in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. He also claimed to have coined vuvuzela from the Zulu language for "welcome", "unite" and "celebration". Plastics factory Masincedane Sport popularised the ubiquitous plastic vuvuzela commonly heard at South African football games in 2002, and the Nazareth Baptist Church claimed the vuvuzela belonged to their church.
The world association football governing body, FIFA, proposed banning vuvuzelas from stadiums, as they were seen as potential weapons for hooligans and could be used in ambush marketing. Columnist Jon Qwelane described the device as "an instrument from hell". South African football authorities argued that the vuvuzela was part of the South African football experience. The Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso said, "Those trumpets? That noise I don't like ... FIFA must ban those things ... it is not nice to have a noise like that". Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk remarked, "... it was annoying ... in the stadiums you get used to it but it is still unpleasant".
Commentator Farayi Mungazi said, "Banning the vuvuzela would take away the distinctiveness of a South African World Cup ... absolutely essential for an authentic South African footballing experience". FIFA President Sepp Blatter responded, "we should not try to Europeanise an African World Cup ... that is what African and South Africa football is all about – noise, excitement, dancing, shouting and enjoyment". Despite the criticisms, FIFA agreed to permit their use in stadiums during the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and 2010 FIFA World Cup. The South African football authority argued that during FIFA World Cup 2010, vuvuzelas achieved great popularity, though TV spectators suffered a lot due to vuvuzela noise pollution.
2010 FIFA World Cup
Hyundai constructed the world's largest working vuvuzela as part of a marketing campaign for the World Cup. The 35-metre (115 ft) blue vuvuzela mounted on the Foreshore Freeway Bridge, Cape Town was intended to be used at the beginning of each match; however, it had not yet sounded a note during the World Cup, as its volume was a cause of concern to city authorities.
Broadcasting organisations experienced difficulties with their presentations. Television and radio audiences often heard only the sound of vuvuzelas. The BBC, RTÉ, ESPN and BSkyB have examined the possibility of filtering the ambient noise while maintaining game commentary.
The vuvuzelas raised health and safety concerns. Competitors believed the incessant noise hampered the ability of the players to get their rest, and degraded the quality of team performance. Other critics remarked that vuvuzelas disrupted team communication and players' concentration during matches. Demand for earplugs to protect from hearing loss during the World Cup outstripped supply, with many pharmacies out of stock. One major vuvuzela manufacturer even began selling its own earplugs to spectators.
Notch filtering, an audio filtration technique, is proposed to reduce the vuvuzela sound in broadcasts and increase clarity of commentary audio. The vuvuzela produces notes at a frequency of approximately 235 Hz and its first partial at 465 Hz. However, this filtration technique affects the clarity of commentary audio. Proposals of adaptive filters by universities and research organisations address this issue by preserving the amplitude and clarity of the commentators' voices and crowd noise. Such filtration techniques have been adopted by some cable television providers.
Health effects and regulation
A study in 2010 by Dr Ruth McNerney of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and colleagues, concluded that the spread of diseases by means of vuvuzelas was possible. McNerney found tiny droplets at the bottom of a vuvuzela that can carry flu and cold germs that are small enough to stay suspended in the air for hours, and can enter into the airways of a person's lungs. The vuvuzelas can infect others on a greater scale than coughing or shouting.
The vuvuzelas have the potential to cause noise-induced hearing loss. Prof James Hall III, Dr Dirk Koekemoer, De Wet Swanepoel and colleagues at the University of Pretoria found that vuvuzelas can have a negative effect when a listener's eardrums are exposed to the instrument's high-intensity sound. The vuvuzelas produce an average sound pressure of 113 dB(A) at two metres (7 ft) from the device opening. The study finds that subjects should not be exposed to more than 15 minutes per day at an intensity of 100 dB(A). The study assumes that if a single vuvuzela emits a sound that is dangerously loud to subjects within a two-metre (7 ft) radius, and numerous vuvuzelas are typically blown together for the duration of a match, it may put spectators at a significant risk of hearing loss. Hearing loss experts at the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommend that exposure at the 113 dB(A) level not exceed 45 seconds per day. A newer model has a modified mouthpiece that reduces the volume by 20 dB.
Noise levels and bans
Concerns about the constant intensities produced by the vuvuzelas during the 2010 FIFA World Cup matches were raised independently by representatives of international football teams, spectators and sports commentators. The noise levels that were demonstrated during the 2010 FIFA World Cup prompted various sporting organisations to ban the vuvuzela at future events and venues, even including future World Cups:
- Wembley Stadium (as part of an overall ban of noisemakers)
- 2014, 2018, and 2022 FIFA World Cups
- All sporting events at the Cardiff City, Sophia Gardens, and Millennium Stadiums
- Lord's Cricket Ground
- Melbourne Cricket Ground
- The WACA Ground in Perth.
- The Gabba Cricket Ground in Brisbane.
- The Sydney Cricket Ground
- The now defunct Champions League Twenty20 cricket tournament.
- Yankee Stadium
- Fuji Rock Festival
- The Southeastern Conference of US college sports
- Ultimate Fighting Championship events.
- Gaelic Athletic Association events
- Little League World Series (from 2010 onward)
- Providence Park
- UEFA, including all Champions League, Europa League, and European Championship matches
- Rugby World Cup (starting in 2011)
- Kontinental Hockey League
- 2010 FIBA World Championship and other basketball tournaments from then on
- National Football League (as part of an overall ban of noisemakers)
- The Evolution Championship Series for fighting games.
- Vermont Principals' Association High school sports
- ÖFB Bundesliga
- Bundesliga (in some stadiums)
Some shopping centres in South Africa banned the use of vuvuzelas. They were also banned at the 2010 Baltimore anime convention Otakon. The convention committee declared that any attendee carrying a vuvuzela could have it confiscated from them, and that anyone blowing one could face expulsion from the event.
Another such action was taken in response to the prevalence of the vuvuzelas at the 2010 Anime Expo based in Los Angeles, attended by representatives of Otakon who felt the disruption led to discomfort for some of the attendees of Anime Expo which they wished to avoid at the later Baltimore event.
Nine English Premier League clubs have banned the device. Five clubs (Arsenal, Birmingham City, Everton, Fulham and Liverpool) have banned them due to health and safety reasons while Sunderland, West Ham United, and West Bromwich Albion have barred them because of policy against musical instruments. Manchester United banned vuvuzelas from Old Trafford on August 13, 2010. However, two clubs (Manchester City and Stoke City) have allowed them.
The organisers of the 2012 Olympic Games placed a ban on vuvuzelas at the sporting event.
Usage in protests
In Wisconsin, anti-Scott Walker, pro-union 2011 Wisconsin protesters have made use of vuvuzelas. A Madison DJ, Nick Nice, ordered 200 and distributed them to his fellow protesters. The Madison police even issued permits for use of the vuvuzelas inside the capitol.
In March 2012, German protesters used vuvuzelas during the official traditional torchlight ceremony, the Großer Zapfenstreich, which bid farewell to President of Germany Christian Wulff. Wulff had resigned earlier over corruption allegations, yet he still received the honor of the military ceremony, which left Germany divided. Tröten beim Zapfenstreich: Bellevue beschwert sich über Vuvuzela-Demo
Usage in music
Usage of vuvuzela in art music is limited. One of the few compositions made for it is a baroque-style double concerto in C major for vuvuzela, organ (or harpsichord) and string orchestra, written by Timo Kiiskinen, Professor of Church Music in Sibelius Academy, Helsinki; organ version of this concerto was premiered on 21 October 2010 at the Organ Hall of Sibelius Academy, and harpsichord version on 19 December 2010 at Pro Puu gallery in Lahti.
Alternative rock band Catzo Music All-Stars used two vuvuzelas as the basis of its 2010 song "Larissa Riquelme (reprise)".
- Makarapa — hand-made hats worn by spectators to show their team support
- Portable or personal air horns — produce sounds similar to the vuvuzela
- Football rattle — a percussion instrument which produces a clicking and rattling noise
- Thundersticks — narrow plastic balloons used as promotional noise makers
- Educal dictionary
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at 1:22:12, crowd shot of Fenway Park. In the upper left corner of the frame, two mass-produced type plastic Stadium Horns/Vuvuzelas are clearly visible.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Vuvuzelas.|
|Look up vuvuzela in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- 10 Things about the Vuvuzela by the BBC
- Promotional film for World Cup Mexico 86 – Mexican plastic trumpets are shown – YouTube
- Vuvuzela Day – slideshow by The First Post
- Moriarty, Philip (2010). "Vuvuzela". Sixty Symbols. Brady Haran for the University of Nottingham.