Some background information for those who have only just arrived in the country or just risen from a 10-year coma. The vuvuzela is a stadium horn that is de rigueur at football matches in South Africa – it’s so popular it has grown into a R46 million industry in South Africa and Europe, according to its makers. One must have an impressive set of lungs and heavy-duty lips to blow this instrument, which emits an earth-shattering monotone that has been described as a “goat being led to slaughter”, “an elephant in distress and my favourite, “a satanic sound”.
The reaction to it has been interesting to monitor. A few have been in support of the vuvuzela with Fifa’s Sepp Blatter tweeting “I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound..would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?” But for the most part it’s been nothing but a series of complaints which is understandable because for many tourists who have never been to Africa, never mind experienced its “vibrancy”, coming into contact with the vuvuzela must have been a full-frontal shock-and-awe assault on the senses. Such that people call for its banning.
People have complained that it drowns out the singing and kills the atmosphere of the game. Coaches and players have stated they can’t hear each other with the “melody” (and I use this word very, very loosely) of the vuvuzela rending the air. Commentators also gave their two-cents worth and complained about not being heard above the din. Listen to any broadcast from the stadium and it’s a pitiful effort by the journalist to be heard over the drone of the vuvuzela. In fact 702’s John Robbie suffered a vuvuzela-induced voice injury after straining his voice while shouting.
The complaints are reasonable enough and in any other situation they would have been accommodated and concessions made, yet this time we are intent on keeping the vuvuzela around. I personally have no love for it, but in-spite of all this I refuse to stop blowing. And I have to wonder why. True its part of an albeit short local history and the way we do our thing in Africa, but something tells me it goes beyond that.
The way I see it, this is an unspoken war between them and us. Refusing to ban the vuvuzela is a show of defiance from a people previously oppressed. A people that have long been told what to do and have had enough, a people who have had to get used to being looked down upon and criticised for how we do things and a people who are tired of it.
I feel we as Africans (black and white alike) do not want to be told what to do by foreigners who are visitors on our soil. We have welcomed them into our house and we have the opportunity to stamp our identity without them taking it away from us and replacing it with something they figure to be more “civilised” as has been done throughout the ages. It would seem Africans are tired of the patronising and colonialist attitude of people who feel they can come in and force change to suit their comfort zones.
It may sound like a swarm of angry bees to them, but for us it resonates as the sweet, sweet sound of independence. We have an occasion to do things our way and be proud of it. This is who we are on our own soil. This is what’s acceptable to us. For once we have a chance to do things our way and we are going to take that chance. For too long others have set the standard to which we have had to adhere – but now we become conscious of our own rhythm and the knowledge that we’re beating the drum (or blowing the vuvuzela) and we are dancing to the beat of that drum (or vuvuzela.) Whether you dance with us is up to you.
So, catch a taxi, hang out in Soweto, join the loud conversation between two African women or indeed, blow the vuvuzela, and you will know that you are in Africa. We are loud and that’s never going to change. The Spanish have Manolo el de bombo, the Mexicans have the wave and the matraca, the Dutch have the loudest orange uniforms the eye has ever seen … and South Africans have the vuvuzela. Welcome to Africa, remove the carrot, purse the lips and BLOW!
T&C’s: Before you blow, here is an Idiots’ Guide on How to Blow A Vuzuzela.