English soccer fans have their chants. American basketball fanatics
have their thundersticks. And this June, the world will hear the
distracting buzz of South Africa's beloved noisemaker, the vuvuzela.
Some have said proudly that the sound will become the unofficial
soundtrack of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In which case: yikes.
The vuvuzela is a horn about a metre long which has become the
mainstay of South African soccer matches. Fans in South Africa use them
to cheer on their teams, or to shame the opponents -- although you can't
tell by the sound which is which. That might be why the horns come
colour-coded. In matches between South Africa's two biggest teams, fans
of the Kaiser Chiefs blow yellow vuvuzelas, while supporters of the
Orlando Pirates blow black-and-white ones.
And how do they sound? Well, people have described them as something
between an angry swarm of wasps and a elephant passing wind. But why
don't you choose your own frightening analogy.
That's the sound of the vuvuzela, recorded at a match during the
Confederations Cup, held last June in South Africa as a prelude to the
It was during the run-up to this tournament when FIFA publicly mulled
over the idea of banning the instrument. Unsurprisingly, South African
fans put up a noisy protest against the idea. They argued that the horn
brings a distinctively South African feel to the events -- and FIFA
eventually backed off, with its ears ringing.
Now, the vuvuzela is under attack again -- this time from another
distinctively South African mainstay:the Shembe church. It's a religious
denomination that practices its blend of Old Testament Christianity and
Zulu tribalism in a decidedly noisy way. Every year, followers gather
for a barefoot pilgrimage that retraces the path taken by the church's
founder. Over the three-day pilgrimage, they dance and sing, their
spirits carried by the deep religious sound of the horn. Now, Shembe
officials say they want to keep their instrument holy, and out of the
hands of riotous soccer fans. they've asked their lawyer to try and ban
the vuvuzela from the World Cup this June.
And our guess is win or lose, there's a good number of soccer players,
sports announcers, and even some fans, are secretly cheering the church
To give you another taste of that distinctive sound, here's an excerpt
of a report by South African reporter, Udo Carelse. It aired around the
time of the Confederations Cup, for the program Supersport.