Vuvuzela Buzz Dominates World Cup, Irritates Viewers
By Zach Dionne Posted Jun 15th 2010 01:11PM
If you've caught any World Cup action since soccer's big dance kicked off Friday, you've heard the noise ... that interminable low drone emanating from the stadiums and speakers. BZZZ. BZZZZ!! It's the vuvuzela, South Africa's (and the Internet's) favorite stadium instrument, and some soccer fans' least favorite thing ever.
The sound of the plastic horns has been likened to tireless bees buzzing from the first whistle to the last -- 90 minutes, all told. The din has sparked ire and annoyance, with 545 complaints lodged with the BBC thus far.
Still, after some brief talk of FIFA banning vuvuzelas from stadiums, the final word is they aren't going anywhere. "I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound," tweeted FIFA president Sepp Blatter. "I don't see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country." Read on for all the buzz -- and missives from the vuvuzela Twitter account.
Seven Vuvuzela Facts:
• The name vuvuzela comes from an isiZulu word for "making noise."
• A vuvuzela costs about $2.50 and is roughly three feet long.
• Dutch company Moblio created a free vuvuzela app -- it's seen more than 750,000 downloads so far.
• The vuvuzela is not necessarily a tool for celebration or distraction or anything specific; it's an all-purpose instrument, as hilariously highlighted by The Daily What. (Your team scores? Blow. Halftime? Blow. Opposing team wins? Blow!)
• CNBC reports the vuvuzela business should top $6 million this year.
• The plastic trumpets were recorded as loud as 138 decibels this past weekend in South Africa. Most are in the key of B flat.
• There's a vuvuzela Twitter with more than 2,000 followers. Guess what most of the tweets are like?
South Africa's licensed vuvuzela manufacturer, Masincedane Sport, anticipated the noise complaints and is selling a quieter version of the horn.
"Don't get me wrong, we wanted it to be loud -- that's precisely what it's for. But there are specific safety standards, and we've been done in by cheap knockoffs that don't adhere to those," Masincedane co-owner Beville Bachmann told AOL News.
The BBC says it has already "taken steps to minimize the noise" and is mulling coverage that nixes the vuvu buzz. "If the vuvuzela continues to impact on audience enjoyment, we will look at what other options we can take to reduce the volume further," a spokeswoman said. Experts tell the network it would be impossible to cut out the vuvuzela without affecting the sounds of the crowd and the live commentary.
As far as reduced vuvu-roar on American TV, ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys told CNBC: "It's part of the experience and flavor of football in South Africa. We do mix audio for matches, just like we do for other events we cover. The goal is to find the right balance of natural sound with calls of our commentators."
Though there have been complaints aplenty, defenses for the vuvuzela are also percolating. "Annoying other people is half the fun of being a sports fan. The fact that this tradition disturbs everyone equally is just part of its majesty," writes Deadspin. "To all the players complaining about how hard it is to concentrate: I don't know if you noticed, but your opponent is under the same restrictions. When playing on the world's biggest stage, not losing your mind is part of the challenge."
Oh, and that sound driving you crazy while you read this? That's a vuvuzela. Now you get it.
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