Friday, 18 June 2010

The Vuvuzela Phenomenon

You may have no interest in football but I would be surprised if word of the vuvuzela has not yet reached your ears. I switched on the radio shortly before the opening game of the World Cup in South Africa and thought I must be listening to a conversation about Formula One. The commentators and pundits were having to shout above the noise of what sounded like a racetrack in the background. It was the sound of many, many people blowing vuvuzelas inside a stadium.

I watched some of the opening match between the host country and Mexico and the noise sounded unbelievable. According to academics from Pretoria and Florida universities it peaked at 144.2 decibels during the game. (In the UK, workers must be provided with ear protection if they are subjected to noise levels above 85 decibels.)

If you get a chance, tune into what may be the host nation's final game at 14.00hrs GMT on Tuesday. It is like being inside a giant beehive - a most unusual sound. South Africa is the home of the vuvuzela and make the biggest noise, but tune in before their opponents score!

I picked up one myself which one of my daughters borrowed for tonight's bore-draw against Algeria. They are made of plastic and require a trumpet embouchure to play, although a trumpeter might scoff at the comparison. Mine is in patriotic red and white. A good choice of colour; if England gets knocked out my vuvuzela can be patriotically Danish or Swiss. And maybe even Japanese.

I don't see the vuvuzela catching on in the UK or indeed in many places outside its South African home, and sadly the bulk of those produced, although theoretically recyclable, are probably destined for landfill sites.

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