The vuvuzela is the signation sound of the 2010 FIFA World Cup (as it was already at the 2009 Confed Cup and the Africa Cup 2010). For many this blowing horn is a major annoyance. There are strong arguments against it: it can cause serious damage to ears of bystanders, it drowns the acoustic dynamics of the stadion atmosphere in a constant drone of a dissonant cluster, football players have trouble communicating on the pitch and the live commentary of the sports reporters is hard to understand. There is already a free plug-in out to filter the TV’s audio signal to get rid of the vuvuzela frequencies. But demands of critics to ban the vuvuzela from the stadions have been denied by FIFA president Sepp Blatter: “I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound. I don’t see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country. Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?” (according to Wikipedia)
More left-wing commentators followed this line of thinking and suspected behind the vuvuzela-criticism an eurocentric and bourgeois resentment, because the sound comes, sociologically speaking, from the lower classes, from the under-privileged. It appears to be politically correct to talk in favour of the vuvuzela. But is this really true? First, a very similar plastic horn or trumpet has been used in Mexican football stadions since the 70s. Only in 2001 the South-African company Masincedane Sport started mass-producing the vuvuzela and claimed it is of African origin, which is highly disputable. Nevertheless supporters of the South-African campaign for organizing the World Cup used the vuvuzela and finally helped them getting the bid. The vuvuzela was something like a unique selling proposition for the campaign. This leads to another aspect of the problem: noise is always tied to power, writes Garret Keizer writes in his book, “The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise”. Those who make the biggest noise are usually the ones with power, literally and metaphorically. Keizers writes (mainly from an american perspective):
“Make a list of the people most likely to be affected by loud noises (though not all noise is loud), either because of their greater vulnerability to the effects of loud sound or because of their greater likelihood of being exposed to it, and you come up with a set of members whose only common features are their humanity and their lack of clout. Your list will include children (some of whom, according to the World Health Organization, “receive more noise at school than workers from an 8-hour work day at a factory”), the elderly (whose ability to discriminate spoken speech from background noise is generally less than that of younger contemporaries), the physically ill (cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, for example, are often more sensitive to noise), racial minorities (blacks in the United States are twice as likely, and Hispanics 1.5 times as likely, as whites to live in homes with noise problems), neurological minorities (certain types of sound are especially oppressive to people with autism), the poor (more likely than their affluent fellow citizens to live next to train tracks, highways, airports), laborers (whose political weakness has recently been manifested in weakened occupational safety standards), prisoners (noise, like rape, being one of the unofficial punishments of incarceration), members of the Armed Forces (roughly one in four soldiers returning from Iraq has a service-related hearing loss) — or simply a human being of any description who happens to have less sound-emitting equipment than the person living next to her (who might for his part have car speakers literally able to kill fish) and no feasible way to move.”
The New York Times wrote that “Mr. Keizer thinks it is condescending cant to assume that the poor are fundamentally noisier than the rich. And among his most interesting ideas is his linking of noise with later antisocial behavior.” “You can judge a person’s clout — his or her social and political standing — by witnessing how much racket he or she must regularly endure. Those who lack silence in their lives tend to be the politically weak, whether the poor (investment bankers don’t live near runways) or laborers or soldiers or prisoners or children. In creating noise that others must live with, we display our contempt for those weaker than ourselves. Hear us roar; eat our exhaust.” From this premise, I doubt the vuvuzela can be seen as an instrument of the politically weak as it has been suggested by some commentators. Can anyone from the townships of South Africa afford a ticket for a WM match? Or are the football fans from Europe blowing the vuvuzelas representing a lower class despite the high price for travelling to Africa to watch some football matches? I doubt so. Uppermost, the vuvuzela represents nothing else as money making tool and a win-win situation for the manufacturer: According to Wikipedia, “demand for earplugs to protect from hearing loss during the World Cup outstripped supply, with many pharmacies running out of stock. Neil van Schalkwyk, manufacturer of the plastic vuvuzela, began selling earplugs to fans.” And maybe the political correct favouring of the vuvuzela here in the west shows nothing else than an underlying guilt-complex of a white elite and eventually even a twisted form of a reversed rascist resentiment.