Vuvuzela: The story behind the buzz

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Those irritating vuvuzela horns that South Africans (and now everyone else, it seems) like to blow from the first minute to the last of a soccer match seem to have taken much of the world by surprise.

Vuvuzela or stadium horn?

Vuvuzela or stadium horn?

But they are, and always have been, readily available in the United States. They’re sold as school-spirit items (School spirit stadium horn), novelty items, stadium contraband (May be banned in a stadium near you!), and curiously even as magic accessories – with a collapsible option, perhaps for sneaking them into stadiums under your game-day jersey (Madhatter Magic Shop). Nobody seems to wholesale them for much more than $2.35 apiece.

Wikipedia’s history of the vuvuzela traces them from Mexico to Brazil and, only in the last decade, to South Africa.  Not mentioned in that history is their longstanding use, as I heard on a radio call-in show yesterday, in stadiums of the Canadian Football League.

And am I the only person in the United States who remembers being able to buy them at baseball and football games in the United States in the 1970s and, perhaps, early ’80s? At some point, they were regulated out of existence here – apparently for the same reason that many 2010 World Cup spectators want them banned: They’re really loud and really annoying. But I clearly remember my dad buying me a stadium horn one time; I think he shelled out $3.50 for it in the days before the blessedly quiet and equally ridiculous giant foam finger became the must-have for loyal fans in Anywhere USA.

The zazu

The zazu

The manufacturer of the “authentic” vuvuzela ( offers them in their original form, or sheathed in a removable fabric sock of your favorite World Cup team’s colors (the sockzela). You can get them with a beaded sheath, in a miniature size (for an easy getaway when you blow it in the ear of the wrong football hooligan), or in a curved antelope-horn shape, called the zazu and looking suspeiciously like a shofar.

Vuvuzelas reportedly sell at World Cup venues for about $3, which seems about the right price for creating a worldwide phenomenon capable of driving television sound technicians to an early grave. But if your only exposure to the vuvuzela is what you see and hear during this short blast of World Cup coverage, then you’re missing a little bit of a treat. Perhaps as a gesture of international goodwill, the folks who run the official vuvuzela website have provided us with this intriguing video of a zaza choir.

It’s got that Paul Simon/Rhythm of the Saints feel you expect from South Africa, and it’s good enough to make you take those giant foam fingers out of your ears – if only for a couple minutes.

The zaza as you’ll never hear it at a soccer match


About the Author:

Bob Rosenbaum is founder and principal of The MarketFarm, a content-oriented strategic communications firm.

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