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Vuvuzela red.jpg
A modern plastic Vuvuzela
Brass instrument


Hornbostel–Sachs classification423.121.22
(Tubular end-blown trumpet with mouthpiece)
Playing range
Varies by instrument, typically around B♭
Related instruments

The vuvuzela /vvˈzɛlə/ is a horn, with an inexpensive injection-molded plastic shell about 65 centimetres (2 ft) long, which produces a loud monotone note, typically around B♭ 3[2] (the first B♭ below middle C).[3] Some models are made in two parts to facilitate storage, and this design also allows pitch variation. Many types of vuvuzela, made by several manufacturers, may produce various intensity and frequency outputs.[4] The intensity of these outputs depends on the blowing technique and pressure exerted.[4]

The vuvuzela is commonly used at football matches in South Africa,[5] and it has become a symbol of South African football as the stadiums are filled with its sound.[6] The intensity of the sound caught the attention of the global football community during the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in anticipation of South Africa hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup.[6]

The vuvuzela has been the subject of controversy when used by spectators at football matches. Its high volume can lead to permanent hearing loss for unprotected ears after close-range exposure,[7] with a sound level of 120 dB(A) (the threshold of pain) at one metre (3.3 ft) from the device opening.[6]


"The Dinner Horn" ("Blowing the Horn at Seaside"), by Winslow Homer, 1870

Plastic aerophones, like corneta and similar devices, have been used in Brazil and other Latin American countries since the 1960s, also similar "Stadium Horns" have been marketed and available in the United States since that same date.[8]

Similar horns have been in existence for much longer. An instrument that looks like a vuvuzela appears in Winslow Homer's 1870 painting "The Dinner Horn".[9]

The origin of the device is disputed. The term vuvuzela was first used in South Africa from the Zulu language or Nguni. It is also known in the Sepedi language as Lepatata, a Bokoni dialect word meaning to make a blowing sound (directly translated: ukuvuvuzela).[citation needed] Controversies over the invention arose in early 2010. South African Kaizer Chiefs fan Freddie "Saddam" Maake claimed the invention of the vuvuzela by fabricating an aluminium version in 1965 from a bicycle horn and has photographic evidence of himself holding the aluminium vuvuzela in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.[10] He also claimed to have coined vuvuzela from the Zulu language for "welcome", "unite" and "celebration".[11] Plastics factory Masincedane Sport popularised the ubiquitous plastic vuvuzela commonly heard at South African football games in 2002;[12] and the Nazareth Baptist Church claimed the vuvuzela belonged to their church.[13]

International tournaments[edit]

A 2010 FIFA World Cup crowd blowing vuvuzelas

The world association football governing body, FIFA, proposed banning vuvuzelas from stadiums, as they were seen as potential weapons for hooligans and could be used in ambush marketing.[citation needed] Columnist Jon Qwelane described the device as "an instrument from hell".[14] South African football authorities argued that the vuvuzela was part of the South African football experience.[15] The Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso said, "Those trumpets? That noise I don't like ... FIFA must ban those things ... it is not nice to have a noise like that".[16] Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk remarked, "... it was annoying ... in the stadiums you get used to it but it is still unpleasant".[17]

Commentator Farayi Mungazi said, "Banning the vuvuzela would take away the distinctiveness of a South African World Cup ... absolutely essential for an authentic South African footballing experience".[18] FIFA President Sepp Blatter responded, "we should not try to Europeanise an African World Cup ... that is what African and South Africa football is all about – noise, excitement, dancing, shouting and enjoyment".[18][17] Despite the criticisms, FIFA agreed to permit their use in stadiums during the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and 2010 FIFA World Cup.[19] The South African football authority argued that during FIFA World Cup 2010, vuvuzelas achieved great popularity, though TV spectators suffered a lot due to vuvuzela noise pollution.[17]

2010 FIFA World Cup[edit]


Hyundai constructed the world's largest working vuvuzela as part of a marketing campaign for the World Cup. The 35-metre (115 ft) blue vuvuzela mounted on the Foreshore Freeway Bridge, Cape Town, was intended to be used at the beginning of each match; however, it did not sound a note during the World Cup, as its volume was a cause of concern to city authorities.[20]


Its ubiquity led to many suggestions for limiting its use, muffling its sound, and even an outright ban.[21][22]

Broadcasting organisations experienced difficulties with their presentations. Television and radio audiences often heard only the sound of vuvuzelas.[23][24][25][26] The BBC, RTÉ, ESPN and BSkyB have examined the possibility of filtering the ambient noise while maintaining game commentary.[23][24]

The vuvuzelas raised health and safety concerns. Competitors believed the incessant noise hampered the ability of the players to get their rest, and degraded the quality of team performance.[27][28] Other critics remarked that vuvuzelas disrupted team communication and players' concentration during matches.[29][30] Demand for earplugs to protect from hearing loss during the World Cup outstripped supply, with many pharmacies out of stock.[31] One major vuvuzela manufacturer even began selling its own earplugs to spectators.[32]

Audio filtration[edit]

Notch filtering, an audio filtration technique, is proposed to reduce the vuvuzela sound in broadcasts and increase clarity of commentary audio. The vuvuzela produces notes at a frequency of approximately 235 Hz and its first partial at 465 Hz.[33] However, this filtration technique affects the clarity of commentary audio. Proposals of adaptive filters by universities and research organisations address this issue by preserving the amplitude and clarity of the commentators' voices and crowd noise.[34][35][36] Such filtration techniques have been adopted by some cable television providers.[37]

2018 FIFA World Cup[edit]

Vuvuzelas made a comeback at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, used mainly by Iranian supporters.[38] Much like in 2010, there was a backlash against their use.[39][40]

Health effects and regulation[edit]

Health concerns[edit]

Some vuvuzelas carry a safety warning graphic.

A study conducted in 2010 by Dr Ruth McNerney of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and colleagues, concluded that the airborne transmission of diseases by means of vuvuzelas was possible.[41][42] They measured tiny droplets emitted from a vuvuzela that can carry flu and cold germs that are small enough to stay suspended in the air for hours, and can enter into the airways of a person's lungs.[43] The study concluded that vuvuzelas can infect others on a greater scale than coughing or shouting.[43]

The vuvuzelas have the potential to cause noise-induced hearing loss.[4][6][7][41] Prof James Hall III, Dr Dirk Koekemoer, De Wet Swanepoel and colleagues at the University of Pretoria found that vuvuzelas can have a negative effect when a listener's eardrums are exposed to the instrument's high-intensity sound. The vuvuzelas produce an average sound pressure of 113 dB(A) at two metres (7 ft) from the device opening.[6] The study finds that subjects should not be exposed to more than 15 minutes per day at an intensity of 100 dB(A).[6] The study assumes that if a single vuvuzela emits a sound that is dangerously loud to subjects within a two-metre (7 ft) radius, and numerous vuvuzelas are typically blown together for the duration of a match, it may put spectators at a significant risk of hearing loss.[6] Hearing loss experts at the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommend that exposure at the 113 dB(A) level not exceed 45 seconds per day.[44] A newer model has a modified mouthpiece that reduces the volume by 20 dB.[45]

Noise levels and bans[edit]

Concerns about the constant intensities produced by the vuvuzelas during the 2010 FIFA World Cup matches were raised independently by representatives of international football teams, spectators and sports commentators. The noise levels that were demonstrated during the 2010 FIFA World Cup prompted various sporting organisations to ban the vuvuzela at future events and venues, even including future World Cups:

Wesley Sneijder blowing on a vuvuzela

Some shopping centres in South Africa banned the use of vuvuzelas.[68][69][70] They were also banned at the 2010 Baltimore anime convention Otakon.[71] The convention committee declared that any attendee carrying a vuvuzela could have it confiscated from them, and that anyone blowing one could face expulsion from the event.[71][72]

Another such action was taken in response to the prevalence of the vuvuzelas at the 2010 Anime Expo based in Los Angeles, attended by representatives of Otakon who felt the disruption led to discomfort for some of the attendees of Anime Expo which they wished to avoid at the later Baltimore event.[72]

Nine English Premier League clubs have banned the device. Five clubs (Arsenal,[73] Birmingham City, Everton, Fulham and Liverpool) have banned them due to health and safety reasons while Sunderland, West Ham United, and West Bromwich Albion have barred them because of policy against musical instruments. Manchester United banned vuvuzelas from Old Trafford on August 13, 2010. However, two clubs (Manchester City and Stoke City) have allowed them.[citation needed]

The organisers of the 2012 Olympic Games placed a ban on vuvuzelas at the sporting event.[74]

Usage in protests[edit]

On July 13, 2010, protesters with vuvuzelas converged on BP's London headquarters to protest the company's handling of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.[75]

Vuvuzelas were widely used during the 2011 Wisconsin pro-union protests against governor Scott Walker, after a Madison DJ, Nick Nice, ordered 200 of them and distributed them to his fellow protesters.[76] According to Nice, this caused vuvuzelas to be included in the list of items banned at the state's capitol.[76]

In March 2012, German protesters used vuvuzelas during the official traditional torchlight ceremony, the Großer Zapfenstreich, which bid farewell to President of Germany Christian Wulff. Wulff had resigned earlier over corruption allegations, yet he still received the honor of the military ceremony, which left Germany divided.[77]

Usage in music[edit]

Usage of vuvuzela in art music is limited. One of the few compositions made for it is a baroque-style double concerto in C major for vuvuzela, organ (or harpsichord) and string orchestra, written by Timo Kiiskinen, Professor of Church Music in Sibelius Academy, Helsinki; organ version of this concerto was premiered on 21 October 2010 at the Organ Hall of Sibelius Academy, and harpsichord version on 19 December 2010 at Pro Puu gallery in Lahti.[78][79]

John-Luke Mark Matthews has written a concerto in B-flat major for vuvuzela and orchestra. The score and parts for this are available on the IMSLP public-domain score library.[80]

See also[edit]


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  4. ^ a b c Swanepoel, De Wet; Hall III, James W; Koekemoer, Dirk (April 2010). "Vuvuzela sound measurements" (PDF). South African Medical Journal. Cape Town, South Africa. 100 (4): 192. doi:10.7196/samj.4098. PMID 20459951.
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  78. ^ (in Finnish)
  79. ^ "Barokkiyhtyeen joulukonsertissa soi vuvuzela". Etelä-Suomen sanomat (in Finnish). December 16, 2010.
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External links[edit]