The inevitable topic: The Vuvuzela


“Africa is loud”, claims FIFA-president Blatter. “Let it be loud, let it be Africa”.
And he’s right.

But South-Africa, in a soccer context, is a lot louder than the rest of Africa.
The vuvuzela has banged through all previous decibel-records.

Why is that?

A complex question indeed, but I think one of the reasons can be found in the examples from the history included in the first blog. The silenced people that have regained their voice.

South Africa’s 16-year-old democracy goes through its most raucous puberty. An expressively gifted people who has been denied its vote, its voice for such a long time is now making a natural and totally appropriate rebellion against its “overprotective parents” – to use a kind euphemism for the old South Africa that the new has grown out of.
The vuvu is like a boys’ choir where all the voices are breaking. Those are the choirs that aren’t really so useful for concerts, it’s a transformation time from the angelic innocence of the children’s choir to the mature sound of the harmonically blended mixed choir.

When we get stuck in a choir of vuvuzelas we can’t be blamed for sometimes longing for either the past or the future – we’re stuck now with the vociferous bafanas - the boys who hopefully will grow up soon. There is no doubt a certain charm about it, but it is passing…

I brace myself for the impact of the oncoming soundwaves – afterall my ears are the tools that put the bread on my family’s table – while I share some more stories from the past and hopes for the future.

The story of how South Africa won the world cup in rugby on home turf in 1995 is one of the most moving sport stories ever told. The movie “Invictus” is capturing some of its magic.

Pre-liberation rugby was an almost all-exclusive white affair. At international games in South Africa a small segment of the park was allotted to black South Africans, who loudly and whole-heartedly cheered for the Springboks opponents whoever they happened to be.

Mandela saw the potential to use the World Cup as a vehicle to unite the nation, and the singing became a wonderful conduit for it. In the final where SA was trailing behind New Zealand, the (mainly black) people of the stadium joined in “Shosholoza” and carried (the mainly white) Springboks to victory.

The song not only lifted the team to glory, it became a defining moment for the whole nation. If any day, apart from the first free election-day itself, could be described as the day the new South Africa accepted the power and beauty of its own unification it must be the day South Africa united around its Springbok rugby-team and won the World Cup.

And they did it singing! Just as the whole miraculous liberation of this country would be unthinkable if you took away the sound of it.

Oh, how I would have longed to go to the soccer world cup games with the expectation of hearing and joining in that kind of singing! And to proudly show the world what a nation this is. As Abdullah Ibrahim so eloquently put it; “The South African revolution is the only revolution that has been done in four-part harmony”. This could have been the only Soccer World Cup done in four-part harmony. Take the vuvus away and that’s what you would have. Totally naturally. Not many other nations in the world could offer the same.

But instead of going to the stadia with the expectations of a feast of music - not from the stages but from the stands - I will now go to the stadia with a box of earplugs in my pocket.

Eish!!

I would of course never consider lament the loss of the bad old days, but I do acknowledge the beauty, and the strength of the innocence of that choir in the days gone by. Bafana is supposed to gain in courage from the vuvus, but what would they not have gotten from the support of a 90 000 piece choir encircling the field performing the most exciting music the world can offer?

There has been a call for a moratorium of the vuvuselas at least during the singing of the anthems. Hopefully the world will have a chance to experience the might of the South African singing there.
But is it too much to ask for that South Africa itself would hear its own beauty?

This nation is going through its adolescence. How I long for it to regain its beautiful voice. The innocent voices of the past are exactly that, something of the past that never can come back. But is there a glorious sound waiting on the other side of the breaking voices?

And can the boys, the bafanas, show the nation and the world that maturity?

Comments

  1. Hello Anders!
    Thank you for your invitation to your new blog. So inspiring to hear about your thoughs and feelings direct "from then stands" in Jburg and how to experience the "teenage vuvuchoir" . We heard the vuvus all the way to Örebro, on TV they sound like a mosquito swarm, unlike irl we guess. We really support the yellowdressed Bafana. So close i was today. Wish you really exiting days down there. Take care. Regards fr Sussi o Jimmy

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