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Vuvuzelas Are Very ‘Lekker’, Are They?

June 17, 2010

If you did not get the title of this post that means you are not following FIFA 2010 world cup. Right from the moment the World Cup started on June 11th, vuvuzelas have been buzzing in the stadiums and TVs and have been driving both the players and TV audiences crazy. Vuvuzelas are 2-3 foot long colorful horns which South African soccer fans have been blowing continuously during the games. Vuvuzela creates a buzzing noise at close to 127 decibels like a swarm of bees generally at frequencies of 465 and 235 Hz, which can be deafening. Ask any player, TV broadcaster and Tv audiences and they will tell how deafening it is. Players have been complaining that they are not able to communicate during the game due to vuvuzela buzz, also their sleep is hindered as people start blowing it as early as 6 AM. But FIFA officials have ignored any requests for banning the use of these instruments as it represents culture and tradition of South Africa.

“To answer all your messages re the vuvuzelas, 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 FIFA president Sepp Blatter. [NPR ]

So while Vuvuzelas might be deafening you or distracting you, it’s going to stay, atleast in this world cup. It’s South Africa’s tradition and it has to be respected. People who are watching on TV can mute it , get used to the buzz or broadcasters can work on filtering that frequency and provide vuvuzela free telecast which already some broadcasters have started doing. For people enjoying the games in stadiums, I guess, it’s anyways loud whether with or without horns, so it  should be ok.. else use an ear plug! I know it’s annoying, but imposing how we want to watch the games on host country doesn’t sound fair.

You can also try an antidote if you want to cancel the noise, just for few bucks. This antidote or anti-vuvuzela filter is a 45 minute audio clip which if played alongside your TV set is supposed to cancel out the vuvuzela sound. Clemence Schlieweis, a sound mixing engineer from Munich Germany, recorded sample of vuvuzela sound from some earlier games and created new sound clip by reversing the vuvuzela recording, keeping same amplitude but reversing the crest and troughs. Thereby the cancelling effect. How effective it will be, it’s doubtful. Trevor Cox, Professor of Acoustics at the University of Salford, said: “I can’t see how it could work. The vuvuzela chorus may come across as a single sound on television, but it is actually hundreds of instruments being blown at different times. “Active noise control depends on lining up the two sound waves exactly, and that seems physically impossible in this case.” [Telegraph ]

Meanwhile, many of the soccer fans visiting south Africa as well as players have already started buying vuvuzelas as souvenirs to bring back homes. They are cheap too, so they can buy many. That means, many of these vuvuzelas will be back in other stadiums around the world in other sporting events. Well, as a pre-emptive measure many sporing clubs  have already started banning the horn. All England club banned any possible use of vuvuzelas in this years Wimbledon as well as Dortmund Borussia club banned such use in next season of their games. [NPR ] Watch the video to hear how it sounds and how it can be played.

By the way the word Lekker is South African slang for cool. So do you think Vuvuzelas are very Lekker?

Update: CDC NIOSH blog post on Vuvuzela sound measurement and noise exposure effects.

Photo Credit: Flickr user 50989081@N07

Filed under: Sports,Trivia

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