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Posted : 2010-06-19 08:18
Updated : 2010-06-19 08:18

Surviving vuvuzelas

World Cup soccer fans can complain quite strongly, yet their voices can’t beat the sound of their target, the vuvuzela.

While the plastic horns have made matches in South Africa complete for several decades, they are not very familiar to non-Africans. Proof of this is that whenever I type the eight letters into the Microsoft Word system, it is automatically underlined in red.

Critics argue that the instruments should be banned from the ongoing games, but I have a different opinion. I oppose the ban not because I like the sound of the “angry bees” or because my ears can cope with the high decibel monotone. I object to the ban because I don’t like coercion. I also agree with Joseph S. Blatter, president of FIFA, who repeatedly defended the horns: “We should not try to Europeanize an African World Cup.” To be frank, I am one of the tens of thousands of people who find the “vuvu-ing” quite annoying and who would appreciate watching the movement of the “Jabulani,” the official ball, amid the happy cries of people instead of the equalizing sound of the horns. I miss the boisterous cheers and sneers that used to fuel enthusiasm among even the coldest hearts. The spectators on the tube adorn the stands with captivating colors and their voices must be as enchanting.

The host nation could use the soccer matches as a welcome opportunity to publicize its rich cultural heritage, particularly its diverse music. For instance, world citizens would love to hear some shouts and chants of “kwaito,” the unique music that emerged in South Africa in the mid- 1980s with socio-political messages.

“Amampondo,” the South African percussion ensemble, may be too busy to come to the stands, but similar groups could honor the first World Cup on the continent with the world-famous African percussion. I wouldn’t mind hearing “Waka Waka,” the official World Cup song, many times before it is sung at the finals on July 11.

One most worrisome condition that may result from the reign of vuvuzelas is hearing loss among the affected people. While prolonged exposure to noise causes inner ear trauma and deafness, damage can be done in a shorter period of time by louder sounds. I would definitely insert earplugs if I were in the soccer stadium. I wonder if the vuvuzela sound spares the African ears. If not, the blowers themselves should take caution for their own protection.

All things considered, this looks like the best time for the African supporters to change their tool of encouragement.

Sometimes when percussionists in the stadium are flashed up on the television screen, I ardently wish to hear the sound they make. I sincerely hope our African friends will put down the horns and take up other instruments now that the whole world has learned about the former’s power.

If the horn blowers are resolved to keep on blowing, the foreign spectators, especially those watching television, may try to use this occasion as a moment to train their minds. When a person doesn’t want to see something, one can avoid the sight by closing his/her eyes. When one doesn’t like to hear something, one needs to close one’s ears. Closing one’s ears is not an easy task but can be done through practice.

If one can’t prevent the sound from penetrating the ear, one can at least turn the noise to a piece of music by controlling one’s mind. Remember the saying that when you can’t change the world, you’d better change yourself? I have yet to practice shutting my ears to the vuvuzelas, but I have already succeeded in accepting their sound as an interesting accompaniment to the games. The good thing is that you don’t get angry any longer once you take the sound as music and not as noise.

If such efforts fail, one can find solace in the fact that the games will be adjourned in three weeks. When something is temporary, it is easy to tolerate. In the meantime, nations whose people can’t embrace the vuvuzela sound should mind the horns’ entry into their territories. If your country is vast and calm, you may afford to keep a few vuvuzelas.

For a small country like Korea, where the ears are overworked all the time and neighborhood noise often causes serious fights among nearby residents, the last thing we need is the horns. So, when you come back home from Johannesburg, dear brethren, come back with joyful memories and happy hearts, but not with the horns.


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