Posted by on 2010/06/18

With all the debate buzzing around the Vuvuzela at the World Cup I find myself siding with the “Nuke-it-from-orbit-just to-make-sure” crowd. I have no problem with people enjoying themselves, but it really pisses me off when said enjoyment it is out of obsequiousness to manufactured ideals and products.

It terrifies me how easily this plastic noise toy became so widely embraced after some slick marketing and promotion.

First of all, every one defending the Vuvuzela as a South African cultural icon can fuck off, but not because they are wrong about it being a cultural thing, according to Wikipedia it has been around South African soccer since the early 90s, but because it is literally drowning out all the other sounds and songs that make South Africa sonically interesting and dynamic.

Second of all, is a b Flat drone the best sound South Africa has for the world? Really?

How about teaching the world to sing along to Shoshaloza?

Yeah I’m a prick and an elitist when it comes to sports, I have never liked or understood watching team sports and I am genuinely amazed/amused at the primate behavior it generally elicits.

To be honest I couldn’t care less about the outcome of the World Cup but what does get me fired up enough to rant publicly is when the rich cultural heritage of South African song and dance is obliterated by a plastic toy and the commercial interests marketing it.

My laptop gently weeps.


  1. Shane Berry

    Hi Oliver,

    Thanks for keeping the conversation alive, we are most certainly on the same page.

    One man’s rut is another mans groove I say, and as long as we respect the tastes and desires of each other, and don’t bring or cause harm to each other exploring these said tastes and desires, I say live and let live.

    Your post regarding money’s influence on taste reminds me of a quote from Banksy, who said; “When you go to an art gallery you are simply a tourist looking at the trophy cabinet of a few millionaires.”

    I never felt this more than when having my mind whipped about in the Louvre. I got this sinking feeling that I was just engaging with the spoils of war, trophies to pomposity soaked in blood and it left a scarred impression of museums on me that has never quite healed.

    It was pure wealth and power that brought that collection together and it continues to sway artistic taste to this day.

    Although I pretty much agree with Arthur Danto on the existence of an “Artworld” I struggle to reconcile that with this inherently elitist and wealthy atmosphere it thrives in.

    I admire the subversion of Duchamp and the Dadaists who sought to undermine and mock this notion (years before Danto tried to quantify it) by submitting found objects, like a public urinal, as art for display in a public gallery, but the irony of course is that the Dadaists were so so successful at undermining the artistic thought of the day they were immediately absorbed into the very world they sought to tamper with.

    Despite their efforts though, I think, up until the 1950’s or so, art was purer in intent than it is today, but however we romanticize it, money and art have always gone hand in hand, even though the romantic notion of the starving, struggling artist persists.

    It is quite interesting to consider that some of our greatest and most romantic artists were tireless and shameless self promoters of their works and ideas.

    Just one look at Da Vinci’s Resume is enough to see how eagerly he sought funding from the richest people he could find, and indeed he and Michelangelo were funded by one of the largest and most enduring corporations the world has ever seen – the Catholic Church — from which a significant proportion of their income and survival derived.

    Placed in today’s artistic and economic environment would they be chasing the biggest corporations on the planet?

    I often wonder.

    Most probably…

    After all is the Church commissioning Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel any different to a modern corporation commissioning a painting for their front lobby of their temple to commerce?

    It is even suggested Greek sculpture improved to it’s dizzying heights through monetary incentive, the pursuit of perfection sought not by the artisan but buy one rich client trying to outdo another.

    In three thousand years has anything really changed?

    Anyway, I went off on a loop there a bit, this subject is of endless interest to me.

    Thanks once again Oliver,

    I dropped by your site I love the blend of fun and sophistication keep up the fantastic work.

    Much Respect.

  2. Oliver

    *Rather one could say: it’s interesting how taste is influenced by money!

  3. Oliver Edwards

    Well hello again Shane,

    I’ve been looking into what you said above. I guess you’re right – beauty is in the eye of the beholder – so if you can relate to something of course it’s far more interesting to yourself, so it’s interesting that you talk about Bobby Mc Ferrin’s experiment cause obviously people react differently to various pieces of music because of their different associations even though things are hard wired into the brain. So I think we are saying the same just in different ways!? :)

    But it’s interesting how much taste influences the world, think about all the crap that has been introduced in the design world. The best things are made from necessity!

  4. Shane Berry


    Thanks for the post. Point taken.

    The absence of live commentary in the stands is something I have never considered before because I have never been to a stadium held sports event.

    The irony of it all is that I love introducing massive and intrusive noises into my compositions, and yet when it happened at the WC it bugged me no end.

    What got to me though was the imbalance of it all.

    I feel a great part of South African music and sound culture got sidelined because of the vuvuzela and that irks me still.

    Let’s hope the vuvuzela’s power of unification lasts longer than the national adrenalin rush of a job well done and the looming financial hangover.

  5. dylan van loggerenberg

    hi mate

    i think it could be pretty easy to hate the old “vuvu” cant say i was a particular fan of it before the WC either but it has served as an unbelievably strong symbol of unification for SA. i don’t think i have ever in my life seen south africans, black, white etc. joining together in one act, unfortunately it was the act of blowing a deafening, tune-less piece of plastic :)

    having been privelaged enough to go to one matches the vuvuzela was a welcome soundtrack ( as there is no live commentary it’s a bit quite at times in the stadium)
    even the “vuvu wave” was quite impressive.. imagine 20 000 of those things blown at exactly the same time! the south korean supporters beat drums at there matches, pretty awesome thing to hear but as i discovered so is a stadium full of vuvuzelas.

    so don’t be too harsh in your criticism, i think it’s hard for anyone who was not here to understand how incredibly awesome the whole experience was and how the “vuvu” became the natural soundtrack to that.

    coo man, you must come visit some time.



  6. Shane Berry

    Hi Oliver thanks for the great comment, and for contributing to the conversation.

    I also think playing sports is more fun than watching, but then again I often head out to see a Live Act or DJ do their thing and I guess watching a soccer game as a soccer player is the same thing.

    As far as the trained eye/ear perceiving nuances, according to modern research musical note
    recognition is hard wired into the brain – we have neurons that specifically exist to react to certain frequencies and this video with Bobby Mc Ferrin demonstrates that ability.

    Nuance in performance though, say the difference between two conductors conducting the same symphony, or the difference between two sopranos singing the same aria may take some training to fully appreciate.

    It just makes me sad that in a country suffering from such poverty and need, business interests have usurped human song. Everyone has been convinced to buy a plastic toy in order to celebrate instead of being encouraged to sing and dance to music that is free for all.

  7. Oliver Edwards

    I in fact think you are absolutely right, the vuvuzela with one single tone drowns all diversity in sound at such an otherwise great game. This is one of the reasons I don’t think sports are all that fun watching – it’s more fun playing yourself!
    I think the urge to play such a silly instrument is reasoned the fact that it’s dead simple combined with people’s general fear of change. I also believe that in order to fully appreciate the nuances in, say, music then you have to study it; Isn’t the trained eye/ear far more critical than the untrained?

    That being said, I think that for the majority it is difficult to fully appreciate cultural diversity, it’s exactly the same in the business world: the japanese think the western marketing concepts are silly and vice-versa.

  8. Shane Berry

    Hi Boring thanks for adding some in depth feedback to the conversation and trying to point out the merits you find in the Vuvuzela. (Yawn.)

    I am confused however, are you really saying that my call for OTHER South African sounds and songs to shine and be heard is such a bad thing?

    Man this stupid plastic toy is like the hypnotoad- bzzzzzzzzzzzz – all just shut up and – bzzzzzz – ignore the diversion I create from a beautifully rich and diverse musical culture – bbzzzz consume, consume consume – – bzzzzzz – must be louder than the next guy – bzzzzzzzz – don’t question thevvvvvvvvvvvvvvzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    Yeah, no, I’m still not convinced.

  9. bore

    Your drone is worse that a vuvuzela, fuck off!

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