It's a sound and an instrument that most people had never heard before. And one that many hope they never hear again.
The vuvuzela has become a symbol of this year's World Cup competition in South Africa, bringing global attention to the plastic horn that has been part of soccer competitions in the country for more than 10 years.
Neil van Schalkwynk, a toolmaker and co-owner of molder Masincedane Sport in Khayelitsha, a township near Cape Town, South Africa, brought the vuvuzela to his company in 2001. Similar plastic horns were already popular at soccer matches, but van Schalkwynk wanted to develop a better-quality horn with a better sound, according to the company's official vuvuzela website.
While Masincedane may have created the mass-market horn, the company has been joined since by scores of molders in Europe and Asia, making their own versions. Masincedane maintains, at its website, that its horns meet all ecological and hygienic requirements. It also offers them in a variety of colors, and with post-molding decoration through pad printing.
The instrument's name comes from the Zulu language and means to make a loud noise. The typical horn sounds the single note of B flat, according to Sean Kierman, a professor at the South African College of Music, who is cited in a 2004 college news release.
It's not the sweetest sound, possibly, he noted.
Some would agree.
There have been reports of complaints from players and coaches who find it hard to communicate on the field from the din of the horns, and some have asked the organizing committee to ban them. Even TV viewers far removed from the field of play have complained about the constant background noise.
But Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, soccer's organizing body, said the sound will go on.
To answer all your messages re: the vuvuzelas. I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound, Blatter said via Twitter. 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?
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