A little less noise from your vuvuzela

2010-06-18 14:50

The man who first mass-produced the vuvuzela has managed to tune it

down, but only slightly.

“The normal vuvuzela makes a sound of 134 to 140 decibels, this one

is at about 121 decibels,” Neil Van Schalkwyk (37), said of the fine-tuned horn

he began producing last year.

He modified them in cooperation with a German company and has sold

50 000 of the new version so far, along with earplugs “because there is this

huge concern” that it can permanently damage hearing.

Van Schalkwyk began making vuvuzelas in 2001 and said he now holds

25% of the local market share.

He also exported vuvuzelas to eight West African

countries during the Confederations Cup, but said the World Cup has sparked

global interest.

“We’ve had an invitation from a company to get into the Russian

market, so it looks like we are going to get into Russia.”

The next Cup

Vuvuzelas have already hit stores in Britain and Van Schalkwyk said

he was waiting to see if they feature at the Premier League’s next season, and

potentially at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

“Two companies in Brazil have approached us but we are not sure yet

whether Fifa will allow [the vuvuzela] into the stadia in 2014.”

Van Schalkwyk brushed aside criticism of the metre-long plastic

talking-point of the current World Cup, and said he hoped the world’s best

soccer players would soon retract their complaints that it disturbed their


“It’s unfortunate that they have given that point of view.

“After Argentina’s performance yesterday, Messi didn’t mention

anything about the vuvuzela, so maybe (Portugal captain) Cristiano Ronaldo will

see that it will not stop him either,” he said.

“We are a very exuberant nation. We have 11 different national

languages and the vuvuzela has become the 12th language that everybody is able

to understand.”

Van Schalkwyk also rubbished criticism that the vuvuzela produced a

tuneless noise.

“It’s in the application. If you use your lips, you would be able

to create proper music. It is able to create a penny-whistle sound.”

A tool maker by trade, he became fascinated by the vuvuzela when he

played soccer for local club Santos, and saw them being blown on the


“I saw this thing that day and it really stuck in my head.”

He has made 800 000 so far and his Cape Town company has had a

turnover of some R7 million for the past decade. Estimates are that there are

two million out on the streets at the moment.

However, he said there had been nail-biting moments before Fifa

president Sepp Blatter gave the vuvuzela his backing and refused calls for a

match ban.

“If Fifa were to ban it, we had some steps in place to avert a

financial disaster.”

He admitted that he has also insured himself against potential law

suits from people who could blame the vuvuzela for medical injuries.

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