Vuvuzela

Roman Mars [00:00:02] This message is brought to you by Discover. Did you know you could reduce the number of unwanted calls and emails with online privacy protection, the latest innovation from Discover? Discover will help regularly remove your personal info, like your name and address, from ten popular people search websites that could sell your data. And they’ll do it for free. Activate in the Discover app. See terms and learn more at discover.com/onlineprivacyprotection. 99% Invisible is brought to you by Progressive Insurance. Most of you are just listening right now–you’re driving, cleaning, or even exercising–but what if you could be saving money by switching to Progressive Insurance? Drivers who saved by switching to Progressive saved over $700 on average, and auto customers qualify for an average of seven discounts. Multitask right now. Quote today at progressive.com. Progressive Casualty Insurance Company and Affiliates. National Annual Average Insurance Savings by new customers surveyed who saved with Progressive between June 2020 and May 2021. Potential savings will vary. Discounts not available in all states and situations. This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars. In the spring of 2004, journalist Mark Gleeson sat in the front row of a small conference room in Switzerland for a big announcement. 

Mark Gleeson [00:01:28] It was a dramatic buildup. There was a lot of tension. Everyone was on edge. 

Roman Mars [00:01:33] The winning bid to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup was about to be revealed, and South Africa was among the leading contenders. 

Mark Gleeson [00:01:40] I mean, they had all the top guns go to Zurich for that particular announcement. Mandela was there. Bishop Tutu was there. The former president, de Klerk, was there. 

Roman Mars [00:01:49] South Africa wanted to be the first African nation to host the World Cup. They also wanted the tournament to be the start of a new chapter. During apartheid, the country was banned from the international sporting community. Now they were on the precipice of hosting soccer’s biggest event. South Africans gathered in the streets of Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban to await FIFA’s decision. 

Announcer in Switzerland [00:02:10] I discover it with you. The 2010 FIFA World Cup will be organized in South Africa. 

Mark Gleeson [00:02:24] You know, South Africa had come full circle in the sense of its horrible past and how it had moved on from being a pariah state and was now, you know, hosting the biggest events in world sport and very much part of the international family. 

Roman Mars [00:02:41] The celebrations that erupted that day in Zurich were full of cheers and whistles, but also one notorious sound that came to define South Africa’s World Cup… The sound of the vuvuzela. 

James Parkinson [00:03:04] Back in 2004, nobody really talked about vuvuzelas. Even people in the soccer world didn’t know what they were. 

Roman Mars [00:03:11] Reporter James Parkinson. 

James Parkinson [00:03:13] But six years later, by the time the first game of the tournament was underway, the “vuvuzela” was the hottest word in sports. 

Commentator [00:03:21] The 2010 FIFA World Cup is ready for kickoff… and to the sound of 80,000 vuvuzelas. Bafana Bafana. 

Roman Mars [00:03:31] The vuvuzela is a two-foot-long injection molded plastic horn. It plays only one note, a B-flat, and it gradually became a regular feature of South African soccer. But prior to the 2010 World Cup, the rest of the world had never heard anything quite like it. 

James Parkinson [00:03:47] And a lot of people hated it. 

News Anchor #1 [00:03:51] It’s been likened to a giant swarm of angry hornets or a herd of distraught elephants. 

News Anchor #2 [00:03:56] So loud in the stadium with the vuvuzelas. 

John Oliver [00:03:57] It’s ridiculous. It’s not noisy. There’s nothing irritating about it. 

Roman Mars [00:04:06] For fans watching abroad, the constant drone of a vuvuzela wasn’t what the beautiful game typically sounded like. European soccer games–or “football” games–are often characterized by songs and chants bellowed by the supporters. 

James Parkinson [00:04:29] But the hum of 80,000 vuvuzelas drowned out that type of crowd noise. The sound caused actual headaches for television broadcasters. French network TF1 opted to change their commentators’ microphones for a kind that would inject more background noise. Other networks chose to use special audio filters to try and eliminate the vuvuzela from sound mix altogether. 

Roman Mars [00:04:50] The controversy surrounding the vuvuzela was hard to ignore. It drew attention away from the players on the field and placed the focus on the crowd in the stadiums. 

James Parkinson [00:05:01] It also sparked a debate about the history of the vuvuzela and its true origins. For critics, the vuvuzela was a relatively new mass-produced noisemaker. But for supporters, they tended to think of the vuvuzela as an instrument–a loud, attention-grabbing sound that grew out of South Africa’s rich footballing tradition. 

Peter Alegi [00:05:21] In 1862, there’s already documented matches that took place in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. 

James Parkinson [00:05:27] That South African football historian Peter Alegi. 

Peter Alegi [00:05:30] And that is a year before the Football Association was even founded in England–and before the first rules of association football were codified. 

James Parkinson [00:05:40] Originally, the sport was introduced by British colonizers, seeking to impose their beliefs and values on the locals. But quickly, South Africans embraced football and made it their own. 

Peter Alegi [00:05:51] It’s an interesting story whereby a colonial game really was transformed into a pillar of Black culture by the racially oppressed. 

James Parkinson [00:06:04] The game was both affordable and accessible, becoming the sport of the Black working class. 

Peter Alegi [00:06:10] And when I use the term “Black,” I’m referring to people who either are self-identified or were later classified under apartheid as African, Indian, or South Asian and colored or multiracial. 

Roman Mars [00:06:25] Football was not held in high regard by officials in the apartheid regime. Sports played predominantly by white South Africans–like cricket and rugby–were the ones that received political backing. 

James Parkinson [00:06:35] So as a way to help organize themselves, football teams formed supporters clubs. These were small but mighty organizations made up of fans from each city or town. Supporters clubs would hold fundraisers and hammer out travel logistics to away matches. And Back supporters clubs in particular played a special role, giving black South Africans–who had no say in their government–a voice to shape their community through the local team. 

Peter Alegi [00:07:01] Members held elections for various positions in the supporters club–and also, through their formal organization, they tried to influence the football club’s internal affairs. And so, the ability to campaign for office–to achieve a kind of social honor and visibility by achieving these high offices–was something that was highly valued, particularly in Black communities. 

Roman Mars [00:07:27] By the 1960s, supporter clubs existed all across South Africa. And they made their presence known through the noise they generated on game days at the stadium. 

Commentator [00:07:38] The crowd has gone wild. Just five minutes left to play. 

Peter Alegi [00:07:46] Playing music at the grounds, chanting, singing, dancing, maybe insulting the opponents. This was something intensely pleasurable and entertaining. 

James Parkinson [00:07:59] During this time, political opponents of the apartheid regime were banned from gathering. It was one of the many ways the government tried to suppress the liberation movement. But football games–and the noise and crowd that came with them–made it harder to prevent Black politicians from sitting together. 

Peter Alegi [00:08:15] It provided cover, in a way, by allowing activists to have conversations and even organize particular subversive activities, and in doing so, kind of undermining the white state’s surveillance and censorship. 

Roman Mars [00:08:34] The stadiums were a sort of sanctuary–a place where you could get rowdy and thumb your nose at the government–where you could fly the flag of the anti-apartheid movement while rooting for your favorite team. It was also the place where you could hear one charismatic fan pick up his horn and make a sound that would soon be heard around the world. 

Freddie Saddam Maake [00:08:54] So, myself–I’m the owner, I’m the founder, I’m the pioneer of the vuvuzela It was started by me. 

James Parkinson [00:09:03] This is Freddie Maake. 

Freddie Saddam Maake [00:09:05] They call me “Mr. Vuvuzela” when I’m walking around. 

James Parkinson [00:09:08] Freddie actually prefers to be called “Saddam”–an edgy nickname he received during the Gulf War because he used to set off huge firecrackers at football matches. People would say it sounded like the Iraq war on TV. Saddam Maake is a soccer freak or a “super fan,” as they’re known in South Africa–the most passionate of football supporters. He loves the South African national team and his local club, Kaizer Chiefs, from Johannesburg. He can be seen at games wearing oversized yellow glasses, a jersey, and the mining helmet–known as a “makarapa”–painted in the team’s colors. For Saddam, you might say football is life. 

Freddie Saddam Maake [00:09:45] My first wife divorced me because of soccer. I said, “Chiefs is my first wife. You’re my second wife. Every day, every night–when I sleep, I sleep Chiefs. I sleep soccer, eat soccer, talk soccer. I can’t talk to you without talking about soccer. 

James Parkinson [00:10:03] In between all the soccer chat, I did manage to learn where Saddam grew up: the province of Limpopo with his large family. His climb to the vuvuzela dates back to his childhood and a gift he received for his birthday in 1965. 

Freddie Saddam Maake [00:10:16] My brother, called Solomon Maake–he bought me a bicycle. And that bicycle used to have a hooter. 

James Parkinson [00:10:25] The “hooter” Saddam is referencing is a bicycle horn. 

Freddie Saddam Maake [00:10:29] That hooter–I’ve got it here. That is a bicycle hooter. 

James Parkinson [00:10:37] He’d bring that horn to local football games to support his team. But instead of squeezing the little rubber bulb at the end, he’d take that off and blow into the horn. 

Freddie Saddam Maake [00:10:49] I was doing that one to entertain the players, motivate them, encourage them to score in the stadium. 1965–when I arrived. 

Roman Mars [00:11:00] Saddam liked the sound that the Dutch bicycle horn made. He called it a polo father. When his local football club, the Kaizer Chiefs, was established in 1970, Saddam says he brought a number of other homemade horns to the game. 

James Parkinson [00:11:12] This included a large aluminum horn he called a “boogie blast.” The biggest loss was basically a long metal stick you could blow into. It was also a long metal stick you could beat someone up with, so stadiums eventually banned it. But by then, in 1989, Saddam says he met with a plastics manufacturer and asked him to make a plastic version of the boogie blast. This new instrument they created sounded similar. 

Roman Mars [00:11:38] But it had a different name. 

Freddie Saddam Maake [00:11:43] I’ll call it–this one–“vuvuzela.”. 

James Parkinson [00:11:48] “Vuvuzela” is derived from Zulu. 

Freddie Saddam Maake [00:11:51] “Vuvuzela” means “welcome and unite.” Same thing. Vuvuzela–welcome and unite. 

James Parkinson [00:11:58] Saddam says he coined the name “vuvuzela” back in 1992–a claim he supports with photos of him blowing his many horns at football games in the seventies and eighties and a vuvuzela in the nineties. He also recorded an album in 1999 titled Vuvuzela Cellular. 

James Parkinson [00:12:26] Saddam tried selling some of these plastic horns at football matches, but it just never really gained traction. Even at Kaizer Chiefs games, he would often be one of the only supporters in the crowd blowing a vuvuzela.

Roman Mars [00:12:38] However, that slowly started to change when a company in Cape Town started mass producing their own plastic horns, which they also called a vuvuzela

Duane Jethro [00:12:47] The company’s name is Masincedane Sport. The click is important because the name of the company is from isiXhosa. 

James Parkinson [00:12:57] This is Duane Jethro. He studies South African culture and wrote about the history of the vuvuzela. Duane says that back in 2001, Neil Van Schalkwyk and his partner, Beville Bachmann, got funding to get their business off the ground. 

Duane Jethro [00:13:11] He pitched this idea of injection molding a horn to a certain size and a certain specification that would be easily used at football matches. 

Roman Mars [00:13:20] Around the same time, this new company was getting started, Saddam Maake says he approached Neil Van Schalkwyk to tell him that he was the true inventor of the vuvuzela. Saddam says he tried to strike a business deal. 

James Parkinson [00:13:33] Did you ever speak with Neil? 

Freddie Saddam Maake [00:13:37] Yes, I speak to him–he promised me. It’s a vuvuzela. And I never get even a cent. But I didn’t worry. I didn’t complain. I said to myself, “God is great.” 

James Parkinson [00:13:54] We tried to track Neil Van Schalkwyk down for an interview but were unsuccessful. According to media reports, he denied ever meeting with Saddam Maake in 2001. 

Roman Mars [00:14:04] In interviews, Van Schalkwyk didn’t claim to be the inventor of the vuvuzela. But he and his company assert that they did popularize it. Their version of the horn was cheaper and safer and that you couldn’t beat someone up with one. 

James Parkinson [00:14:18] Actually, Roman, you technically could beat someone up with. 

Roman Mars [00:14:21] Right, it just wouldn’t hurt as bad. 

Neil Van Schalkwyk [00:14:23] But look, we were at the forefront of developing the first plastic version of a tin horn that used to be used in, you know, football here in South Africa. And because, you know, those ones were quite unsafe at the time, we saw the gap in the market to produce a plastic version of that one. 

Roman Mars [00:14:46] Initially, Van Schalkwyk’s company also struggled to sell their vuvuzelas, but that changed when they started to focus on the marketing. 

James Parkinson [00:14:53] The company handed out vuvuzelas for free at football matches and partnered with some local clubs to get more of them into South Africa’s stadiums. It wasn’t long before there was more interest in the vuvuzela and sales started to grow. Soon the instrument could be distinctly heard at games across the country. 

Commentator [00:15:10] Yeah. Thanks very much, Rob. The second half about to get under way. Stanton Fredericks on. So, that’s a change the Chiefs have made. 

Roman Mars [00:15:19] The vuvuzela effectively being a generic horn meant that Van Schalkwyk wasn’t able to patent the design. But the word “vuvuzela” was unique, so his company got a trademark for the name. 

James Parkinson [00:15:31] And as South Africa prepared their bid to host the 2010 World Cup, Van Schalkwyk and his company were ready to capitalize on the event. The company’s efforts were designed to position the vuvuzela as authentic–including its official slogan, “The Original Sound of South Africa.” 

Duane Jethro [00:15:49] They recognized that there was a marketing opportunity in having the vuvuzela in the hands of important South African footballing officials but also politicians that were trying to drum up support both locally and internationally for South Africa’s bid. So, what you saw was things like the gifting of vuvuzelas as diplomatic gifts on local stages, politicians branded vuvuzelas, etc.

Roman Mars [00:16:15] When FIFA announced South Africa’s winning bid to host the tournament, the joyful celebrations included these plastic vuvuzelas. 

James Parkinson [00:16:22] The aggressive marketing worked. In the lead up to the World Cup, the sound of South African football was inextricably linked to the vuvuzela. The instrument even appeared in national marketing campaigns fronted by prominent rugby players, who’d been called in to promote the 2009 Confederations Cup–a sort of test run tournament for the World Cup. The Confederations Cup was the first time a global TV audience had been exposed to the vuvuzela. Not long after the first game, the international debate started taking off. 

News Anchor #3 [00:17:00] One thing that I found–I don’t know if I’m the only person–excruciating was this constant droning that is going on.

News Anchor #4 [00:17:08] Oh, yeah. 

News Anchor #3 [00:17:09] They’re blowing these, like, trumpet-looking horns. 

News Anchor #4 [00:17:12] I don’t know how they have enough air in their lungs. 

News Anchor #3 [00:17:14] And it never ends. And it is like you are being attacked by a swarm of locusts for 90 consecutive minutes. 

News Anchor #4 [00:17:22] I know exactly what you’re talking about. How can they constantly do that? 

News Anchor #3 [00:17:25] I don’t know. 

News Anchor #4 [00:17:26] I don’t know if they take turns…

Roman Mars [00:17:30] Media reports were quick to raise concerns about the vuvuzela’s potential impact on the World Cup. 

James Parkinson [00:17:36] Sepp Blatter, the beloved and totally non-controversial FIFA president, was asked if the vuvuzela was going to be banned at the upcoming World Cup. To the surprise of many, he came out in support of the instrument, saying, “It is African culture. We are in Africa, and we have to allow them to practice their culture as much as they want to.” Here’s journalist Mark Gleeson again. 

Mark Gleeson [00:17:56] It struck me at that point that that was the turning-moment because I do think it was a bit of an issue for FIFA–whether the vuvuzela was going to be part of the 2010 World Cup or not. But it’s a moment I remember very distinctly and thinking to myself, “This is the vuvuzela now. We will have the vuvuzela in 2010.” 

Roman Mars [00:18:16] From the moment the World Cup kicked off, the vuvuzela was a constant and persistent presence. From the atmosphere in the stadiums to the jokes on late night TV, it was inescapable. 

James Parkinson [00:18:26] While broadcasters were trying to mitigate the noise on their end, DIY solutions were making their way around the internet. One of them involved routing your TV’s audio through your computer and using software to remove the particular frequencies of the vuvuzela. 

Roman Mars [00:18:40] And as the tournament continued, players on the field cited the vuvuzela for causing communication problems. Lionel Messi–regarded by many as the best player in the world–even went so far as to blame the noise for his team conceding a goal. 

James Parkinson [00:18:54] The complaints were even enough to inspire a study from a South African medical journal that measured the vuvuzela’s sound levels, which peaked at 131 decibels. That’s as loud as a jackhammer or a jet engine. It concluded that prolonged or regular exposure could cause noise induced hearing loss. 

Roman Mars [00:19:12] There was no middle ground with the vuvuzela. You either loved it or hated it. 

James Parkinson [00:19:18] Most of the vuvuzela outrage came from a very Eurocentric perspective. It was an argument about what was considered appropriate in football fan culture, which Duane Jethro says was an attack on the idea of Africanness. 

Duane Jethro [00:19:30] It raises old, old ideas of “Africa is a dark continent,” cultural forms from Africa as being primitive or outdated, etc. And I think that’s how the outrage was received in South Africa. And it was in that space that not only the South African Football Association, but also South African fans started to speak back, and speak out, and say that this is how we represent ourselves in our sporting traditions and sporting fan culture.

James Parkinson [00:20:02] While the vuvuzela was condemned by international audiences, it’s also true that many visitors to South Africa embraced it. For comedian Trevor Noah and plenty of other South Africans, the appropriation was the problem. 

Trevor Noah [00:20:14] In South Africa, we should have a thing where you have to have a license to blow vuvuzela. You can’t just come here–not knowing vuvuzela etiquette–blowing it randomly. The English fans, the Spanish fans–middle of the day, there they are, 9 a.m. “What are you doing?” “It’s so much fun.” It’s wrong! It’s the wrong people. You know who should be blowing vuvuzelas? Qualified, skilled practitioners. Chiefs and Pirates supporters–that’s who should be blowing vuvuzelas.

Roman Mars [00:20:39] There is no doubt that for thousands of South Africans, the vuvuzela was an expression of national identity. But as the first African nation to host the World Cup, the instrument came to represent more than just South Africa. 

James Parkinson [00:20:52] For viewers watching around the world, it represented the sound of an entire continent–and that was by design. FIFA and South Africa’s organizing committee marketed the tournament as Africa’s World Cup. The slogan was “Celebrate Africa’s Humanity.” Even the official song of the tournament–which you will surely remember–proclaims, “This time is for Africa.” And because the vuvuzela became such a huge focal point of the event, Peter Alegi says the instrument got wrapped up in all the iconography of the tournament, too. 

Peter Alegi [00:21:27] The government was keen on using it because it saw it as a symbol of, you know, Africanness. But there are also other African visitors who hated it–who said, “You know, we have no tradition of horn blowing where I come from. So, how is this supposed to represent Pan-Africanism?” 

James Parkinson [00:21:46] The Disneyfication of the tournament made the vuvuzela feel cheap–like the rest of the marketing around it. And with that cheapness came a certain skepticism about its authenticity. 

Roman Mars [00:21:56] Despite the instrument being so criticized, people still wanted to claim credit for its existence. The disputes over its history and origin played out side by side with the tournament. 

James Parkinson [00:22:06] One story the press picked up connected the vuvuzela to the horn of the kudu–a species of antelope. 

James Parkinson [00:22:18] Historically, animal horns have been used in South African culture. But the theory linking the kudu horn to the vuvuzela was likely inspired by one supporter of the team Mamelodi Sundowns, who was known to bring the horn to football games. Here’s researcher Duane Jethro again. 

Duane Jethro [00:22:33] While it is absolutely true that we have indigenous traditions of horn-blowing in South Africa, whether and how we can trace a genealogy of the vuvuzela all the way back to those indigenous traditions–that’s open to argument and debate. 

James Parkinson [00:22:49] Another claim came from the Nazareth Baptist Church–also known as “The Shembe”–who have a horn of their own. 

Duane Jethro [00:22:55] The Shembe Church operates in the KwaZulu-Natal area. And they have an annual pilgrimage. And during this annual pilgrimage, they use a horn called the “imbomu.” When football fans were blowing the vuvuzela, they felt that the Holy Spirit that was generated by their horn had been appropriated in this context of a football atmosphere. 

James Parkinson [00:23:25] The Shembe first accused Saddam Maake of appropriating the imbomu. They said he visited the church in the nineties and fashioned his own version in plastic when he wasn’t allowed to bring the metal horn into stadiums. Saddam denies these accusations. The church threatened legal action initially against FIFA and World Cup organizers before going after Neil Van Schalkwyk and his company. According to media reports at the time, the two parties eventually came to a settlement. 

Roman Mars [00:23:57] All these claims regarding the origin of the vuvuzela are compelling in their own way. But it was the heightened context of the World Cup tournament that raised the stakes and the ownership debate. 

Duane Jethro [00:24:09] In all cultural heritage debates, origins and ownership are really important elements and strands of being able to claim a certain heritage tradition. You cannot claim a heritage tradition until you can claim ownership and a valid, persuasive origin story. 

James Parkinson [00:24:28] Despite the lack of a straightforward origin story, the vuvuzela is still considered cultural heritage–at least in the eyes of some institutions. The United Kingdom’s National Football Museum and the British Museum both have vuvuzelas in their collections. 

Duane Jethro [00:24:42] So, if we use the collecting principles of these heritage institutions as a guideline for how heritage is staked and made, then you see the vuvuzela entering into that heritage narrative. 

James Parkinson [00:24:59] I mean, the British Museum is no stranger to stealing credit for cultural artifacts. But if you look up the vuvuzela’s listing on their website, there is only one origin story they recognize. 

Freddie Saddam Maake [00:25:09] For me, to talk about the vuvuzela–you made my day. 

James Parkinson [00:25:14] They attribute the invention to none other than Freddie Saddam Maake. 

Freddie Saddam Maake [00:25:18] You make my dream come true. I’m feeling grateful because vuvuzela is my baby. 

James Parkinson [00:25:24] Saddam’s story is the closest thing the vuvuzela has to an actual origin story. And unlike the noise that surrounded the vuvuzela in 2010, his story–at its core–is simple. He loved his team, and he wanted to show his support for them as loud as possible. 

Roman Mars [00:25:40] Today vuvuzelas aren’t nearly as prominent as they were back in 2010. A few years after the South African World Cup ended. FIFA turned around and banned them from all major tournaments. And several other major sports leagues have as well. But for Duane Jethro, that comes with a silver lining. 

Duane Jethro [00:25:58] I’m very glad that no future World Cup tournament will be blessed with a beautiful sound of the vuvuzela–that the sound will always remain South African. 

James Parkinson [00:26:14] Just a few months ago, the South African women’s football team won their first ever Africa Cup of Nations. When the team arrived at the airport, they were greeted by fans expressing their national pride through songs and chants. Saddam Maake was there, too, blowing his vuvuzela. There were no complaints about the noise. The fans just celebrated the way they wanted to celebrate. 

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James Parkinson [00:31:58] Yes. So, a few other interesting details came out while I was working on this story. And it has to do with that culture of noisemaking in the stadiums. And I’m showing you a picture now, so you can see what I’m talking about. 

Roman Mars [00:32:11] So, this must be Saddam Maake, who we heard from in the piece–who has a really great voice and a really great look to go with it. 

James Parkinson [00:32:17] Yes, this is Saddam of vuvuzela fame. And in this picture, he’s decked out in all this gear, screaming his lungs out at a football match. 

Roman Mars [00:32:25] He’s wearing really large, comically yellow glasses and a helmet with all these different, like, logos on it. And I see stickers of Kaizer Chiefs and even Orlando Pirates on it. 

James Parkinson [00:32:37] Yes. So, what I want to talk about is that helmet–the makarapa–because that was another item, like the vuvuzela, that gained popularity during the World Cup. So, the word “makarapa” actually means “scrapers.” And “scrapers” is a reference to the migrant workers who used to move into cities like Johannesburg to work in the mines. People would say they “scrape” for a living. And so, the story goes that a Kaizer Chiefs fan–not Saddam this time–went to a particularly rowdy game back in the seventies, where he saw someone get hit in the head with a bottle. So naturally–for the next game–he thought, you know, “I just, uh…”

Roman Mars [00:33:11] He was like, “Well, I should wear that helmet.”. 

James Parkinson [00:33:12] Yeah, exactly. 

Roman Mars [00:33:13] “All these people are wearing helmets. I should wear a helmet.” Yeah. 

James Parkinson [00:33:15] Yeah. So, this fan started painting these helmets in the team’s colors and selling them at games. And it became a thing. But this isn’t the only connection between the mines of South Africa and noisemaking in the stadiums. Duane Jethro told me there’s also this sound…

Duane Jethro [00:33:29] It’s a kind of alarm. It’s a wind-up alarm. It goes, “Rrrrrrrrrr.”. 

Roman Mars [00:33:32] Like an old air raid siren. 

James Parkinson [00:33:38] Exactly. Yeah. And these alarms used to have this very specific use. It was the sound miners would hear for their shift change at work. So, fans would, you know, bring these handheld sirens to make noise at the games. And they were pretty popular in the nineties. 

Roman Mars [00:33:51] Yeah. Because these are working class fans, so they’re bringing what they have on them. They’re bringing their helmets. They’re bringing their sirens that they use in everyday life. 

James Parkinson [00:33:59] Yeah, they’re picking up their helmets and, you know, these alarms and sort of repurposing them to reflect their lives as miners in the culture of South African football. 

Roman Mars [00:34:08] Oh, I love that. I love that. 

James Parkinson [00:34:10] Yeah. One of my favorite examples of this is that they repurposed a work song they would sing in the mines–that fans would then sing, you know, loudly at games. And it’s called Shosholoza.

Duane Jethro [00:34:28] And you sing it, it goes something like: “Shosholoza Kulezontaba Stimela siphum’e–” I don’t know the words roughly, but that’s how the beat goes. It’s the kind of song that you sing when you really want to rouse up the crowd. And South Africans across the board know the song. And it speaks to migrants moving from different parts of Southern Africa to come and work on the mines. 

James Parkinson [00:35:00] So, Shosholoza–this traditional miner song–actually became quite popular in the nineties. People refer to it as “South Africa’s second national anthem.” It was sung in a call and response style by the workers to kind of, you know, generate a rhythm and also to alleviate stress from working long, hard days underground. “Shosholoza” means “go forward” or “make the way for the next man.” And famously, Nelson Mandela spoke about how he would sing this song while he was imprisoned on Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town–along with many other political prisoners–and the ways in which the song reflected the struggle during apartheid.  

Roman Mars [00:35:35] I mean, it reminds me of something that you mentioned in the piece that, you know, these games and the noise that, you know, surrounds them… I mean, yes, it’s about sports, and a game, and leisure, and fun. But there’s also, like, a certain amount of political resistance just built into the fact that there’s people singing along loudly in a stadium–they’re playing instruments. And it’s the way to make noise for your team but also let the powers that be know that, you know, “We’re all here, and there’s a bunch of us. And we’re all here.” 

James Parkinson [00:36:03] Yeah. “We’re here. And we’re really loud, and we’re going to let you know.” 

Roman Mars [00:36:19] Well, thank you again, James. I mean, this was such a cool, fascinating history, and I’m so glad that you shared it with us. 

James Parkinson [00:36:24] Thanks, Roman. Anytime. 

Roman Mars [00:36:33] 99% Invisible was produced this week by James Parkinson, edited by Jayson De Leon. Sound mix by Martín Gonzalez. Music by our Director of Sound, Swan Real–with additional music provided by Freddie Saddam Maake. Fact-checking by Graham Hacia. Delaney Hall is our senior editor. Kurt Kohlstedt is the digital director. Olivia Green is our intern. The rest of the team includes Vivian Le, Lasha Madan, Chris Berube, Emmett Fitzgerald, Christopher Johnson, Jeyca Maldonado-Medina, Kelly Prime, Joe Rosenberg, Sofia Klatzker, and me, Roman Mars. Special thanks to Duane Jethro; he’s the author of Heritage Formation and the Senses in Post-Apartheid South Africa, which includes a chapter called Vuvuzela Magic. Peter Alegi is also the author of several books, including Laduma!: Soccer, Politics and Society in South Africa. And thanks to Peter Drury, who we also spoke with for this story. We are part of the Stitcher and SiriusXM podcast family, now headquartered six blocks north in the Pandora building in beautiful… uptown… Oakland, California. You can find the show and join discussions about the show on Facebook. You can tweet me at Roman Mars and the show at 99PI.org, on Instagram, Reddit, and now TikTok, too. You can find links to other Stitcher shows I love as well as every past episode of 99PI at 99PI.org. 

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This episode was produced by reporter James Parkinson.

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