The Heartbreaking Story of the Guy Who Invented the Vuvuzela

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By now, you know what a vuvuzela is: the crackhead, steroid-taking sibling of the diminutive kazoo that made its presence known to the universe at large during the World Cup, wherein, everyone at the World Cup had one, and were blowing their vuvuzelas. It sounds like hell. Of course, appropriately, the guy who is responsible for birthing this thing into society doesn't exactly have an easy life, which is aside from his uncanny resemblance to Flavor Flav.

After all, how would you feel if you invented the most annoying instrument in the world, only to have your invention Philo Farnsworth-d away from you by a bunch of bootleg vuvuzela makers? Via Chris Broughton at The Guardian, meet Freddie Maake, the guy who invented the "Boogieblasts," which then became the "vuvuzela" after Nelson Mandela was released:

People assume my invention has made me rich -- in fact, big companies have taken the idea and the name, and don't give me a penny. I struggle to feed my nine children. Most of my earnings come from selling an album I made in the '90s that features the vuvuzela, and I've been touting the second volume at the World Cup games. Of course I'd be happier if my invention allowed me to support my family more easily, but I'm not bitter that others are benefiting. I still want to encourage others to enjoy them. When South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup, I had vuvuzelas made in all the teams' colours and taught people in the crowd how to play.

In my culture, it's hard to gain recognition when you do something good - not while you're alive, anyway. When I do pass away, I want people to blow vuvuzelas at my funeral. It gives me great joy to know that I created an instrument that has been played by everyone from tiny children to Nelson Mandela.

Isn't that the absolute worst? When you want to hate a human being for their categorically-inexcusable-yet-technically-harmless contribution to society and, of course, they turn out to be another guy trying to feed his kids and make the hustle happen for him and his family? He even advises tact while using the vuvuzela: "You shouldn't blow one directly into anyone's ear, for example, nor should you ever sound a vuvuzela during a country's national anthem." The sound of the vuvuzela -- which many speculate will be proliferating into further irritating the shit out of people in sporting events around the world to come -- just became rather bittersweet. Kind of like our species' unmistakable tendency towards empathy, and ability to humanize just about anyone when you know their whole story.

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]


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