|S. Africa to celebrate with horns, helmets
|SOWETO - South African football supporters are ready to cheer for Bafana Bafana at the Confederations Cup. They will be carrying unusual equipment: vuvuzelas to make sound, a type of horn once used to call people to come together, and makarapas, which are originally worn as protection against flying bottles in the bleachers.
Long horns blare as crowds wearing elaborately decorated miners helmets burst into song -- all part of South African fans' strategy to intimidate rival football teams.
It's a scene that will replay again and again as the world gets an up-close look at how the nation celebrates sport with the kick-off of the Confederations Cup on Sunday, curtain raiser to the 2010 World Cup.
"This is exhausting, but if your team wins it's all worth it," said Themba Tsietsi, a 35-year-old from Soweto who calls himself the "number one fan" of South Africa's national team Bafana Bafana.
His plastic yellow horn, known as a vuvuzela and extending a meter in length, flashes from beneath his helmet decorated in the colors of South Africa's flag on the left side and the black and white colors of his favorite team on the right.
The hats are called makarapas, and are a source of intense pride for their owners.
"You blow the vuvuzela as hard as you can, you sing and shout at the top of your voice," he explained during a friendly match last weekend between South Africa and Poland.
Vuvuzelas sound like foghorns -- or more generously, trumpeting elephants -- and are modern spin-offs of traditional instruments made from spiraling kudu horns, said Pedro Espi-Sanchis, an African music expert.
Such horns were once used to call people to come together, he explained, though how they became a fixture in football stands remains a mystery. Makarapas were originally worn as protection against flying bottles in the bleachers, until creative fans decided to carve and decorate helmets to show their support for the team.
"A makarapa is a true reflection of our hands-on, passionate South Africa football culture," said Michael Souter, a graphic designer who formed a community project called Makaraba Makoya to create the hard hats.
Cutting and trimming the hard hats is a skill that takes three to four days to perfect, Souter said, saying each one is a work of art that reflects each fan's personality.
Football fans spend hours adorning makarapas with the logo and colors of teams, images of a favorite player and embellishments such as giant sunglasses.
Tsietsi, wearing a green and yellow Bafana Bafana T-shirt, said he takes his job as a fan seriously. "Because I am unemployed, it took me months to get together my outfit. I had to do piece jobs and save a lot to buy an original Bafana T-shirt. "Then I bought the vuvuzela, a large flag. I made the makarapa myself -- it took me about a month. My children helped with the decorations."
Vuvuzelas blare loudest and most often at the beginning of the game, but as the match progresses, the singing starts. The songs, accompanied by clamping and stomping, get much louder when Bafana scores a goal.
Espi-Sanchis said most of the crowd's football music has been adapted from traditional songs or anti-apartheid anthems.
He's been working to harness the crowd's energy into organized performances, creating a vuvuzela orchestra that performs around the country in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup. "Vuvuzela is a special instrument, uniquely South African," he said.
As much as some fans love to blow their vuvuzelas, others are irritated by the jolting and haphazard noise. Espi-Sanchis hopes the orchestra will show people how to play the horns together.
"People don't play it together rhythmically, so its full potential is not realized," he said. "My objective with the vuvuzela orchestra, in light of Confederations Cup and 2010 World Cup, is to create a legacy."
"Imagine, for 90 minutes, fans -- especially international ones -- will hear the sound of the vuvuzela and that sound will get entrenched as the sound of South Africa."