Posted by Leander Schaerlaeckens
PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa -- A mob assembled in front of town hall.
People looked annoyed by something -- sufficiently enough to consider it worth their time to take to the streets and confront those who had drawn their considerable ire.
They had signs, indicating that they wanted a 15-percent pay raise and some respect – they wouldn't settle for a penny less.
They had sticks too. This could go in any direction.
Then they broke it down.
Not the town hall though, or the skulls of policemen.
No, they broke it down and got a fierce rhythm going, the sticks serving not for bashing heads but for bashing drums.
The quality of their ad hoc percussion was such that it drew a crowd, not to mention attention to their cause.
Another lesson learned about Africa: Here, music is more than something people actually know how to make and move to. It's a form of communication. That's why, after initial skepticism, I, too, am a convert to the vuvuzela. It helps, of course, that none of the dozen or so subsequent games I attended were anywhere near as loud as South Africa's opening game against Mexico. The vuvuzela streams excitement from one person to those around him.
That too is why I'm astonished that they've been banned from South Africa's rugby game against New Zealand on Aug. 21 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg -- a soccer venue, no less. To understand rhythm, after all, to understand the vuvuzela, is perhaps to understand Africa.