Enter the Dragon: Under President Xi, China looks to achieve world domination – in football

Enter the Dragon: Under President Xi, China looks to achieve world domination – in football
Photo Credit: Alejandro Pagni / AFP
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Earlier this week, Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan’s dreams of glory faded as the club exited from the preliminaries of the Asian Football Confederation Champions League, suffering an unforgiving 6-0 defeat against China’s Shandong Luneng FC. Neither the elimination nor the manner of capitulation caused particular disgruntlement among the Indian players or fans, but the result did highlight China’s lofty footballing potential, originating from both a historical and political context.

Football in China is not a recent phenomenon. In the third century BC during the Han dynasty, cuju, or kick-ball, was a leather ball game between two teams on a marked pitch with goals at two ends. Kicking was a key form of propulsion. Emperor Wu Di was both an aficionado and connoisseur, according to historical accounts.

Cuju might have been rudimentary, but China was the cradle of the earliest forms of football. China’s early settled cities and social hierarchies allowed for a framework wherein spontaneous play became organised and institutionalised. Yet the historical importance of the Chinese for football never translated into much in today’s global game.

For years, football has been a synonym for abject failure in China. Serbian coach Bora Milutinović, a doyen of international football, guided China’s team to the 2002 World Cup, but Lóngzhī Duì ,or Team Dragon, finished bottom of Group C with a goal difference of -9 after matches against Brazil, Turkey and Costa Rica. Chinese clubs also failed to make much of an impact internationally.

Xi Jinping embraces the beautiful game

Then came President Xi Jinping and, with him, an insatiable desire to propel China onto football’s world stage. The president is a self-declared football fan – of the Manchester United inclination. In 1983, he attended a friendly between China and Watford in Shanghai. The London club’s comfortable 5-1 victory must have been traumatic for Xi: in 2011 he proposed a goal-orientated vision for his country. The Chinese president listed three ambitions, all football-related: to qualify for the World Cup, to host international football’s biggest jamboree and, ultimately, to win it.

Those Greek dreams speak of a larger narrative of Chinese nation-building. As an editorial in China’s Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper pointed out:

“Dreams have power, and the constant jarring reality of Chinese football threatens nothing less than the Chinese ability to dream of a more powerful nation.”

Football is a reflection of the president’s profound insecurities that, notwithstanding the republic’s great strides forward, China remains a B-list power, shunned for its many peculiarities and deemed unfit to join an elite club of countries that matter.

For Xi, football is a soft-power tool to mitigate the nagging fear that China’s quest for hegemony might never materialise, but rather fizzle out and be absorbed by the open and integrated global order. Football is required by the Chinese administration to rule with more legitimacy, for increased geopolitical standing and projection of power, according to Xu Guoqi, a Harvard-educated historian at the University of Hong Kong.

Football neatly fits in to the everyman image Xi has been cultivating since he became president in 2012. Yet Xi’s self-proclaimed football love is more than just hoopla.

A rapid resurgence

Chinese club football is improving drastically with Guangzhou Evergrande a prime exponent. They won the Chinese Super League or CSL five consecutive times and rose steadily to become a continental powerhouse, winning the AFC Champions League under Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. The Club World Cup was still a step too far as they failed to muster any pugnacity in the semi-finals against FC Barcelona’s triangulated game and Luis Suarez’s goal-poaching instincts.

In the January transfer window, Guangzhou signed Colombian midfielder Jackson Martinez from Atletico Madrid for £31.5 million, 2016’s highest fee. Ramires, Elkeson and Gervinho also completed high-profile moves to inject the CSL with star ethos and quality. At this rate, China will become the biggest non-European league, overtaking the Major League Soccer, with healthy average attendances of 22,000 and a television rights deal package worth £850 million over the next five seasons.

The CSL may form the basis for a stronger national team, together with a grassroots level movement. By 2017, about 20,000 football-themed schools will be opened with the aim of educating and producing more than 100,000 players. They might be part of a future generation of Chinese star players. Mohun Bagan and the rest of the football world may want to take note: China’s footballing power is not to be taken lightly.

[“source-Scroll”]

Tabla for Two: From Kabul to Washington with the audacity and chutzpah of a jazz trio

Tabla for Two: From Kabul to Washington with the audacity and chutzpah of a jazz trio
Photo Credit: tablafortwo.com
16.6K
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In Washington DC, a musical duo who blend ancient Afghan talas (beats) with Bollywood songs, ghazals and a new-fangled approach to playing tabla are beginning to make waves across concert halls in the USA. A chance but clearly fateful meeting connected and inspired Masood Omari, a refugee from Kabul with Abigail Adams Greenway, a colourful Pennsylvanian artist, to form Tabla for Two the subject of this week’s Sunday Sounds.

Camel Caravan Waltz

Play

In a time that seems so distant as to be mythical, Afghanistan was not known as the most dangerous place on earth. And in that time there was no more recognised image of the country and its people than the camel caravan. Silhouetted humps swaying rhythmically and mirroring the very mountains of the Silk Road. So famous were the camels that when in the 1860s a very young Australia needed a reliable way to explore and map the vast dry interior of the continent, they turned to the karawan drivers of the Hindu Kush. This mesmerising composition by Masood Omari in classic waltz metre is a perfect introduction to Tabla for Two’s musical approach – grounded in traditional sensibility, structurally lithe and slightly haunting.

Penda Shutam (Old Afghan song)

Play

Masood fled Afghanistan when he was 15 and settled in Islamabad.

“My father was an educator in Ghazni, but the family moved to Kabul where I was born, because he was tagged for death.”

“My family was not musical but my brother studied with the great UstadFateh Ali Khan. He’s a fine singer and lives in Holland. Music is a gift from God. It is so beautiful. My uncle was a tabla player, and I used to play along on water pails.”

Omari studied under an Afghan master of the Punjab gharana, Ustad Arif Chishti, from whom he received his gurnami. Unusual for most tabla players, Masood’s sings as he plays. His earthy voice fits perfectly the cadence and sound of this old Afghan love song.

Abigail Adams Greenway claims she was not seeking a musical career when she met Masood.

“I have been a visual artist for many years but was laid low by a debilitating health issue. My life essentially stopped. I was unable to return to painting and art for 3 years.”

When she was strong enough to engage again, one of the first people Abigail met was a Pakistani truck painter from Peshawar who was in Washington, sponsored by the Smithsonian. A friendship grew and eventually Greenway asked Ghulam to paint her car in the style of a Pakistani lorry.

Counterclockwise

Play

Soon after, Abigail met Masood, who was visiting from Boston, at a small Afghan curio shop. With a long-standing love of music she was overjoyed to discover that Masood was a classically trained tabla player. Inspired, and no doubt eager to grab life fully once again after a long difficult patch, Abigail began studying tabla with Masood.

“I jumped in whole-heartedly, practicing every day, sometimes up to 18 hours!”

“We are interested in teaching sound and beat,” Masood told me. “The tabla comprises of the Baya (bass) and the Daya (treble) drum. Abigail plays three Daya and I accompany on regular tabla and dholak and other things! The approach is quite innovative.”

This piece represents the “new” sound Massod and Abigail are pursuing. Called Counterclockwise because the three Dayas are played in a counter clockwise motion adding to the rhythmic complexity and structures.

Pardesiyon se naa ankhiyan milana

Play

Masood loves to compose but admits it can be challenging.

“Especially for 17 and 11 and 13 beat taals. These are old beats that have fallen out of style. No one really sings them any more.”

One thing that is always sung, from Kabul to Washington, is old Hindi film songs. As a composer Masood is especially drawn to the often elegant compositions of some of Mumbai’ greatest filmi composer duos, such as Kalyanji-Anandji. Accompanied by Abigail on the harmonium, Masood gives an expressive and imaginative interpretation of the 1965 hit from Jab Jab Phool Khile that mixes Dari with the original Hindi lyrics.

Hai Sharmaauun kis kis ko bataauun

Play

Tabla for Two’s take on these old filmi songs is both reverential and subversive. In the tabla and harmonium, resides the evocative, eternal sound of the subcontinent. But step back just a bit and you can get a glimpse of the sleight of hand. What was originally a rather raucous “item” number in a mela is slowed down, into a heartfelt love ballad. Abigail plays the harmonium to great effect, treating the instrument as a drone of sorts, hardly moving her fingers beyond two or three keys. Masood’s voice is as lonely as the dusky hills in which the duo sit.

In Table for Two I catch the audacity and chutzpah of a jazz trio. “Just” a couple of musicians with basic instruments playing their hearts out while reconfiguring the sound’s original purpose. That they are but two makes the magic even more delightful.

Tabla for Two: From Kabul to Washington with the audacity and chutzpah of a jazz trio
Photo Credit: tablafortwo.com
16.6K
Total Views

In Washington DC, a musical duo who blend ancient Afghan talas (beats) with Bollywood songs, ghazals and a new-fangled approach to playing tabla are beginning to make waves across concert halls in the USA. A chance but clearly fateful meeting connected and inspired Masood Omari, a refugee from Kabul with Abigail Adams Greenway, a colourful Pennsylvanian artist, to form Tabla for Two the subject of this week’s Sunday Sounds.

Camel Caravan Waltz

Play

In a time that seems so distant as to be mythical, Afghanistan was not known as the most dangerous place on earth. And in that time there was no more recognised image of the country and its people than the camel caravan. Silhouetted humps swaying rhythmically and mirroring the very mountains of the Silk Road. So famous were the camels that when in the 1860s a very young Australia needed a reliable way to explore and map the vast dry interior of the continent, they turned to the karawan drivers of the Hindu Kush. This mesmerising composition by Masood Omari in classic waltz metre is a perfect introduction to Tabla for Two’s musical approach – grounded in traditional sensibility, structurally lithe and slightly haunting.

Penda Shutam (Old Afghan song)

Play

Masood fled Afghanistan when he was 15 and settled in Islamabad.

“My father was an educator in Ghazni, but the family moved to Kabul where I was born, because he was tagged for death.”

“My family was not musical but my brother studied with the great UstadFateh Ali Khan. He’s a fine singer and lives in Holland. Music is a gift from God. It is so beautiful. My uncle was a tabla player, and I used to play along on water pails.”

Omari studied under an Afghan master of the Punjab gharana, Ustad Arif Chishti, from whom he received his gurnami. Unusual for most tabla players, Masood’s sings as he plays. His earthy voice fits perfectly the cadence and sound of this old Afghan love song.

Abigail Adams Greenway claims she was not seeking a musical career when she met Masood.

“I have been a visual artist for many years but was laid low by a debilitating health issue. My life essentially stopped. I was unable to return to painting and art for 3 years.”

When she was strong enough to engage again, one of the first people Abigail met was a Pakistani truck painter from Peshawar who was in Washington, sponsored by the Smithsonian. A friendship grew and eventually Greenway asked Ghulam to paint her car in the style of a Pakistani lorry.

Counterclockwise

Play

Soon after, Abigail met Masood, who was visiting from Boston, at a small Afghan curio shop. With a long-standing love of music she was overjoyed to discover that Masood was a classically trained tabla player. Inspired, and no doubt eager to grab life fully once again after a long difficult patch, Abigail began studying tabla with Masood.

“I jumped in whole-heartedly, practicing every day, sometimes up to 18 hours!”

“We are interested in teaching sound and beat,” Masood told me. “The tabla comprises of the Baya (bass) and the Daya (treble) drum. Abigail plays three Daya and I accompany on regular tabla and dholak and other things! The approach is quite innovative.”

This piece represents the “new” sound Massod and Abigail are pursuing. Called Counterclockwise because the three Dayas are played in a counter clockwise motion adding to the rhythmic complexity and structures.

Pardesiyon se naa ankhiyan milana

Play

Masood loves to compose but admits it can be challenging.

“Especially for 17 and 11 and 13 beat taals. These are old beats that have fallen out of style. No one really sings them any more.”

One thing that is always sung, from Kabul to Washington, is old Hindi film songs. As a composer Masood is especially drawn to the often elegant compositions of some of Mumbai’ greatest filmi composer duos, such as Kalyanji-Anandji. Accompanied by Abigail on the harmonium, Masood gives an expressive and imaginative interpretation of the 1965 hit from Jab Jab Phool Khile that mixes Dari with the original Hindi lyrics.

Hai Sharmaauun kis kis ko bataauun

Play

Tabla for Two’s take on these old filmi songs is both reverential and subversive. In the tabla and harmonium, resides the evocative, eternal sound of the subcontinent. But step back just a bit and you can get a glimpse of the sleight of hand. What was originally a rather raucous “item” number in a mela is slowed down, into a heartfelt love ballad. Abigail plays the harmonium to great effect, treating the instrument as a drone of sorts, hardly moving her fingers beyond two or three keys. Masood’s voice is as lonely as the dusky hills in which the duo sit.

In Table for Two I catch the audacity and chutzpah of a jazz trio. “Just” a couple of musicians with basic instruments playing their hearts out while reconfiguring the sound’s original purpose. That they are but two makes the magic even more delightful.

[“source-Scroll”]

Apple to Start Charging for iTunes Radio

Apple to Start Charging for iTunes Radio From January 28

Apple said it will soon start charging for iTunes Radio, its music-streaming service that competes with Pandora Media Inc.

iTunes Radio, which was announced in 2013, will no longer be free from the end of January, Apple said in statement.

The ad-supported service, available only in the United States and Australia, will be folded into Apple Music, which costs $9.99 (roughly Rs. 675) a month.

Beats 1, the global 24/7 radio station, will now be the free music option for listeners.

Apple may also have plans to introduce more live streaming Beats radio stations to Apple Music. Recently filed trademark applications reveal the company’s intention of adding four more radio stations to the music streaming service. Beats 1 radio is one of the headline features of Apple Music.

The speculation of the new Beats radio stations revolves around the company applying for trademarks with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) covering names and logos of Beats 2, Beats 3, Beats 4, and Beats 5.

Apple Music in December was reported to have more than 10 million paid subscribers. The achievement comes roughly six months after the company released its app for iPhone and iPad, and roughly two months after it released a beta version of the app on Android. To compare, Spotify had 20 million paid subscribers as of last June.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the Financial Times reported that Apple’s music streaming service has hit the 10-million paid subscribers milestone. The impressive figure shows Apple Music’s quick adoption and Apple’s reach, as Spotify, presently the most widely used music streaming service has 20 million paid subscribers as of June 2015. It took the company six years to reach the 20 million figure. Spotify hasn’t revealed an updated figure since.

[“source-gadgets”]