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Author Archives: Tafadzwa Tichawangana

About Tafadzwa Tichawangana

One of the crazy ones.A scientist ( Not quitting the day job just yet...) and a self proclaimed Culture Vulture.Round peg in a square hole.I live in a dream, but I work in reality. It's a short commute.

First Impression: Kenrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterlfy”

pimp

‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ album cover.

Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore album ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ was released a week early a couple days ago. I finally managed to give it a listen for the first time last night. I started listening to it at around 10pm. I was still listening to it when I fell asleep sometime after 2am. A whole 4 hours later. I listened to a couple more times when I got up in the morning and have been listening to it most of today. That I gave it a couple of spins on first contact is testament of how immersive the listening experience has been so far. So is the fact that I have voraciously read up on anything related to the album in between listens. That I am sitting here writing about it also speaks to how much the album has hijacked my attention and titillated my curiosity. However, this is not a review per se. But more an attempt to unpack and process some of the initial feelings I had listening to the album in the last 24 hours.

This is one is going to be a doozy.

Even after the repeated rotation I can’t seem to make up my mind (yet) how I feel about this album. I know it is special and I really appreciate its musicality. I just can’t figure out if I love it. But I do know I want to love it, badly. I am also sure that is it a great piece of art. It’s cinematic in its scope and shares the same unfathomable complexity of some of the books I have felt compelled to re-read. ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ is a demanding and at times challenging listen. And I can’t stop listening to it. And therein lays its genius and appeal for me. With each listen I find myself trying to dig deeper so I can catch every reference, idea and emotion. I’m still hearing new stuff and I’m sure I’ll continue to discover new things weeks from now. ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is an album to contemplate and examine as much as it is a groovy album with beautiful musicality. And for me that was as intriguing as it was contradictory. Which I suspect is what Kendrick was trying to go for, especially when you consider the album title itself.

‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is a really evocative title. Not just for an album, but any work of art. Period. The writer in me loves the contradictory nature of that statement. There is so much imagery packed into it. The title seems more literary than anything, and the album seems to fall into this discussion of life and the ills of both success and blackness. Kendrick himself has alluded to it being a play on ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ a novel by Harper Lee that deals with racial inequality and is considered a modern American classic. Kendrick himself has stated that he believes ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ will be taught in university course in the future. No pressure there, I guess.

‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is an album that is as multi-layered as it is richly textured. Musically, contextually and lyrically. It is as colourful as it is monochromatic. It hijacks your attention 80 minutes at a time. Sonically I love the direction that Kendrick went on this album. I found the jazzy and funk influences refreshing. Although from the get go I did pick a sombre and at times melancholic vibe which is an interesting juxtaposition to the funky beats. There are also parts of the album where Hip Hop meets neo soul. And even some spoken word. Admittedly these parts can feel a bit pretentious, if not cheesy. And I can see that putting of those who want that hip-hip, it don’t stop.  But in the bigger picture of the album, it works. T

Contextually and lyrically ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is a lot to process. Even as a black person I found the ‘politics of blackness’ of it confrontational and overwhelming in parts. Although I suspect that might have to do with different nuances of my personal African experience and the wider African-American experience. Kendrick though makes a strong case for the universality of the broader black experience with his comparisons of the Xhosa-Zulu conflict with that of the Blood and Crips gangs of LA in the fantastically belligerent ‘The Blacker The Berry’ which had been released as a single prior to the album release. The ‘politics of blackness” is not the entire focus of the album though. Throughout the album you are can pick up more universal themes like dealing with societal pressure, being lost  and consumed by the situation you’ve been put into, finding yourself and achieving self-fulfilment. Like I said before, this is a layered album. And I am looking forwarding to peeling back those layers over the next couple of weeks.

The highlights so far….

‘Alright’ is the early stand out track for me. Mostly because it has such a positive vibe to it. ‘How Much Does A Dollar Cost?’ is also such an introspective song and resonates the most of all the songs on the album. Finally the interview with Tupac and the explanation of the title knocked me off my feet.

Consider this butterfly pimped.

One more thing ….

‘This dick ain’t freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee …..’

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Posted by on March 18, 2015 in Culture Vulture

 

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The Makings Of A Man: 31 Things The Last Year Taught Me

 

On the eve of my 31st birthday I caught myself devouring a shawarma wrap with such unthinking and savage dexterity that I actually had to take a pause and reflect on life itself. And in the middle of that pause all the ambivalence I had been nursing about turning 31 dissipated. In its place was a renewed enthusiasm. Suddenly celebrating my last calendar birthday (Apparently it’s a thing.) didn’t seem so frivolous.

I realise that this could be the most meaningful year of my life yet. In the bigger scheme of things 31 has its place. It’s a year-long step into the thirties. 52 more weeks away from the glorious twenties and one more step into the rest of my life.

Starring down at what was left of that shawarma I realised I have so much to be thankful for. I am eating. I am here. Not everyone made it this far. These years are blessings.

My twenties were all over the place. It was a decade of constantly moving between cities, countries and continents. My twenties were all about risky behaviour, confident assertions, and delusions of having it all figured out by 30. It was the decade of were trial and error was my modus operundi.

Not so much with my thirties.

Being just one year in, I can already tell that the thirties will be very different. My thirties are going to be the decade of negotiating my most precious resource, my time. It is going to be the decade of deciding what to ignore and what to peer into. My thirties are going to be about appreciating the deliciousness of slowing down and turning inward. This next decade will be about which parts of me get refined and which get sacrificed among the embers.

The way 30 delightfully whizzed past me, I can tell that my entire thirties could end up as a breathless blur. Like the gap of white space between a before and after photo between the twenties and forties. And this only serves to encourage me to live each day to the fullest and to create memories with the people that matter.

And to think it took me eating a shawarma wrap to finally embrace becoming a thirty something. I know. I am a weirdo, and I am so random, but I actually cool with that. I like the person I am becoming. I like the person I have grown into. Even if it’s not every one’s cup of tea.

Life is crazy and beautiful like that.

It’s become something of a tradition since I started this blog to share some of the lessons I learned during the year. I always try to do this around the time of my birthday. And this year is no different. So …

Here are the 31 things I learned in the last year.

 

  1. Becoming a writer was the easy part. Staying a writer, much harder
  2. Time has a great way of revealing intentions, the truth and character. Trust time. Time always does its work.
  3. You can’t learn if you aren’t willing to listen.
  4. You will have bad times , but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.
  5.  The internet is always in a constant state of either making you feel better or worse about your life. Just depends on the day. Also, The Humans Of New York Facebook page just might be my favourite on all the internets.
  6. Happiness depends on knowing when to be kind to yourself. Purpose, on when to be tough on yourself.
  7. There is a vast difference between advancement and culture. You can be advanced and modern without losing your culture.
  8. You don’t get to chase a new dream and keep your old life. When it’s time to dream be brave enough to leave behind the things you must.
  9. I still don’t understand how one would sip from one’s cup til it runneth over. Regardless Jay Z is still the King of the double entendre and metonym.
  10. Conversations that unlock a picnic in our minds, a paradise for our souls to meet. Delicate sips of an intoxicating essence. That.
  11. Understanding that acceptance is a form of understanding is one the greatest of understandings to understand.
  12. I have been supporting Manchester United for twenty one years now. And until David Moyes happened I had no idea what heartbreak really felt like.
  13. I love the smell of rain. Only a few things are more soothing than the soft thrum of raindrops falling outside my window.
  14. The harder we try to escape who truly are, the further we get from lives of meaning.
  15. The man who knows “how” will always have a job, the man who also knows “why” will always be his boss.
  16. Sam Smith is a really soulful dude. You actually feel his voice before you hear it. Also, ‘Latch’ (Acoustic version) makes you want to never fall in love, but fall in love at the same time.
  17. The ability to say NO out of respect for your well-being is a priceless life skill. When you can do it with ease, you avoid so much torment.
  18. Cenosillicaphobia is the fear of an empty beer glass. (See, it’s a thing.)
  19. The only thing that keeps me sane is reading and all these attempts at trying to nurture my own intellectual development.
  20. Most people will hardly understand what you’re trying to do until it’s done.
  21. Victory introduces you to the world, but defeat introduces the world to you.
  22. Life is a language we will never be fluent in. But that shouldn’t stop us from learning it even with all the mistakes it may come with.
  23. In solitude and silence many questions are answered.
  24. There is eloquence in true enthusiasm that is not to be doubted.
  25. The difference between success and failure is just a decision to keep trying.
  26. “Apologies” and “Thank You’s” are the best way to create a conversation on your terms.
  27.  There is no easy way out for big problems; but there is always a way out
  28. Experience is what you get just after you need it.
  29. ‘Bae’ is such a beautifully ambiguous word. And even though I have used  fleek’ on occasion, I am still not entirely sure if I use it correctly.
  30. There is no such thing as life that’s better than yours. No. Such. Thing.
  31.  Do you. Always.

 

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Still I Write (Lost Without You)

Dear Blank Page

Hi Stranger. It’s me.

It’s been a lifetime.

Well, it feels that way, anyway. And yes, I know, my disappearing acts are getting old now.

I am sorry.

Forgive me?

Sitting here drowning myself in the melancholic broodiness of John Mayer’s ‘Gravity’ I can feel it trying to bring me down. I won’t let it though. Not this time. I have to make a way for my hope. But first I need that blues guitar to lift me into the zone … to help me get back right with you.

I don’t know where to start. I am stranded between the silence of my boisterous thoughts and the mobility of my steady hands. It is to parallel purpose.

I can’t recall why or how we drifted apart. Just that we did. I vaguely remember a time we hung out just about every other day. Do you?
So what happened? I am still trying to figure that out. All I know is that I want to fix things between us. I have to. I need to. And even though it’s taken me longer than I would have liked to get to a place where I can even begin to work on that process I find quite comfort in taking that first step.
A lot has happened since our last dalliance. In your absence desperation and frustration have become my (unwanted) companions. Without you I have slowly but surely drifted to the edge of sanity. I lost my way without you.

So many mornings I have woken up and told myself today is the day. Today is the day I will moonwalk with my muse again. Procrastination however, was having none of it. It kept whispering sweet nothings to me. Every. Single. Day.

If it wasn’t her it was doubt that kept me away from you.

Along the way I have found myself questioning whether what we had was real. And then in the next moment I would turn around and ask myself why the hell I wasn’t making you a priority when you have done more than anyone or anything to pull me even closer to myself.

I had to remind myself that the more time I spent within your margins the more acutely aware I became of my true self. You always encouraged Tafadzwa to show up. Keep it real, you would whisper, ever so softly. But still, I didn’t write.

You allowed me to honour myself, as well as my experiences. At the same time you also allowed me to honour the world and my place in it. I am who I am right now because I wrote. I am here feeling lost in the world because somewhere along the line I stopped writing. And hard as I try I can’t seem to remember where we left off, or why? So I will just type and just trust the process. That with each word I will find myself within your margins once again. That with each word I will write myself back to clarity.

Only you can pull me back from the edge of sanity.

Your Long Lost Friend .

Tafadzwa.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Totems And The Art of Shona Praise Poetry – The Lost Language Of Our Ancestors

Rhesus_Macaque_Monkey_Sitting_On_A_Tree_600

Monkeys are amazing creatures, swinging our way with messages of intelligence, intensity and involvement. They are as playful as they are entertaining. Monkeys also have a strong capacity for compassion, understanding and bonding. Monkeys are also one of the many totem animals among the Shona people of Zimbabwe.

A bit of background…

In Shona culture, totems (mutupo) are usually names of animals which the individual is likened to in terms of character and personality. A totem originates from one individual (the ancestor) and is passed on to the descendants of the individual. Totems are often used to praise a person for their good deeds, to seek the favour from someone who is at higher position or to address kings and chiefs.

According to Alec J.C. Pongweni author of Shona Praise Poetry As Role Negotiation:

Shona praise poetry has its origins in the totemic system. In the totemic system a clan associates itself with an animal, for example, Shumba – Lion, Soko – Monkey, Mhofu – Beast, etc. This animal is chosen because of certain admirable characteristics of appearance, demeanour and hunting tactics or the manner in which it feeds.

The members of the clan are supposed to emulate these traits.

The praise poem (detembo) is derived from the characteristics of the totem animal as well as those presented by the clan. These could be their famous victories, failures which cast them to the ground, their struggles for recognition, their idiosyncrasies, favourite food, and many other traits.

The praise poem (detembo) is basically a song of flattery recited as a reward for socially commendable acts. Praise poems (detembo) serve to build confidence and self esteem for the individuals being praised, creating a sense of worth and identity in a person.

Totems and praise poems are two different things. A totem (mutupo)  is used to address its bearer. A praise poem (detembo) is used to thank the bearer of the totem. According to Pongweni, young children are not supposed to be thanked by their praise poems; they are thanked by their totems only. Praise poems are for grownups, especially those who are married. Girls are never thanked by their fathers praise poems; they are thanked only by their totems. If they grow up they will be thanked by their husbands praise poems, if they are married. The boys also will be thanked by their praise poems if they marry a wife.

Learning the praise poetry for my totem…

For the better part of this year I have been trying to get members of my extended family to teach me how to recite the Shona praise poetry (detembo) for my totem Soko, the monkey. Finding someone to teach me this detembo proved to be more difficult than I had initially anticipated.  For starters many members of my family are spread not only across Zimbabwe, but across the world. And despite the ubiquity of technology in our lives which has made it easier to stay in touch with my aunts and uncles both in the rural areas and in Diaspora I was still unable to make any headway. No one seemed to know the proper detembo for our totem Soko.

When I had initially taken my parents to task as part of the research for my book they confessed to only having a vague idea on how to recite the praise poetry for my totem Soko (the monkey). My parents and everyone else I asked kept referring to my late great aunt (my paternal grandfather’s sister) who from all accounts was a renowned reciter of the praise poetry of our clan. However, in a complete betray of the oral traditions that are deeply ingrained in our Shona culture no one I had access to had learned this most fascinating form of verbal artistry from her. This didn’t sit well with me. And the more I thought about this the more obsessed I became with learning the detembo for Soko, if only for posterity’s sake.  Surely someone in our clan who I might not be immediately related to would know. They had to.

To be fair, I did learn a thing or two that I hadn’t known before. One uncle shared with me an anecdote about how our totem, the monkey taught the white men how to sit on chairs. The white men he said to me, learned how to sit on chairs by watching and copying how the monkeys sat on branches. Because of this people who had the monkey as their totem were revered for their ingenuity amongst other traits. However, he couldn’t quite remember whether this anecdote was actually part of the detembo or if it was just a story he had been told when he was younger.

 

All this happened at the top of the year and between then and as recently as this past weekend I hardly made any further progress in my quest. In fact I had put the whole thing at the back of my mind.

That was until I finally caught a break from the most unlikely of sources, the ordination ceremony of a Catholic priest. My mother, a staunch catholic attended the ordination ceremony of a priest from our local parish. To those unfamiliar with ordination ceremonies (like I was), they are basically the Priesthoods equivalent of a marriage ceremony. In this case the priest is marrying the ‘church’. Anyway as part of the celebrations the parish women decided to recite the detembo for the priest in question. And as luck would have it this particular priest was a Soko.

Things got even better when the Priests father, in effort to make sure that the detembo was recited accurately gave each the women (my mother included) printed copies of the detembo to recite. And that is how I came to be in possession of a written copy of the detembo for my totem Soko.

But wait, it gets better …

There is more…

According to Shona oral traditions, the adoption of totemism is associated with the earliest known ancestor of the Shona people, Mambiri . He chose the Soko (Monkey) totem to guard against incestuous behaviour and also for the social identity of his followers. This took place in a mythical place called Guruuswa, which was located somewhere north of the Zambezi River in southern Tanganyika. As the early Shona grew in number and marriage became difficulty, due to the fact that they practiced the custom of exogamy (marrying only outside one’s clan), there was need to adopt a second totem. The Shava/Mhofu (Eland) totem was therefore adopted so as to enable intermarriage between members of the two totems to take place. In contemporary Shona society there are at least 25 identifiable totems (mitupo).

By that account, that actually makes my totem Soko, the monkey one of the originals.

This is also something that is detailed in the praise poetry for my totem which I have  shared below in both its original Shona form as well as an accompanying English version.

 

Soko

Ewoi Soko,

Vhudzijena, Mukanya

Hekanhi Mbereka

Makwiramiti, mahomu-homu

Vanopona nekuba

Vanamushamba negore

Makumbo mana muswe weshanu

Hekani Soko yangu yiyi

Vakaera mutupo umwe nashe

Vana VaPfumojena

Vakabva Guruuswa

Soko Mbire yaSvosve

Vanobva Hwedza

Vapfuri vemhangura

VekuMatonjeni vanaisi vemvura

Zvaitwa matarira vari mumabwe

Mhanimani tonodya, svosve tichobovera

Maita zvenyu rudzi rukuru

Matangakugara

Vakawana ushe neuchenjeri

Vakufamba hujeukidza kwandabva

Pagerwe rinongova jemedzanwa

Kugara hukwenya-kwenya

Vari mawere maramba kurimba

Vamazvikongonyadza kufamba hukanyaira

Zvibwezvitedza, zvinotedzera vari kure

Asi vari padyo vachitamba nazvo

Zvaitwa mukanya rudzi rusina chiramwa

Maita vari Makoromokwa, Mugarandaguta

Aiwa zvaonekwa Vhudzijena

 

Translated into English

Thank you Soko

White-hair, The Pompous one

Thank you Bearer of Children

The Tree-climber, one-who-always-barks

Those who survive by stealing

Those who bath only once in a year

Those who have four legs, the tail being the fifth

Thank you very much my dear Soko

Those who have the same totem as the chief

The descendants of Pfumojena

Those who came from Guruuswa

Soko Mbire of Svosve

Those who come from Hwedza

The iron-smelters

The rain-makers of Matojeni

A good service has been done the alert one, those in the rocks

We eat centipedes, we throw ants into our mouths

Thank you for the good service, great lineage

The original inhabitants

Those who obtained chieftainship through shrewdness and diplomacy

The one who constantly looks back when moving

Wherever they settle there is quarreling and crying

When seated you are constantly scratching your body

Those always on the cliffs, who refused to till the land

The pompous one who walks proudly

The Slippery-rocks that are slippery to those come from afar

But is friendly to those in the vicinity

It has been done, a lineage that does not refuse to perform a task no matter how it is treated

Those on the steep rocks and cliffs, one-who-rests-only-when-he-is-full

Indeed your kindness has been seen, White-hair

 

From the English version of the poem, the praises “White hair”, “Bearer of children”, “Those who have four legs, the tail being the fifth”, for instance, makes reference to the behaviour of the animal totem. However, praises like “Those who have the same totem as the chief”, “Those who come from Guruuswa”, “The descendants of Pfumojena”, “The rain-makers of Matonjeni”, “Those who come from Hwedza”, “The Iron-smelters”, refer to the history and the professions of the long departed ancestors of the clan.

And there you have it, I finally know the praise poetry for my totem. In the process I have learned a little bit more about the history of my ancestors. Something I am sure was always part of the motivation behind the use of praise poetry.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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5 Essential FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 Reads

Today marks the beginning of the second week of the World Cup. And what a week it has been. Even though it’s only seven days into this tournament it’s already shaping up to be one of the most entertaining tournaments in recent memory.

Goals, red cards, penalties, upset, weird sprays, goal line technology and even more goals. That’s been The World Cup 2014 story so far.

APTOPIX Brazil Soccer WCup Croatia

 

Speaking of goals, during this World cup we have been spoilt rotten so far. They have been all kinds of goals. As of day 7 of this World Cup at least 50 goals had been scored. 5 of those coming in one thrilling encounter in which the defending champions Spain were totally annihilated by Spain. *chuckles*. The highlight of which was Robin Van Persie brilliant interpretation of The Flying Dutchman. I am pretty sure Robin Van Persie did it for the vine.

My other early contender for goal of the tournament is Tim Cahill’s sublime volley 70s after the Dutch had scored. The timing amnd the technique was perfect and it is a goal that is no doubt going straight into his career highlights reel. Tim Cahill, he from the land down under who has played in three world cups, the same as Ronaldo, Rooney and Messi and who has now got more World Cup goals than all three combined. Marinate on that.

But, the biggest story so far has to be the elimination of the once invincible La Roja, the Spanish national team. Who after only two matches of the World Cup are booking their flight home and leaving the World Cup trophy behind. It’s the end of an era. Come July 13th we will have a new World champion. Since circa 2008 the tika taka style of football synonymous with Spanish teams has reigned supreme. Many have tried and failed to combat it but it seems six years later the rest of the game has finally figured out how to neutralise its influence on the final result of games.

As an avid follower of the beautiful game I am not at all surprised at this. One thing I have learned is that the game is always evolving. There is no one way of winning football games. Spain have often been criticised for not having a plan B and they paid for it in the most humiliating of ways during this World Cup. Although I must hasten to add that I was completely blindsided by the manner in which things fell apart for the Spaniards. But hey, the game must go on.

Sidebar: My two dark horses for the tournament Chile and Belgium have impressed so far. Brazil my favourites are still on track and Ghana my African team despite being impressive in their game against USA are still to get going. So not not a bad tournament for me so far regarding my picks.

During the tournament I have hardly had time to get any writing done. If I am not watching the games I am voraciously reading any World Cup related articles I come across on the ‘internets’. And they are quite a few gems out there. I would like to share some of them today. The articles range from dealing with the racial complexities in Brazil to why some countries call it soccer and others football. The articles have helped me appreciate the world outside of the football pitch. In the process I have learned quite a few things I wouldn’t have otherwise. I hope by sharing these articles you too can also learn something new.

1. Neymar and The Disappearing Donkey – Africa is A Country

This is a fascinating and enlightening read on the complexities of race in Brazil. The article focuses on Neymar who like many Brazilians is mixed race and how issues of race in Brazil differ from the rest of the world. Make sure to read the comments section as well as they are even more insightful additions to this illuminating article.

You can read the full article here

2. The Burden of Being Messi – The New York Times

This articles looks at how despite dominating Eurpoean football and winning every club trophy and also being named World Player of the year a record four tImes, Lionel Messi arguably of the greatest players the world has ever seen is still not appreciated by his fellow Argentinians. The articles tries to answer the question Why? And the answers is summarised by this quote from a an Argentinian Taxi driver
“We’ve always liked how Messi plays,” the driver, Dario Torrisi, told me, “but we don’t know who he is.” Everybody throughout the Americas loves Diego Maradona, Torrisi said, but “it’s not the same for Messi.”

You can read the full article here

3. The Little Countries That Could – Foreign Policy

This article by Musa Okwonga looks at two countries regarded as dark horses for this World Cup in Belgium and Uruguay. Despite their relative small size and their history as geopolitical doormats they remain competitive on the footballing global stage. The author attributes much of their success not just to a passion for football but also to the inclusiveness of its culture. Uruguay for example had one a black player as their captain as far back in 1950.

You can read the full article here

4. Why Americans Call Soccer “Soccer”- The Atlantic

Looks at why different countries refer to the beautiful game as Soccer or Football respectively and the history the game was started.

You can read the full article here

5. Drogba Shows His Clout On and Off The Field – Al Jazeera

This articles looks at the role of athletes such Drogba and the legendary Brazilian Socrates as activists.

You can read the full article here

Bonus read: Soccer Fan’s Dream Job Has A Catch : No Peeking – The New York Times 

You can read the full article here

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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So You Think You Are Maradona? My Brazil World Cup 2014 Preview

Feel it. It’s here.

Football and arguably the world’s biggest sporting jamboree is finally upon us. The football World Cup starts in Sao Paulo, Brazil tonight. This marks the return of the World Cup to one of football’s grand sentimental heartlands. Brazil, the greatest footballing nation on the planet takes on Croatia at the spiritual home of Brazilian football, the imposing Maracana stadium. 64 years after Brazil lost the World Cup final at the same venue to Uruguay their quest for a record breaking 6th World Cup title begins. This will be the first of 64 games involving 32 countries over a month long period. For football aficionados everywhere this is as hedonistic as it gets.

This World Cup in Brazil is going to be the eighth World Cup to take place in my lifetime. The first was Mexico World Cup ’86. I wasa toddler. Whilst Diego’EL Diego’ Maradona was dribbling his way into football folklore on the pitches of Mexico in 1986, first with the infamous ‘hand of god’ and then with the most brilliant individual goal ever scored at a World Cup tournament, halfway across the world I was kicking my first ever football. My father a lifelong football fan had begun sowing the seeds of what was to grow into a lifelong passion and love for the beautiful game. Maradona went on to single handily win that World Cup for Argentina.

So You Think You Are Maradona? Your truly  learning to kick a football in 1986. I was two years old.

So You Think You Are Maradona? Your truly learning to kick a football in 1986. I was two years old.

Despite getting this early start I wasn’t exceptionally talented when it came to dancing with the ball around the ankles of other kids. I was no Maradona. Not by a long shot. But I loved the game. I followed the careers of my favourite players religiously. The fact that I wasn’t the most gifted kid on the playground did not diminish my appetite for the game. On the contrary it fuelled it. Mine became more and more of a vociferous involvement, albeit at a televisual distance. My limited talent gave me an even greater appreciation for all those great players who used the football pitch as the canvas on which they painted their masterpieces.

My second World Cup, Italia ’90 is one I vaguely remember. It is the World Cup in which a 38 year old Cameroonian, Roger Miller announced the arrival of African football on the World Cup stage by flamboyantly dancing around the corner flag every time he scored on his way to leading Cameroon to the Quarter finals, the furthest any African team had gone. Cameroon had also opened that tournament with a win against the defending champion’s Argentina. They would bow out controversially to England in the last eight. FIFA subsequently went on to offer African teams an extra place at the next World Cup. Italia ’90 was won by West Germany.

By the time USA ’94 came around I was 10 years old and had become psychotically absorbed by the beautiful game. I had fallen truly, madly and deeply in love with a certain Manchester United. This would become the vehicle which would drive my passion for the game for years to come. The ’94 World Cup is the first World Cup that I remember clearly. This is the tournament in which I was first captivated by the flare and free flowing Samba style of Brazilian football. I remember watching the likes of Captain Dunga and Romario as they dazzled in the butter yellow and royal blue colours of Brazil. I had never seen anything like it. It was like watching poetry in motion. It was love at first sight.

Brazil went on to win that World Cup. The first and only World Cup to date to be decided by penalties. A certain pony tailed Italian Roberto Baggio face down, arms akimbo; possibly reflecting on a glorious but doomed soliloquy as the Brazilian players celebrated wildly in the background is one of the lasting images of that World Cup. Despair and disbelief poignantly juxtaposed against unbridled joy and celebration.

When the France ’98 World Cup rolled around I was now a pimple faced teenager in my second year of high school. I was in boarding school at the time and the atmosphere in the TV room during the games is one of the most electrifying and intoxicating atmospheres I have ever experienced during a World Cup. It was as rowdy as it was jovial. Hundreds of teenage boys huddled around the TV, shouting, singing and dancing as they urged their heroes towards World Cup glory. It was like being in a stadium. Unfortunately for me the Brazilians lost that World Cup final to the mercurial Frenchman Zenidine Zidane’s Les Blues, the host nation. That final was also notable for the dismal performance of one Ronaldo who had in he build up to the final been Brazil’s star player. It is widely reported that the striker had suffered a seizure earlier in the day and this no doubt affected his performance in the final.

Ronaldo would however get a chance to redeem himself and cement his legacy at the next World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea in 2002. In the final against the Germans he would score both goals in helping Brazil win their fifth World Cup title. The most by any nation. And Brazil’s last World Cup win.The was also the last World Cup I would watch in boarding school.

Fast forward to the World Cup hosted by Germany in 2006. I am now in my early twenties and studying down under, my love for the beautiful game as strong as ever. My memories of that tournament are of having to get up between 2am and 4am just to watch the games. My Singaporean housemate and I would make our way to our Italian football coach’s houses in the wee hours of the morning and watch the games with some of our other teammates. It wasn’t quite the same atmosphere as the two World Cups during my high school days but we did just share the same passion for the beautiful game. Italy went on to win that tournament. Our coach made sure we never forgot that.

When the World Cup came to the Motherland for the first time in 2010 I had since graduated and was by now working in Melbourne. Unfortunately because of circumstances outside my control I would not make it to South Africa 2010 as had been the plan all along. I consoled myself with the purchase of a big flat plasma screen HD TV and a state of the art home theatre system. This was the first World Cup I watched in high definition. It was only the loneliest World Cup experience Ihave had to date. For most of the games which again were in wee hours of the morning it was just me and my TV. My saving grace was Facebook which provided a platform for me to engage in some banter with my football loving friends. But it just wasn’t the same. And that is why South Africa 2010 is not high up on my list of the most memorable World Cup tournaments. Spain went on to win that tournament whilst the Brazilians unfortunately were a pale shadow of their former glorious selves.

This brings me to Brazil 2014 World Cup, my eighth world cup. I have since left my twenties behind, earlier this year. This is my first World Cup as an adult that I will get to experience with my father, the man who fostered the love of the beautiful game in me. In many ways it feels like I have come full circle and I intend on Indulging myself to fullest on this year’s football fiesta in Brazil.

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My World Cup Picks for Brazil 2014

Brazil are my favourites to lift the World Cup trophy come the 13th of July. They play the beautiful game just the way I like it. With panache. They are also playing in their own backyard which I believe will give an added advantage, not that they really need it. This Brazilian squad is a young but experienced one but with Neymar Jnr a thrillingly nimble footed inside forward with gossamer touch, a conjurer’s skills to beat a man and, best of all, an air of being entirely unfazed by the rapt attention of the Brazilian populace as their talisman they have a good a chance as anyone to go all the way. Defending Champions Spain on paper are the best team at the tournament and on their best day there are virtually unplayable. The usual suspects, Germany, Italy and Holland should also be in with a chance. If both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have decent tournaments for their respective teams then expect Portugal and Argentina to also be in with a shout.

A mural depicting Brazil's Neymar, Fred and Hulk near São Paulo, where the World Cup begins on Thursday. Photograph: Shuji Kajiyama/AP

A mural depicting Brazil’s Neymar, Fred and Hulk near São Paulo, where the World Cup begins on Thursday. Photograph: Shuji Kajiyama/AP

The team that my heart wants to win the tournament is Ghana. Ghana, under Kwame Nkrumah was one of the first African countries to gain independence in the early sixties. Their first president Kwame Nkrumah was one of the early pioneers of Pan Africanism. It would make a for a beautiful story if Ghana went on to become the first African country to win the World Cup. The odds though are heavily stacked against the ‘Black Stars’ after being drawn in the ‘Group of Death’ alongside European powerhouse Germany, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and the USA. But hey, if you want to be the best you have got to beat the best. Also after coming a penalty kick away from reaching the semi finals in South Africa four years ago I believe they are due more than just a date with Lady Luck this time around.

Belgium are my dark horse to win the tournament. They had undefeated run to this year’s World Cup finals and boast one of the most talented albeit inexperienced squads at the World Cup. This is definitely Belgium’s golden generation.The neutral in me would to see them win the World Cup. Chile if things go their way are another dark horse. They play a free flowing and dynamic style of football that is a pure joy to watch. A win for Chile would be a win for beautiful football.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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My Top 5 Brazil World Cup 2014 Commercials

1. Nike Soccer – The Last Game

Of all the world cup ads I’ve watched this is the only one that’s in animation. And it’s awesome. It stars the original Ronaldo as Nick Fury. That alone is worth watching the ad for. The ad also features animated versions of Christiano Ronaldo,Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Franck Ribery among others taking on evil clones to restore the unpredictability in football.

 

2. Adidas – The Dream : all in or nothing ft music by Kanye West

This is a call to arms from the team at Adidas. ‘Destiny is not fate. You have a choice. Fear or be feared. Hunt or be hunted. Evolve or die. Now or never. It’s black or white. all in or nothing.’

Sidebar: Bastian Schweinsteiger has the coolest name in world football. If I was German and I was good that good at football my name would definitely be Bastian Schweinsteiger. Just feels awesome saying it. Bastian Schweinsteiger.


3. Beats by Dre – The Game Before The Game ft Neymar Jr, LeBron James, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Rio Ferdinand, Serena Williams, and Thierry Henry.

This ad plays out like a trailer to a major Hollywood blockbuster. Narrated by Neymar da Silva Sr the ad looks at the behind the scenes preparations of the world’s most elite football players … ‘Before the goals, before the glory, there is an unseen game played in the locker room.’


4. MacDonald’s GOL! FIFA Brasil World Cup 2014

Despite fitness and McDonald’s not exactly being the best of friends, the fast food giants have come up with a very tricky ad involving some of the coolest moves ever performed with a football. Highlights include one man kicking a ball from a moving truck, over a bridge and into a bucket two metres in front of him.

 

5. Nike Soccer: Winner Stays ft Ronaldo, Neymar Jr, Wayne Rooney etc

A great ad that involves a bunch of kids having a game of football and imitating their idols before literally turning into their idols.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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