China in your hand: the lowdown on Chinese pop

in Beijing

Since the late 1970s, Chinese music has bloomed from a monochromatic array of traditional operas and communist anthems into a soundscape as diverse as the country’s 1.3 billion people. Pop divas vie for airspace with classical pianists, hip-hop artists and underground rock bands. Yet in China, just as anywhere, cash is king – and the most popular music, blaring from taxicab radios and department store speakers, is distinctly ringtone- and karaoke-friendly. Mainstream songs are synthy, saccharine, easy to sing; less established artists take pride in pushing the envelope, undaunted by the financial consequences.



Tang Zhi-kei, better known as GEM, is one of Hong Kong’s most popular young stars. GEM (“Get Everybody Moving,”) is Britney Spears to Peng Liyuan’s Barbra Streisand. She represents new wave of young Mickey Mouse Club-style pop icons, groomed from a young age to top the Cantonese pop (or “Canto-pop”) charts. The 21-year-old, often praised for writing her own material, sings immaculately produced love songs accompanied by drum machines and sweeping synth strings.



Formed in 1997, the three-piece indie-rock band unofficially preside over Beijing’s underground rock scene – over the past decade, they’ve climbed from the city’s smoky clubs into the raggedest edges of its mainstream youth culture. Described as post-punk, post-folk and DIY; they sport Chuck Taylors and tattoos. PK14 come across as more Brooklyn than Beijing, their sound a melange of distorted guitars, tortured vocals and driving drums, heavy and dissonant.

Lang Lang


Aside from being one of the most famous classical pianists in the world, Lang Lang is also a stock role model in China, where his early-childhood piano lessons have become a symbol of unbridled middle-class ambition. The 30-year-old studied at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia – perhaps the world’s most prestigious conservatory – and lives in New York. Fans praise his ebullient style (head thrown back, fingers arched above the keys), while critics deride his playing as maudlin and immature.

Wang Feng


Beijing native Wang Feng, 41, is a protege of Cui Jian, a 1980s rock star who found inspiration in earthy folk songs from the country’s arid northwest. Wang’s voice is gruff and his lyrics tend towards nostalgia. “I still remember the long gone spring days, when I still hadn’t cut my long hair,” he sings in 2009 ballad In Spring. “I didn’t have a credit card, I didn’t have her/ I didn’t have a home with hot water running 24 hours a day/ and yet, those days, I was so happy.”



Elka is a pseudonym. The real name of the Russian pop singer is Elizaveta (like one of the Russian empresses).

A nice combination of good vocals and originality.

Elizaveta moved from Ukraine to Moscow.

The song is about freedom, the opportunity to go on holiday wherever you want. And what great things can happen to you:

“… A cozy cafe…

With red wine…

You can say that this is just a silly dream …”


The real name of the Russian pop singer Slava is Anastasia Slanevskaya.

One day after work she was singing in a karaoke club and a well-known producer heard her. He waited for her to finish, and invited her to work together.

The song is about loneliness, about how hard it is to “keep the mark” and still crave a close relationship.

“Stone lady …

Never cries,

Believes no one…

It hurts all the same…”


Gradusy is the Russian pop group. The leader of the group is Dmitry Bakhtinov. He was joined by Roman Pashkov, Ruslan Tagiyev and, in different years, drummers Viktor Golovanov and Anton Grebyonkin.

Initially, the song was written using dark colors – the author experienced a personal loss. Then the song was rewritten in a positive way.

The song says that after a personal loss you need to get up and move on.

“In this movie I am the main actor,

I’m a writer and a director…

Unloved, forgive me,

My love – love me.”


30.02 is a non-existent date – February 30th.

In this music band there are two Russian musicians: Mikhail Shalmanov and Valentin Tkach.

The song is about the romance of a big city, about simple and light – about love.

“I want to share with you

Stars in the puddles,

Warm dinner want to share with you…

We have so much to say to each other

And let the world wait”


This Russian pop group consists of the singer Anna Pletneva and sound producer Alexei Romanov.

The song “Aquarius” is about women’s experiences.

“I gave it my all, and I don’t regret!

And despite all autopilots,

I live in spite of horoscopes!”


Serebro is a Russian female pop group. Serebro means silver.

The group includes Olga Seryabkina, Daria Shashina and Polina Favorskaya.

Serebro won the 3rd prize at the “Eurovision” competition.

This is a song about love from the point of view of a possessive woman.

“Never, never, to nobody

I will not give you up…”


Dima Bilan is the alias of the singer Viktor Belan.

Dima Bilan twice participated in the competition “Eurovision”: with the song «Never let you go» he took second place, and with the song «Believe» he took first place.

The song “Crazy about you” is about love.

“You are the bright sun…

We’ll wake up together…

A moment of true happiness…”


Sati Kasanova

Sati Kasanova

A duet of the Russian singer Sati Kasanova and Arsenium.

The song is a love story. It’s hard to think about the future. You should enjoy this moment.

“A little bit of money in the pocket,

And my friends and I are hanging at a bar…

And until dawn let love burn…”


Pizza is a music group with elements of pop, funk and something else.

City, and teen love carried through years – this is what music video “Arms” is about.

“The soul was flying over puddles, but April didn’t give me a cold.

I think I killed myself with your deadly weapon.”


Anna Semenovich (March 1, 1980, Moscow) – Russian pop singer. Interestingly, Anna used to be a figure skater.

The song “I’ll follow you” is about how a woman lost her head in love.

“I’ll follow you to the ends of the earth…

I’ll follow you in your footsteps…”


The Ingenium Academy International Summer School for Music

The Ingenium Academy offers four exceptional musical programmes: orchestral, vocal, piano and saxophone. Young conductors can also apply for our Conducting Week.

We offer our students a unique musical and cultural experience with exclusive tuition from world renowned musicians, performances in top British venues and the opportunity to meet like-minded friends from all over the world within our environment of creative excellence. Based in beautiful and historic Winchester College, Ingenium is a truly unique programme, an invaluable experience and an unforgettable summer.

The clock is ticking for Spotify

It’s amazing to think that just 10 years ago, flat-rate digital music streaming services were a mere gleam in the eye of industry executives.

It was as recently as September 2007 that Rick Rubin, then co-head of Columbia Records, put forward the idea as a way of combating online music piracy and file-sharing.

“You’d pay, say, $19.95 a month, and the music will come from anywhere you’d like,” he told the New York Times.

“In this new world, there will be a virtual library that will be accessible from your car, from your cell phone, from your computer, from your television.”

As it turned out, he was essentially describing Spotify, which launched just over a year later.

He even got the price right. In those heady days, when the pound was a lot stronger, $19.95 was equivalent to £10, which, give or take a penny, is the monthly cost of Spotify Premium in the UK today.

But Spotify is yet to make a profit, while plans to float the firm on the stock market have reportedly been delayed, raising a big question mark over its business model.

Industry accolade

Of course, Spotify isn’t the only streaming platform out there. Others have joined it over the past decade, including Apple Music, Amazon Prime Music and Deezer, as well as high-resolution music services Tidal and Qobuz.

But Spotify is seen as the leader, with more than 100 million users, 40 million of them paid-up subscribers to its Premium tier.

Daniel EkImage copyrightAFP
Image captionSpotify’s Daniel Ek is now the music industry’s most powerful player, says Billboard

The Swedish firm is now a major player in 60 countries, including the world’s biggest music market, the US, where streaming accounted for 51% of music consumption last year.

Reflecting the huge impact that Spotify has had, its chief executive, Daniel Ek, has just topped US music industry magazine Billboard’s latest Power 100 list of the biggest movers and shakers in the business.

“For the first time since [former file-sharing service] Napster decimated music sales, the recorded music industry is showing signs of growth, and that reversal of fortune is largely due to one man,” Billboard said in its citation.

The magazine also hailed Spotify as “the place fans discover music as well as consume it”, pointing to its promoted playlists, including its Discover Weekly service.

Royalty woes

However, the clock is ticking for Spotify as it hatches its plans to go public.

The firm originally planned to float this year, but according to the TechCrunch website, this could now be delayed until 2018.

There are various issues behind this move, not least of which is that Spotify needs to conclude new long-term licensing deals with the big three record companies – Universal, Sony and Warner – to avoid the risk of suddenly losing major chunks of its content.

It’s thought that Spotify currently pays 55% of its revenue to record labels in royalties, with additional money going to music publishers.

In the interest of finally becoming a profitable company, it would like to lower that percentage, but this is unlikely to go down well with artists, who argue that the royalties they receive from streaming are unfairly low as it is.

Brutal arithmetic

But if it waits too long before floating, it could face a serious cash crisis.

In March last year, the firm raised $1bn from investors at an interest rate of 5% a year, plus a discount of 20% on shares once the initial public offering (IPO) of shares takes place.

Spotify appImage copyrightAFP
Image captionIs Spotify now too big to fail?

However, under the terms of the agreement, the interest rate goes up by one percentage point and the discount by 2.5 percentage points every six months until the IPO happens.

So as time goes on, Spotify must pay ever larger sums to its creditors just to settle the interest on its loan, while the amount of money it can raise from its IPO is trimmed by an ever greater amount.

Unless Mr Ek can get the better of this brutal arithmetic, the future looks tough for Spotify.

But at the same time, as Billboard says, “the entire music business now has an interest in its success”.

“If it’s not already too big to fail, it’s headed in that direction quickly,” concludes the magazine.

‘La La Land’ Composer Justin Hurwitz Created 1,900 Piano Demos To Find Just the Right Melodies: Awards Spotlight

The Oscar-nominated musician breaks down his exhaustive collaboration with director Damien Chazelle.

A Foundation Goes All-In On Classical Music Education for Underrepresented Communities

A little over two years ago, the William Penn Foundation announced funding cuts to Philadelphia’s dance organizations. And while the reaction among the dance community was understandably swift and strident—”It’s like cutting off the legs and cutting out the heart,” said choreographer and dancer Melanie Stewart—the cuts also underscored the degree to which an entire city’s arts sector can be reliant on a single funder.

Fortunately, the pendulum sometimes swings both ways. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation recently made an unprecedented $2.5 million multi-year grant to the Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth (PMAY)—a consortium of music education organizations serving students all over Greater Philadelphia.

Overnight, the grantmaker has become one of the preeminent funders of the city’s music organizations. Its goal: Remove barriers to music mastery for young instrumental musicians from underrepresented communities.

To that end, the grant will prepare the most committed young musicians in the area, ensuring that they possess the “necessary skills and talents to excel in conservatory, college, or university settings.” The newly funded program—known as the “PMAY Artists’ Initiative”—will start this spring with musician recruitment, and the first group of around 75 student participants will be chosen by the summer. Each student will benefit from tailored plans to set them up for future successes as they pursue future music schooling.

Add it all up, and the gift is classic Mellon. The grantmaker is deeply committed not only to the preservation and reinvention of classical music, but also to the idea of creating a career roadmap for aspiring performers.

The gift also dovetails with Mellon’s goal of boosting diversity in the classical sphere. African-Americans, for example, make up 43.4 percent of Philadelphia’s population, and when viewed through this lens, the gift bears a striking resemblance to Mellon’s recent gift to the Memphis Symphony Orchestra (MSO) to develop a “musician diversity fellowship program.”

We’ve seen Mellon award classical-focused grants to individual symphonies and organizations before, but never on this scale. Indeed, according to Christopher Spangler, a spokesman from PMAY member Settlement Music School, Philadelphia is the “first city in the nation to receive funding at this level” from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the future of young musicians.

I’ll let Maud Lyon, president of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, have the last word: “This transformative grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is a strategic, long-term investment that ensures that talented young musicians, regardless of their resources or background, will have access to the incredible array of arts education opportunities that these organizations provide.”

Miami Music Festival

Spend the summer in Miami studying and performing with world-class faculty! Miami Music Festival is accepting applications with programs in Orchestra, Piano,Conducting and Opera . Highlights include master classes, lessons, symphonic concerts, recital and chamber music, and a Concerto Competition granting winners from all institutes a solo performance in concert with the MMF Symphony Orchestra. Faculty highlights include Alessio Bax, Joel Smirnoff, Roberto Diaz, Andres Diaz, Vincent Penzarella, and many more from leading orchestras around the world. Fellowships and scholarships available.

The 2017 Medallion Concerto Competition

The 2017 Medallion Concerto Competition is open to all ethnicities, and nationalities from all countries. There is no age limit. This competition is open to the following instrumentalists: voice, piano, strings, winds, brass, and percussion. Participants are required to submit video links for the audition. After preliminary video screening, 10 participants will be invited to audition live.


The Medallion Concerto Competition bestows one medal – GOLD.

$2,500 Cash Prize and Performance with Orchestra Noir during the 2017 – 2018 Concert Season

(Travel stipend and hotel accommodations included for the duration of the rehearsals and concert).

How to Apply

To apply for the Competition participants must submit:

  • Completed Online Application Form
  • YouTube or Vimeo link to the video recording
  • Application fee

Application deadline

Submission of application  materials will be closed on March 28, 2017 at 6:00 p.m.

Application Fee

Application Fee is $100. Application Fees are non-refundable and are to be made via PayPal (See bottom of this page). Application is not complete until fee has been submitted.

Audition Process & Competition Rules

Repertoire Requirements. Applicants must submit link to video recording of:

One movement of a Concerto from the Standard Repertoire (Baroque, Classical, Romantic and early 20th Century).

Video recording  for instrumentalists may be performed unaccompanied, omitting tutti and orchestra -only sections.

Vocalists should perform an opera aria or folk/traditional work. Selections must be performed from memory with piano accompaniment.

Only unedited video can be accepted for the preliminary round (parts of video connected together or video clips are not acceptable). Video should be a fair representation of the Contestant’s abilities, but need not be of a professional quality.

Links must be labeled – piece and composer. Contestants must perform from memory.

 The decisions of the Judges are final and cannot be appealed. Applicants invited to the live audition may request comments from the judges following the competition.

Participates invited to the live audition will be listed on the Orchestra Noir website ( on April 17, 2017.

Invited participates who are unable to audition live for any reason will be disqualified, allowing their invitation to be handed on to another qualifying participate.

Live Audition

Participates invited to audition live must perform audition piece (one movement only – this piece may be a different piece than the video audition) from memory, unaccompanied by piano with omission of orchestral tutti sections. Vocalists must perform with piano accompaniment. For out of state or international vocal participants,we assist in securing an accompanist if needed.

 The live audition will be held on June 17, 2017 at Piano Works located at: 2805 Buford Hwy, Duluth, GA 30096.

 All participants are responsible for their own expenses (travel, housing accommodations, etc.).

Sounds of the 1860s: listen to the earliest recordings known

Before the music world had even heard of streaming and downloads, sound recordings were etched onto wax cylinders or even captured by the smoke from an oil lamp. Some of these recordings still exist today…

1890: Tchaikovsky speaks

In 1890 a group of musicians got together in Russia to marvel at some state-of-the-art technology: the Edison phonograph cylinder. Among them were composers Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Anton Rubinstein, pianist and conductor Vasily Safonov and music-loving businessman Julius H Block.

And what does he do when faced with this early example of technology that would revolutionise the music world? He does what anyone would: talks rubbish and makes silly noise.

The recording is held at the Tchaikovsky House in Russia

1860: the human voice recorded in smoke

An oil lamp helped capture the first recording of the human voice known to exist. Parisian inventor Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville created a device called a phonautograph, which etched visual sound waves onto paper covered in soot and smoke from a burning oil lamp. The inventor never intended to playback the recording, but one-and-a-half centuries later, the etchings have been deciphered and digitised.

1889: Brahms plays his Hungarian Dance No. 1 

As audio treasures go, this is perhaps one of the most precious available to any music lover. In 1889, the great Johannes Brahms was recorded on a wax cylinder playing one of his Hungarian Dances. There’s much debate as to whether the voice heard on the recording is that of Brahms himself, but it’s definitely him thundering out his composition on the piano.

1888: ‘The Lost Chord’

This is the earliest recording of music known to exist. In 1888 a recording of Arthur Sullivan’s song ‘The Lost Chord’ was etched onto a phonograph cylinder. Sullivan was astounded at this new technology, but had his reservations too. At the time he said “I can only say that I am astonished and somewhat terrified at the result of this evening’s experiments: astonished at the wonderful power you have developed, and terrified at the thought that so much hideous and bad music may be put on record forever.”

1904: The Last Castrato

The practice of castration was outlawed in Italy in 1870, but luckily/unluckily Alessandro Moreschi made the cut (sorry) and has since become known as ‘the last castrato’. He enjoyed a long career and in the 1900s he made a few recordings: however, Moreschi was a bit past his prime when this was captured on wax. But it’s a fascinating insight into a now long-lost voice type.

How an Indian maestro is taking classical music to the masses

India’s southern Indian city of Chennai (Madras) is witnessing a musical revolution of sorts.

Leading the way is celebrated classical musician and Ramon Magsaysay award winner TM Krishna.

The Carnatic music vocalist has critiqued the south Indian classical music industry for being under the dominant preserve of the upper-caste Brahmin community. He wants to create more inclusive egalitarian spaces where the arts of all communities come together in the city.

To that effect Krishna has been seen across Chennai, on various platforms, taking his music outside the hallowed portals of the city’s prestigious sabhas or music halls, setting a personal example.

Krishna took his music, spoken of in sacred terms by most performers, to a fishing village on the shores of the Bay of Bengal in Chennai.

Open to the sky and sea, the entire village served as a concert hall for the alternate festival, the Urur-Olcott Kuppam Vizha that “celebrates oneness” this month.

Krishna has joined hands with Nityanand Jayaraman, a prominent social activist, to make the village a venue for holding open-air concerts with the aim of “bringing down barriers, equalising spaces and de-classing the arts”.

“Krishna is using art to heal differences and break stereotypes and liberate the art to new spaces,” says Mr Jayaraman.

Chennai festival
Image caption Classical music concerts are now held in fishing villages in Chennai

The festival included a coming together of different forms of music and art alongside Carnatic music.

The music of the marginalised – devotional music by a community of transgender people and dirges of Chennai’s slums, for example – are being taken to “a concert space for the first time,” says Krishna.

He has even hosted “concerts in spaces symbolic of day-to-day life”, such as in crowded public buses and and railway platforms across Chennai.

Krishna believes that this effort is an important step “in addressing many cultural and artistic hegemonies and hierarchies”.


Krishna is an unusual Indian maestro who has taken the traditionally upper-caste classical music to the lower-castes and disprivileged.

He has travelled to war-ravaged Jaffna in Sri Lanka to perform and engage with Tamil students.

And back home, he has engaged in unconventional activities, like setting the lyrics of song by a local alternate rock band called Kurangan to Carnatic ragas (The basic musical modes which denote “moods” in Indian classical music) and releasing a video to highlight the environment degradation unfolding in a local creek.

“Such collaborations from the traditional world of Carnatic music with other genres and current issues make it more accessible”, says Kaber Vasuki of Kurangan.

Coming from the orthodox traditions of the south Indian classical music world, Krishna’s outreach programmes are, many believe, a first of its kind.

Image caption Chennai’s marginalised musicians are performing in public ‘concert’ places

David Shulman, one of the world’s foremost authorities on the languages of India, writes of Krishna as one, “for who music is a medium for public moral statement and an instrument for making peace”.

Krishna’s Magsaysay award citation read that Krishna saw Carnatic music “was a caste-dominated art that fostered an unjust, hierarchic order by effectively excluding the lower classes from sharing in a vital part of India’s legacy.

Politics of art

He has questioned the politics of art and made an active effort to widen his knowledge about the arts of the Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) and non-Brahmin communities.

Moved by the persecution of Tamil novelist Perumal Murugan whose writings on caste angered Hindu groups, Krishna set to music and sang an evocative poem of the writer.

Carnatic music, traditionally set to songs composed by Hindu devotional poets of the 17th Century and beyond, is a genre associated with southern Indian classical music.

Dated more than 2000 years ago, it evolved from the devotional canon of hymns and verses set to tune as musical prayer offerings in temples across southern states.

From the temples it found its audiences in the courts of kings and by talented performers.

Later it moved to concert halls across the southern cities. Chennai’s famous Carnatic music “season” – held from December to January – is a century old.

TM Krishna
Image caption Krishna wants to make classical music egalitarian

Musical concerts are held across Chennai and these concert halls are frequented by the upper castes as patrons and with predominantly Brahmin performers.

A century later Krishna is calling out his community of classical musicians to make their music more meaningful by sharing its beauty with all kinds of people.

By Sudha G TilakDelhi