audio Kultur issue 02 feb 2014 free
02 Word for the Herd
anuary is always a strange month. There’s the anti climax after the holidays, everyone’s broke and once the New Year bullshit I previously mentioned has worn off, there is a general sense of unease. For our little city by the sea the month has been no different. The random acts of violence have increased, businesses are feeling the pressure and the weather vane that is Facebook points clearly to a general sense of disheartenment. I have also personally failed to escape the inevitable January comedown. By the time you read this, überhaus, a club in which I am a partner and have been with since its inception, will have closed its doors. A premature death? Most certainly. The closure of the club has put me in a strange place. Some repressed feelings boiled over and I was forced to look them straight in the eye. What use is there for any of us to try? To do more than simply get by day-to-day or even to stay somewhere that has grown increasingly unwelcoming. The answers to these questions are not so easily addressed. None of us can predict the future. However, just as January is only 31 days out of a significantly longer year, feelings of melancholy also have an expiration date. And now February has arrived. Will it be any different than the recently passed downer that was January? Your guess is as good as mine. But that’s no reason to fucking sit and mope. So let’s force those recurring “big life” questions back down where they belong, celebrate a new paycheck/ short month combo and get back into the groove. We’ve got a new club opening this month (you know we couldn’t stay away that long) and that new release will help ease the pain of losing the old. But this is life, people are always trading one addiction for another... just make sure that your new squeeze tastes better than the last. Enjoy the mag and we’ll speak again soon, Tres Colacion Editor-In-Chief Got something to say? Write us at Junkmail@Uberhaus.me
Editor-In-Chief Tres Colacion
Editor-at-Large Emma Gatten
Art Director Ali Sayed
Andréane Williams, Martin Armstrong, Jackson Allers, Nabih Esta, Ronald Hajjar, Amanda Mallat
Original Photography Valentina Lola Vera Charbel Saadé
Table of Contents 03
04. Featured Artist:
12. Featured ARTIST:
18. Featured Artist:
24. Featured Artist:
14. Going Gonzo: Martin
26. Tuneage 28. Techno-logic
30. Feature: 34. das Komic
SUPER OUT DISCOTHEQUE
04 Featured Artist
MASTER ALIASÂ Robert Babicz, a man of many names and a regular Renaissance man, talks shop and what it takes to make it to the top By: Ronald Hajjar
Featured Artist 05
n a time of transient and throwaway music, when an artist comes on the scene with this much honesty, it's worth stopping to take a listen. Robert Babicz is a producer who stands out as a rare artist who infuses their productions with genuine emotion. With more than 20 years of DJ experience and music production under his belt, his musical output is prodigous. He is a solo act, writing, recording on his own, while manning a perpetually-expanding touring schedule where his acts are customized to each city he visits. Even further, he wows with his filming of everything around him, including his interactions with people, which he lays down with his audio as a picture track. With releases on labels including the legendary Kompakt, Bedrock, Systematic, Audiomatique and his own imprint, Babiczstyle, and his diverse array of talents, he is considered to be among the bests out there right now. We caught up with him ahead of his gig at Uberhaus for Groove Republic last month.
AK: You have Rob Acid, Dicabor, Acid Warrior and another half dozen monikers under your belt. We can truly say you are on a never-ending mission with sounds and emotions. How do you find a proper musical balance between all these aliases?
Nice that you ask. I am writing one at the moment, and I will take my camera to Beirut and hope I find something interesting.
I just do the music that I want to listen myself. But between music and traveling, I enjoy the nature.
Go out for a walk.
AK: Emotions and dynamics are very much present
in all of your tracks and live sets. Is it a crucial bonding component together with your fans?
Yes, music is the key to my heart, and through this I am careful. I think my fans feel this difference.
AK: You are a solid fixture on the Systematic Recordings
gang. How do you feel about that? Any particular relationship with the label you’d like to talk about?
Me and Marc Romboy are friends, so its not so much a business thing. He just give me a platform to release my music and work together.
AK: A quick tour inside your impressive studio - what are the analog gears that you use the most to produce, especially the acid style tracks? It's really different every time, but of course for the acid style things, I have my Roland TB-303. I am happy I have a nice room with toys to play with.
AK: With your 20 years of experience in the business, any words about the electronic music scene today? I think it's easier to produce good sounding music these days. I had massive problems during the 90s with my mixdowns. But at the same time, the competition is really hard now. To stay on top, you need way more than just good music. It makes it hard for starting into this world, but I would say, don't give up if your heart really wants it.
AK: A hub for your adventures, artistic and personal thoughts: any words about your travel book?
AK: Best thing to do on a sunny Sunday afternoon?
AK: Your most memorable gig of last year? Very hard question. Maybe my 40th birthday party in Cologne, as 700 people started to sing "Happy Birthday" when I stopped my set, after I had already played over four hours.
AK: What are you working on at the moment? An upcoming album or EP on the way? There is a lot in the works now, new stuff for Systematic, two releases on Bedrock, a remix I'm doing for John Digweed and a lot of great EPs on my own label Babiczstyle too.
Systematic Recordings, Kompakt, Bedrock, Babiczstyle
www.robertbabicz.com www.soundcloud.com/ robbabicz www.facebook.com/ robertbabicz
Prometheus (Original Mix) Rob Acid [Babiczstyle] Sonntag (Rework) - Robert Babicz [Systematic Recordings] Remote Kiss (Original Mix) Robert Babicz [Babiczstyle] Warm Raon (Instrumental Mix) - Robert Babicz [Babiczstyle] Eastside (Original Mix) - Robert Babicz [Bedrock Records]
06 Flashbacks & Revelations
Flashbacks & Revelations A month of the hottest parties for your viewing pleasure
Flashbacks & Revelations 07
端berhaus photos by charbel saade
08 Flashbacks & Revelations
cphotosu nxt sat by carl halal
Flashbacks & Revelations 09
Merry go round photos by Paul Gorra
10 Flashbacks & Revelations
Sundazed photos by mike ossman & yara berjaoui
Flashbacks & Revelations 11
Stereo photos by charbel saade
12 Featured Artist
EMOTIONAL FIDELITY Stefan Biniak visits the Middle East for the first time, and Beirut leaves the Berlinbased DJ and producer with only good impressions By: Amanda Mallat
Featured Artist 13
t's clear to anyone who has had the opportunity to catch one of Berlin-based producer Stefan Biniak's DJ sets that the this music aficionado has an uncanny ability to channel some serious emotions while still giving people a reason to get on the dance floor. He is a talent on the rise on Dusted Decks gaining global attention, and has shared stage space with the likes of Nice7, Colombo and Cyril Hahn. His song "To Read All About It Bootleg," is a massive international hit, and displays his smooth vibe over his warm humming basslines, influenced by his early love of hip-hop and soul. Audio Kultur catches up with him after his performance at Stereo Club Nights early this January to talk about his impressions of Beirut, his first introduction to the Middle East…
AK: What was the moment you realized music was going to become your lifestyle? Who was your favorite musician when you were younger?
AK: Was Beirut different from what you were expecting? How does Beirut nightlife and the party at Stereo Club Nights compare to other places you have DJed at?
Music was always very important to me. I can use it to relax, to put me in a good mood. It`s not surprising that I started to make tracks. When I was younger, I used to listen to hip-hop and soul. I was a huge Wu-Tang-Clan and Erykah Badu Fan.
It was my first time in the Middle East, so I really had pictures from the news and media in my mind. On the other side, I have friends in Cyprus who told me about the city and how great it is to go out there...so I was expecting a good vibe. And it was awesome! So many friendly people around, so into music and dancing! So I can say it was one of my favourite places to DJ for sure.
AK: How can you describe your DJing style, and what makes your sound unique? That`s a hard question for me, because I always play out of my feelings. For sure I try to have a good timing and some surprising elements in my sets.
AK: For all the artists who have been canceling their gigs to Beirut, due to our current unstable situation, what would you like to tell them about your experience in Beirut?
AK: From your music, I realize that you love using classics, with a very warm baseline, making your sound touchy and emotional. Tell us more about your choice of music and how you get inspired.
They miss something. Of course I thought about the situation, but I was not afraid to come. I never felt uncomfortable, it is safe as long you stay in safe areas in Lebanon.
Yes, it`s all about emotions. I have to feel something special while listening to songs and I try to give it my own "electronic" touch. But I also do music just for dancing, kind of another side.
AK: Do you have any rituals before you play a gig? A must-have lucky talisman or a certain drink? Anything you have to have on your rider?
AK: Since you are from Berlin, the mother of electronic
music, how does this city influence you and your music?
Berlin has a great variation of clubs and musicians, you can find a party almost 24/7. I love the different styles here, from techno to house, with all shades between, but also concerts of awesome songwriters which are not on the radar of big labels or radio stations.
Haha, actually not. But it's always good to talk to people and have a drink before to feel how everything around is. I would never write something that isn't on the technical side in my rider, I just need a good vibe and friendly people.
City: Berlin, Germany Label: Dusted Decks Website:
https://soundcloud.com/esbee https://www.facebook.com/ stefanbiniak
I Like It feat. Alexandre Simacourbe (Stefan Biniak Remix) - Vijay [Tiefblau Records]ste Dying Breed (Stefan Biniak Private Edit) - Marissa Nadler [White Label] The Read All About It Bootleg Stefan Biniak [White Label] Water & Winte (Stefan Biniak Private Edit) - Aleah [White Label]
NIGHT OUT: JAZEERA Dance-offs in Antelias, because danceoffs in Beirut are too mainstream By: Martin Armstrong
“Why does it say “boob” on the wall?” said Bill pointing to a sign, in neon lights, on the back wall, before repeating the question to a barman standing nearby. “It doesn’t. It says “bodo”,” said the Barman rather cock-surely, before cleaning some empties from the adjacent table. The matter seemed more open to debate but we let it go, settled the tab, and stumbled out of the ambiguously named bar. It had been an eventful and enjoyable night, but minds and limbs were growing weary. Bill’s knee was beginning to hurt, an endurable consequence of several victories picked up in impromptu dance-offs earlier in the night. It was time to call it a day.
itting in a bar in Mar Mikhael, Bill, a friend visiting from out of town, held a bottle of Almaza in one hand and a fistful of popcorn in the other. The sun was threatening to rise and the bar staff had all but closed up shop for the night. A few locals stood outside unwilling to give up on their nights, chatting with chauffeurs in search of one last fare.
Earlier, feeling claustrophobic with the standard nights out on offer in Beirut, me, Bill and a couple of others had decided to head to Jazeera, a club in Antelias, frequented mainly by African and Asian migrant workers, Syrians and Lebanese trying to hit on African and Asian migrant workers, and occasional groups of very drunken, slightly desperate Westerners trying to dance and hit on African and Asian migrant workers. I’d never been to Jazeera, but the place had garnered a pretty decent reputation amongst some friends as a venue clear of many of the pretensions available at some of Beirut’s more bouji nightspots: an atmosphere more akin to a Karaoke rendition of “Wrecking Ball” than a night at Skybar … more dancing than dressage. Sadiq, a Sudanese friend I’d spoken to earlier in the week, was decisively not down for going. His recollections of previous forays a few years back were tinged by a certain nostalgia but really, he’d moved on. Sadiq told me to enjoy myself before deciding to question whether I could dance. I told him I’d chill with him the following weekend but really, I was lying. Criticism of dancing ability is tantamount to insulting mothers in my book. Another friend, and frequent visitor, had simply
warned me rather seriously not to hit on someone else’s girlfriend. It seemed like a pretty universal maxim for any night out, with the exception of perhaps an orgy. I took a mental note not to attend said friend’s parties in the future. I would however make sure to inform Sadiq under false pretenses … sweet retribution. All in all, I was expecting an eclectic mix of people and outfits, dancing to most likely fairly shit music, looking for the sort of release unavailable elsewhere in Beirut – particularly for migrant workers who might lack the funds or the requisite appearance to feel overtly welcome at other venues in Beirut, due to certain questionable door policies and divisive social paradigms at large in Lebanon. After all, we all know what a chocolate “Tarboushe” used to be called… Before heading to Antelias we’d attempted briefly to think up some sort of theme or framework to get us up for the night but ended up just feeling confused as to whether that meant we were flirting with racism: it reminded me a bit of my 10-year old self ’s sudden realization one Saturday evening watching Gladiators that I tended to want the black guy to win; or the time at university when a combustible Italian girl called me a “wigger” after I’d accidentally knocked her drink out of her hand losing my shit to “Gimme the Loot.” I tried to say something clever about not needing to be black to appreciating Sidney Poitier’s acting but ended up just mumbling incoherently about Tyrese’s performance in 2 Fast 2 Furious. Anyway, it felt like a moral victory. This time we settled for gin and tonics, and for some Godforsaken reason watched “Skins”. I also forced people to listen to some Wu Tang. We arrived at Jazeera shortly after 1 a.m, failed to persuade the taxi driver to join us, paid a $20 entrance fee + drink and headed to the bar. Drink tokens were exchanged for tall glasses of whisky, filled almost to the brim. The bar itself looked a bit like the set of a 70’s porno filmed in a non-descript ski resort somewhere
in the French Alps, fallen on hard times. Tired looking outdated wooden fixtures and a distinctly hot-rocked carpet was heavy on display. Leaving our coats in the trust of the benevolent patron working the bar (free of charge), we headed to the dance floor. The music jumped unpretentiously from Western and Arabic Pop, to Ethiopian pop: Gangnam Style meets Amr Diab. Eli, the Lebanese resident DJ, seemed convinced he wouldn’t have a problem finding a job in London on the merit of his portfolio of mixes. He even said we could bring our own mix. Unfortunately he didn’t seem to have any Ginuwine, but people in Jazeera were having a good time. There was twerking, a pimp in a bucket hat, more Gangnam Style, dance-offs, tequila shots, a smiling toilet that looked like a manatees face, a 75year old Filipino lady – and that was just some of the mischief Bill was getting up to. Meanwhile the rest of us were outside taking a break in the semi-palatial courtyard replete with fountain and argilehs a plenty. The relaxed atmosphere was temporarily broken when an attempt to balance an imaginary spirit level for a photograph lead to a pose that looked disturbingly like a quinnell, but thankfully things got back on track. Inside Bill was raising the bar in the dancing stakes, whipping out a rather audacious Stanky Leg, surrounded by a group of Filipino ladies. Soon I was facing my own dance-off, having inadvertently stumbled
into the middle of a cypher and more precisely, an Ethiopian guy rocking a basketball jersey and a blurry medallion.
drunken clientele were being escorted by bouncers to some red plastic chairs by the entrance. The twerkers and the pimp in the bucket hat seemed to have departed.
“Go on mate. You’ve got this,” said Bill as the gauntlet was passed. Bill seemed to think that I’d won a dance off at Art Lounge last time he’d been in town. On that occasion, I’d apparently finished my opponent with a particularly bold Hangman’s Jig. This time things were over much more quickly. I fell over in under a second, over-extending whilst trying to get low. I thought about ad-libbing like it was all part of the routine, but it just wasn’t. Nil point. I cursed Sadiq’s oracular veracity. Now I’d definitely send him to that orgy.
“Smoke?” enquired a voice from stage-left.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of my epic choke, my conqueror had the audacity to give me a hug before proceeding to flaunt his moves in front of me like some sort of very nice talented person who you just wish would fuck off. His medallion was becoming increasingly more blurry. I tried to lean on Bill for support, but he had embarked on some sort of George Wassouf drivenfrenzy. I found myself staring at a Blake Griffin jersey to maintain focus, saw my reflection in a mirror that ran along the back wall and suddenly realized that the club was half the size I had originally thought.
“Name’s Rasta,” said a Sudanese guy rocking a Bob Marley t-shirt, a beanie embellished with an image of Che Guevara, and an all denim jeans-jacket combo. I’d noticed him inside a few minutes earlier. He had a quizzical smile on his face. He’d probably witnessed my epic failure, I thought self-consciously. After some small talk, Rasta explained that like many other Sudanese, he had left his war-torn homeland in his late teens in search of work opportunities and a better life. He’d ended up in Lebanon and was quite happy with his lot. Rasta had been working around Beirut and the Metn as a cleaner for the best part of a decade, and said that during this time he’d experienced little animosity from locals. Rasta did however yearn for peace in Sudan. It had been five years since he’d been back, he’d lost family and childhood friends to conflict, and continued to send a portion of his wages back home.
“Good use of light and space to create an optical illusion,” stated entry #14 on my voice recorder. I was becoming scientifically drunk.
“Everything is good,” said Rasta after a lull in conversation, smiling self-composedly. He hadn’t been to Jazeera in a while but said he was enjoying it. He was, however, more excited about a BBQ taking place in Jounieh the following day.
I decided to head back outside to the courtyard for a breather. It was getting into the wee hours and a few
“You want to come?” he enquired matter-of-factly, “you are welcome.”
Bill, recently exorcized from his George Wassouf trance, was also invited. Contact details were exchanged and Rasta selected an emoticon of a smiling face wearing a hat to accompany his details. I couldn’t help thinking he could do with a more original nickname. “One Love,” said Bill as Rasta departed suddenly, flanked by a girl on each arm. Rasta reciprocated with a fist pump. After some fruitful conversations about nothing in particular, a couple more tequilas and some friendly cajoling from the bouncers, we hopped in a taxi back to Beirut. Recording #18, the last of the night, taken in the taxi, relays a conversation between me and Bill speaking in indecipherable languages that no one else in the taxi seems capable or interested in participating in. Soon, it was time for a quick nightcap at boob before bed. The following afternoon me and Bill woke up in a spasm of excitement ready to head to Jounieh. But the enthusiasm was short lived. We were still drunk. Within the hour, we were both passed out on the sofa. Come evening, having somewhat re-gathered my senses, I remembered to text Rasta to apologize for not coming through. “No worries,” came the response. “P.S. nice dance moves…” … Fucker.
18 Featured Artist
PARIS NIGHTS D'Julz touts the newly cutting-edge Paris scene and explains how a residency at the Rex Club evolved into a house music label By: Ronald Hajjar Photography: Stephane Ghenacia
Featured Artist 19
renchmen D'Julz has established his Bass Culture label over the past four years as a veritable "go-to" for high-quality house music. The philosophy has been one of staying close to the music's roots, while creating his own concept of house. Before Bass Culture became a widely recognized house music label, it started as D’Julz’s own residency at Rex Club. That residency today is still the longest running night at the famous Paris venue. We caught up with the man himself: this is D’Julz, and Bass Culture!
AK: Your Bass Culture residency is the longest running club night in Rex club history. Going back to your early days, what made those nights so exceptional and what is that special something that dragged the Parisian crowd into them? I have the chance to work in a club that gave me the freedom and trust to invite the guest DJs I want, famous or not. I keep the formula very simple: me and 1 guest. So we have time to do longer sets. Most importantly, no matter if they are hot or not, I only invite artists which I think are great DJs and I’m very picky on this subject. So I guess the crowd appreciates it too.
AK: Tell us about the musical evolution of Bass Culture; from being a successful club night to developing into a label and a musical platform. It's two very distinct things. I started the label more than 10 years after the night. I thought it was logical to use the same name, as the musical identity of both are the same.
for Ovum are usually a bit more deep techno or acid than what I release on the other labels. I produced tracks which vary from deep house to more pumping things. But it's very hard to describe my own sound myself. The groove is the centerpiece and I guess there is often a hypnotic vibe to them, but it can be deeper or harder, depending on my mood. AK: How would you rate the actual French scene to other countries? It evolved quite nicely in the last few months. If you had asked me this question three years ago, I would have rated the Paris scene pretty low. But honestly, today, I'm proud to say it is my favorite scene in the world! Lots of new venues, a new crowd, super-cutting edge, open-minded and educated. Great vibe overall. I’m hoping the rest of the country will follow soon.
AK: A favorite record hailing from the 80’s Chicago House era? Jeannette Thomas - Shake your body.
AK: Bass Culture continues to grow from strength to strength over the years. Being a label boss, a touring DJ and an accomplished producer, how do you find the time to do the proper scouting for all the good releases on the label? (Or maybe you got used to that hectic schedule?) I wish I had more time to do more scouting or listen to the demos I get sent, but it's impossible right now. I’m grateful for having a bunch of faithful artists on the label who regularly send me good music and sometimes recommend new producers to me. Being a DJ, I also keep my ears wide open on who is new and interesting, and I approach them if I think their music will fit on Bass Culture.
AK: Moving on to your very solid “4 years of Bass Culture” compilation: dub and heavy low-end rhythms all along. Impressive. Can you take us through the compilation mix flow?
Pokerflat and Systematic. How can we best describe the D’Julz sound?
Having a great flow and telling a story is the priority for me in a mix. Therefore I chose tracks from the Bass Culture catalogue which made sense together. It was also important they were the most timeless ones — not necessary the biggest ones in terms of sales or plays — and as diverse as possible to reflect all the different shades of the label. AK: Anything else you’d like to tell us about? Upcoming plans? New releases? Gig schedule?
The two labels I still release EP regularly on, besides Bass Culture, are Circus Company and Ovum. I did remixes on a lot of other labels. But I try to release my original material on only on a handful of labels. That being said, I have something coming out on Robsoul this year. My sounds
I recently started a few collaborations. An EP I’ve done with Cassy will come on Bass Culture this spring. I also started some projects with Phil Weeks and Franck Roger. I’m going to move my studio this year, so hopefully once this is done, I will start working on my first artist album.
AK: You’re a regular fixture on labels like Ovum, Rekids,
This is Bass Culture: 4 years of Bass Culture Records mixed by D'Julz. Released on Bass Culture, 24 January.
Bass Culture, Ovum, Circus Company
Da Madness (2013 Mix) – D’Julz [Bass Culture] Self Construction (Original Mix) – D’Julz [Ovum Recordings] Special Day (Original Mix) – D’Julz [Circus Company] Le Visiteur (Original Mix) – D’Julz [ Circus Company] Pianissimo (D’Julz RMX) – D’Julz, Christian Burkhardt [Oslo]
Searching for the blueprint
Audio Kultur profiles Kuwaiti musician, multimedia artist, and social entrepreneur, Zahed Sultan, as he prepares to drop his 2nd full-length album By: Jackson Allers
BEIRUT – The interview was conducted over a Skype call – Zahed Sultan in Kuwait City on one end and me in Beirut on the other - the video turned off to avoid the inevitable audio glitches that come with dodgy (internet) connections in Lebanon.
uwait's best EDM export - Zahed Sultan prepares to launch his second full length album 3 years after the success of his debut LP Hi Fear, Lo Love. Relying on the edgy electronic production elements that distinguished Hi Fear and his second release The Reuse Me - EP – Sultan is expanding his live electronic repertoire with a huge army of equipment that will allow him to present an entirely new interactive audiovisual experience for his fan base. Audio Kultur caught up with Sultan before his February trip to Japan, the first stop in what is shaping up to be a robust 2014 touring schedule for his new album - regionally and internationally.
I had my notecards present, and I knew I was asking a somewhat loaded question: "Can it be said that you started a social movement in Kuwait?" There's a pause on the other end. "Truthfully, I feel hesitant to answer your question," he says, "Because the field of civic development shouldn't be about the individual - it should be about the collective. It isn't and should never be about me." Sultan is a socially conscious entrepreneur who's alterego – the electronic musician and multimedia artist - has garnered international acclaim within the house and ambient DJ cliques in Europe, the US and the Arab world. Since the release of his debut LP Hi Fear, Lo Love in 2009, he's produced a healthy catalog of edgy EDM tracks, joining a new generation of live electronic producers in the Middle East along the likes of Maurice Louca (Egypt), OkyDoky (Lebanon), Munma (Lebanon), Wetrobots <3 Bosaina (Egypt), Tarek Attoui (Lebanon), and the audio-visual group Tashweesh (Palestine). I first met Sultan at the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) Bass Camp in Dubai last September. He was
one of 31 regional artists -producers, musicians, vocalists and songwriters – who participated in three days of worships, studio sessions and guided lectures with music heavyweights such as Kenny Dope (*Masters at Work), Gareth Jones (*produced Depeche Mode, Nick Cave), Just Blaze (*produced Jay-Z) and Derrick May (*godfather of Detroit techno). I recount the first time I heard his music on the opening day of RBMA Bass Camp. He was among a select group of stand-out producers whose message seemed to resonate with everyone. No doubt part of the reason was that he made it very clear that his music was inextricably linked to his life as a “socially conscious actor” in the Arab world - Kuwait in particular. The track he played was his single “Like this -ha ka tha,” from his second release The Reuse Me-EP (2012). It featured live doumbek samples that advanced over a range of electronic sounds. The entire track had a running synth loop, creating a melodic drone for Sultan's modulated Fusha (*classical Arabic) diatribe. As he explains, “I'm calling for Arabs to stand in unity, against tyranny, and with a sense of civic pride.” According to Sultan, the track was a testament to the social frustrations that plagued the Middle East and North Africa prior to the onset of the Arab revolutions in 2011. Knowing all of this, I continue probing in our Skype interview. "What your social development organisation, 'en.v ', does - helping to instill the idea that social
responsibility is, as you say, 'The shared responsibility and collective duty of all.' I mean the effort to build a social movement is there – and your music bolsters the process, wouldn't you admit?" “It is a part of me,” he explains, “I feel that when I express myself through the different mediums – be it through social development or music - I kind of want to be 'grounded' in something that I can relate to as an individual and hopefully build a kind of network - you call it a movement. I call it a 'network.' Truth is there is a growing population that is so enamored by social media that they are absorbing pop culture all over the world because they're receiving it at their fingertips or their phones. Why can't we – as Arabs - be a part of that dialog?” Sultan is a part of that dialog, utilizing an arsenal of digital tools to get his message out to the world. I was turned on to his music catalog through his online aggregator – Mouse Music (dot) org – that documents all of his artistic exploits. Mouse Music is a single webpage that is linked to nearly every online broadcast medium possible - YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, etcetera. It is a complete exercise in branding. Indeed, Mouse Music and his social development org en.v are under the umbrella of the El Boutique Creative Group (EBCG), a “multidisciplinary organisation” he founded in 2006 to harness the power of creativity in civil society. It's a holistic approach, he tells me, that marries civil society actors and social development projects with relevant cultural production.
But in Zahed Sultan's cosmology, the social movements he is involved with and the music he is producing are in nascent stages of growth, and “need room to breathe,” he explains. It's a process he says started over a decade ago after graduating with a business degree from Boston University. Sultan knew he wanted to help facilitate positive changes in Arab society through social entrepreneurship. Equally important, however, was his desire to have music be a part of that process. So after business school, he took a one year sabbatical and got a degree from an audio-engineering school in London - without a real understanding of how the seemingly disparate worlds of music and social entrepreneurship were going to intersect. Roughly fives years after graduating from audioengineering school, and after en.v and El Boutique had grown to a point of relative sustainability, he began gearing his studio time toward the production of his first album. He tells me that in the four years prior to jumping into the studio to produce his album, and during the course of his work with en.v and El Boutique, he found himself getting away from his original intent of producing a new brand of electronic music. “At that time,” Sultan explained, “I was dipping my hands into more corporate-related sound work. I had a division of El Boutique that was outfitting commercial spaces with sound systems, and the music I was producing in my studio used to go in them. And the work was kind of sucking the soul out of something I loved.”
Understanding that he didn't want the artistic aspects that were tied into his social development work “corrupting” what he described as a sacred part of his own personal artistic experience, he began to rededicate his studio work towards his independent musical identity. Sultan tells me he also believed in the idea of mentorship, and actively searched out people in the region and internationally who had achieved a certain degree of success in music production – people that he could “shadow” in order to push himself to that next level artistically. Perhaps it was a bit naïve to think that artists would consent to this kind of teacher-student relationship. “I didn't find those people,” he said, adding, “I'd looked for the same mentorship opportunities in my social development work.” In both cases, he found himself on his own, forging new paths without a blueprint for success. When he finally did sit down to record his first album, he'd spent years conceiving of what he wanted to make musically, his ideas had become more complex, and he was finally able to embrace a new, more mature self in the studio. In 2009, he released Hi Fear, Lo Love – an 11-track LP that showed a wide range of musical influences, and was made up of what he told me were “all the bits and pieces of music I was working on over the years.”
The album had an edgy pop-sensible electronic feel without being mainstream. It showcased musical and lyrical influences from his dual heritage – his father is Kuwaiti and his mother Indian – and was geared towards a generation of Arabs who had become indifferent to traditional forms of Arabic music because “it had become so formulaic and processed.” “I thought - how could I create a sound that harmonises our experience being abroad and our experiences locally so that - like with a popular Spanish song – people would find it beautiful. Why aren't people listening to an Arabic song and also finding it beautiful - worldwide - even if people don't understand the lyrics?” The albums first single “I Want Her But I Don't Want her,” - "the most experimental song on my first album” - was picked up by Parisian Dj Stephane Pompougnac for his acclaimed compilation Hotel Costes. MTV Iggy singled out Sultan's track “Walking Away” as the sign of an emerging global artist to be on the look-out for. Sultan tells me that he learned some very valuable lessons during the making of the first album, namely embracing the process of creatively opening himself up to the public creatively without fearing the consequences. “To write music, I personally believe that you have to be vulnerable and you have to be open to being vulnerable and embracing vulnerability. And so what happened during my first album was I was forced to expose myself creatively,” and he says, “I stayed vulnerable from that point onwards.”
Now Sultan's second as of yet unnamed full-length album is due to be released by early spring. Almost three years in the making, Sultan returned from a stint living and working in Los Angeles last summer with much of the material for the new album in the can. Upon his return from LA, he tells me that he decided on a criterion for whittling down 14 produced tracks to the eight that are now on the album. According to Sultan, we can expect the same “ingrained electronic sound” that he's been developing - especially through his live performances the last couple of years. Secondly, he's intent on reproducing the “live-sound” experience on tape so that it lacks that almost perfect, almost sterile syncopation that occurs when using software-hardware interfaces like Ableton. (“I don't want everything to be perfect when I produce.”) Lastly, he wants to push the elements of creative mixing that will give listeners a feeling of immersion within each track, making it almost “experiential” by using dynamic panning processes. “We do have two ears,” he says, adding that the effect of the album will be different depending on the broadcast source – car, home stereo system, studio monitors. Sultan is also introducing a new element to his live shows in 2014, with a gig in Kuwait City in April that will feature the work of a team of visual artists from India whom he is working with to projection map an entire theatre. He'll be taking that “immersive” audiovideo experience on tour with him, and throughout this process he explains, “The way it sounds live is going to
evolve - the way I present it visually is going to evolve - and that's when I think you have to kind of be open to change and being adaptable to the different types of contexts I'll be in.” In the end, whether its through his work as a social entrepreneur or a musician and multimedia artist – his main goal is to give himself a chance to connect with people. “If I can give this body of work to someone who doesn't know who I am –and in some form or manner it resonates with them, then I'll feel like I will have done something important.”
24 Featured Artist
LIMITLESS ROMBOy Marc Romboy opens up on continuing to break the mold after 20 years, and how inspiration comes from the least expected places By: Ronald Hajjar Photography: Natascha Romboy
Featured Artist 25
baby, Systematic Recordings - what is the ethos behind it and what are the ingredients that made the imprint continue to grow over the years?
arc Romboy has always been one of those artists who has been free of trend-orientated hype and removed from musical trends. The worldrenowned DJ has had a natural obsession with music since early age, buying his first record at age 8 and starting to DJ at 10. Since then, he has formed, co-founded and built internationally respected labels and projects, collaborated with the likes of KiNK, Abysm, Blake Baxter and Stephan Bodzin, and released critically acclaimed albums and EPs, all over the course of 20 years. Most recently, Romboy offers up ‘Shades’, a three CD album that explores the diversity of his musical personality. Shades features a handpicked selection of his finest originals and remixes, plus nine brand-new cuts exclusive to the release. We caught up with him at the beginning of the year to hear more his latest work.
AK: You’ve been in the business for over two decades,
worked hard and collaborated with some of the best artists around. You are also very much known as a versatile artist. What does ‘Shades’, your three-CD album mean to you at this stage of your career? “Shades” means all to me, because it´s full of my emotions and contains music as I felt it over the last years. Everybody shall hear which range of music is possible in electronica. There are no limits or boundaries.
AK: The Marc Romboy creative process: what is the gear that you use the most at the studio and how do you get inspired? The inspiration is my soul. I often ask myself which vibes, instruments and styles really touch me. Afterwards I just begin to make music and don´t think so much. At the end of the day, it´s just a mixture of every sound you hear. Funny enough that it´s obviously everything: music you hear in the club, sounds you hear on an airplane to sounds you hear inside yourself. Like for example, your own pulse, heartbeat or chewing.
AK: You have worked behind the scenes on dance music labels like Alphabet City, Terminal M and School. Your
In the past I managed a lot of labels of other artists, but I felt that everybody has to do his thing on his own. Then I finally felt the urge to do just my own thing. That was almost ten years ago when I kicked off Systematic, one of my best decisions in my musical life so far.
wise, valuable album. The next single is track two on the album called “Drop of fear,” an amazing track which he did with the adorable singer Amina, wow! Not to forget, the 10 years of Systematic album is coming this summer and many many more, of course, as always.
AK: Your early days with Le Petit Prince (your first label) and Klaus Derichs. What good souvenirs do you recall? Oh my god, too many to mention. It was a hilarious time. We didn´t actually know what we were doing but we did it with our passion and hearts and received a lot of positive feedback and success. The time was totally different because you needed some gear to make music, plug-ins didn´t exist. We didn´t have any money to invest, but we really wanted it and this was the strength we needed. After a longer time of waiting, the Belgian distributor, Music Man, which is called NEWS nowadays, supported and invested money into our project. I´m still very grateful for this and want to say again thanks to the managing directors during this time, Lieven Van Den Broek and Hessel Tieter.
AK: Do you believe in trends, or hypes? Do you follow them? This is actually a very good question. I would say yes and no. In a way, it´s always interesting to follow new developments and evolution but I don´t want to jump on any bandwagon just to sell a couple more units. I think when you do music with your heart, it´s not possible anyway. No, I just want to do my thing because it´s 100 percent me, isn´t it?
AK: Your all-time favorite club? It´s a boring answer, yes, I admit, but I must say it´s Berghain. This club has something very outstanding when it comes to the atmosphere and I think almost everybody who was there would agree. My first show there, a live gig together with Stephan [Bodzin] was unforgettable. I still have goose bumps when I think about it.
AK: Best tune after the after-party? Silence, yes, I love silence.
AK: Any upcoming artist to watch on Systematic in the upcoming month? Any exciting releases beside your album? I can recommend the album of Pezzner called “Last night in Utopia.” What the hell, such an amazing and music-
Marc Romboy ‘Shades’, Released on Systematic Recordings, March 7, 2014
www.marcromboy.com www.facebook.com/ dmarcromboyfanpage www.soundcloud.com/ marcromboy
Over and out (Original Mix) – Marc Romboy, KiNK [Systematic Recordings] Ghetto What? (Original Mix) – Marc Romboy [Gruuv] The Art of Sound (Version 1) – Blake Baxter, Marc Romboy [Systematic Recordings] Dopplereffekt (Original Mix) – Marc Romboy, Ken Ishii [Systematic Recordings] Delusion of the Enemy (Original Mix) – Marc Romboy, KiNK [Systematic Recordings]
Tuneage Snow Ghosts Julio Bashmore
Peppermint Boardwalk Records TBA
1/5 Julio Bashmore broke on to the scene just a few years back. Battle For Middle You, first released in 2011, took the dance music world by storm. It was to become the year’s defining track, thrusting Julio Bashmore from Bristol local to international superstar. Bashmore would go on to release a string of hits, land an Essential Mix, open his own label and announce his debut LP. Peppermint is the first single off of that upcoming debut LP...and it could not get any worse. Bashmore trades in future-house stylings for some kind of Duke Dumont meets Disclosure pop-house anthem. The result is a train wreck or, as one Facebook music critic recently put it, “ I'd prefer to listen to me nan getting shafted than listen to that gash.” So let’s leave it at that... no one wants their nan to get shafted.
Secret Garden Houndstooth
3.5/5 Snow Ghosts is a collaboration with Ross Tones and vocalist August Ghost. First working together in 2013, they released their debut album “A Small Murmuration” to widespread critical acclaim. “Secret Garden” is the third single to be released off the album, and Matthew Herbert and Richard Skelton are on remix duties. Herbert takes the melancholic original and injects it with a pair of legs for the after party. Richard Skelton’s take turns the original on its head, swapping the pensive melody for a more ambient, drone-like take. The single is being released as a 12 inch with only 300 copies being pressed and if you manage to snag one, “Secret Garden” is definitely worth the spin.
4/5 A star on the rise on the Hot Creations label, Patrick Topping is once again dominating with his new Get Beasty EP. This comes after his highly acclaimed debut EP that was released on Hot Trax early last year, followed quickly by the more successful Any Amounts EP on Hot Creations. The crowd-pleaser is leaving a mark on the dance floor with his irresistible basslines, his EP packed with high energy acmes that with incredibly drops. The mix of trippy and intricate make Patrick Topping an essential DJ weapon that is certain to rule the dancefloor at peak time.
10 February 2014
Get Beasty EP Hot Creations February 3, 2013
Pezzner & Amina
Gardens of God
February 3, 2013
February 17, 2013
February 17, 2013
Exit Crosstown Rebels 3.5/5 Up next on the decade-strong Crosstown Rebels is Pezzner, who joins forces on Exit with vocalist and co-producer, Amina. Exit is an electrifying and raw journey with edge, packing an emotional punch where the Amina’s sultry and versatile tones meet electronica. Pezzner goes at it alone on “Pipes,” with a mixture of shake rolled up in one hypnotic groove, with rich tuneful textures flowing into smooth melodies. In the style of Crosstown’s tradition remixes, the versatile dubstep pioneer Scuba steps up with his take on Exit, infusing the beats with contrasting chords and synth lines. The culmination of all three of these talents in one place results in one euphoric musical ride.
4.5/5 Visionquest’s electronic vocalist Dinky is back on the label with the third single from last year’s impeccable Dimension D album. Sexily sedative with intricate texture, Xanex is an enchanting tale, with Dinky’s voice over beats of equally silky guitar and intense digital bass. Bringing the original to life are two top-notch remixers - the Tuff City Kids (aka Gerd Janson and Philip Lauer), who bring the rawer trippy dancefloor grind, while Roman Flügel takes a more stripped-down approach. An all-around excellent release, this is one that will definitely be in every DJ’s bag.
Ys Ellum Audio
4/5 Kick starting 2014, Ellum Audio get set to unleash the epic three tracker Ys from Gardens of God, the new project from Lithuanian producer Mindaugas Lapinskis. The EP is a journey through the dark and mysterious side of modern day house music. The EP has received early support from Ellum label bosses Maceo Plex and Danny Daze. Prior to its upcoming release it has garnered huge reactions and rightfully so. Each track builds a tapestry of electronic synths and emotive melodies above deep, dark pads and powerful percussions.
F5 $550 (pair)
Aira TR-08 $TBA
5/5 Roland has never been the type of company that showed any inclination to reissue their classic wares, but has sought rather to reinvent its historical products with new designs and functionality. This has always resulted in mixed emotions at best from purests. However, the Aira TR-08 seems to reflect a new strategy for the Japanese manufacturer. Billed the “evolution of the 808,” the build-up surrounding the Aira has been centered on videos reminding us of the world’s most famous drum machines’ vibrant history. The release of the Aira TR-08 looks to be the opening of a new chapter for Roland and with a market primed for new, analogue hardware, the timing couldn’t be any better.
4/5 The ADAM F5 is a new, two-way active monitor that brings big studio sound to your personal workspace. ADAM has cemented themselves as the brand for studio monitors, and the F5 is a true testament to its quality. The F5 is the little brother to the larger F7 ($800) and the SubF ($800.) Although this little brother, the F5, is the “entry level” monitor, it performs flawlessly. The high frequencies come out clear and clean without any kind of distortion. The bass is surprisingly strong for a small active speaker and offers enough low end to put off the purchase of a sub unit for all but the most adamant bass heads.
Mixcloud X Free
3.5/5 While Soundcloud may currently hold the edge in terms of music hosting websites for producers, DJs and listeners, Mixcloud has been making noise for nearly just as long. The London start-up has now been totally redesigned to offer listeners and uploaders a more in- depth experience. Mixcloud X offers users customizable Profile pages, a brand new interface and a plethora of other new features. One of the most simple, yet most useful, new features is the “PlayQueue” tool. This new function allows users to quickly set up hours of music with just a few clicks. Beta testing is now open to existing Mixcloud users and is definitely worth a go.
4/5 Denon bursts onto the USB digital to analogue converter market with the DA-300USB. The device is a standalone piece of hardware with the potential of dramatically improving digital audio quality. The DA-300 is centered on a Advanced AL32 processor and features a high precision 32-bit, 192kHz digital audio card. It works by completely bypassing your computers soundcard and has the ability to convert any file type from MP3/MP4, AAC, ALAC, WAV and FLAC HD. If that’s not enough, the audio card is even able to power headphones, speakers and can even be integrated into your existing hi-fi system. This device is sure to be a must from DJs to audiophiles who appreciate a cleaner sound.
5/5 SSL has been building some of the most sought after, high-end studio equipment since the 1970’s. The Oxford based company is known for their incredible sound quality and hassle- free performance. Because of this, their presence in professional studios is seen as a must rather than a plus. The Nucleus is a 16-channel DAW controller that gives individual producers tools that were only previously available from dedicated mixing and mastering studios. The unit features touchsensitive flying faders, an analogue monitoring path, USB sound interface and two pre-amps. These features combined with a 192 kHz sound card make for some truly high fidelity. The steep price may keep this unit out of the hands of most budding producers, but for those who are willing to make the hefty investment, the return will be a significantly better sounding piece of music.
SUPER OUT DISCOTHEQUE A neighborhood fixture since the dark days of Lebanon's civil war, this music shop owner and mix-tape virtuoso manages to stay hip. By: Andreane Williams
Discotheque Super Out is located at the very beginning of Armenia Street, where the mainstream bars and clubs of Gemmayzeh begin to bleed into the up-and-coming soho district of Mar Mikhael. Its windows face the 1960s modernist façade of the famous Kahrabat Lebnaan, the headquarters of the Lebanese Electricity Company. Like its owner, Roy Hayek, a 53-year-old with a passion for popular music, the shop has seen Beirut through its heyday in the 1960s and early 70s—and the darkest days of the 15-year civil war. Bespectacled, hair gelled back, with a meticulously wellgroomed mustache and kind face, Roy doesn’t share his stories easily. At first, he offers only that he grew up in Achrafieh, a residential Christian area located above Mar Mikhael on Beirut’s sloping hillside. In 1979, he decided to turn his grandfather’s café, which dates to the 1930s, into a music store. At that time, the war was already raging in Beirut. Nineteen-year-old Roy was dividing his time between studying civil engineering and fighting in the ranks of the Phalange, a Christian militia. But music had always been his passion. “I remember listening to my parents’ music when I was a child. They had a phonograph. They listened to a lot of Brazilian music. I had even started learning to play the accordion. But the war broke out and I stopped. I wasted my time," he remembered, a cigarette clenched between his teeth. He stands in his shop, surrounded by dusty towers packed with yellowing tapes and vinyl records of Arabic and Western music. On the other side of the counter, old
red cardboard sign hangs in the glass door: the record shop is open. Inside, a man stands behind the counter, humming a melody. He scrolls through lists of songs on his computer with a cigarette in one hand, the mouse in the other. The desktop background is a portrait of the Virgin Mary against a blue sky, hands clasped in supplication.
recording machines and record players are tucked into shelving. An old black and white photograph of Roy’s brother, killed in 1988, is placed among pictures of Jesus and the Virgin Mary enshrined in the midst of Roy’s records. He says he owns 12,000 vinyls, most of which are stored in a dedicated room of his house. His music collection includes everything from Carlos Santana to The Rolling Stones; Ahmad Doughan; Julio Iglesias; even French electro duo Daft Punk. “I listen to Santana everyday. People always need music. Sometimes listening to a song is like taking a Panadol”, Roy says, motioning toward his rows of vinyls.
Music in Wartime During the civil war, Super Out was home to many young Christian fighters. They would stop by between battles to listen to music, drink, talk and rest. The bombardments, Roy remembers, were constant, and electricity a luxury much of the city had to do without. But fortuitously, his father worked at the Electricity of Lebanon, just across the street. He had a cable installed that ran directly from his office window down through the courtyard and across the street, into his son’s music store. Stacks of barrels protected big glass windows from the endless barrage of explosions, sniper fire and street battles. In particular, Roy recalls the Syrian shelling and the missiles shot from Burj-el-Murr tower, whose imposing height and central location made it an infamous sniper hole. “In the morning I would go to the store. In the afternoon I went to university, and at night I fought," Roy explains, lighting yet another cigarette.
“My friends, who were fighters too, would hang out in the store until 7 pm. We liked to listen to Santana and The Rolling Stones while drinking coffee and whisky. We were young. We would mostly talk about girls.” Albert nods in agreement. A regular at the shop, now a taxi driver, he has known Roy for more than 30 years. He comes to Super Out to get new music and chat with Roy, he explains. “Roy has the best quality music. He might not have white hair but he’s ancient! I used to come here to see my wife, before we got married. I was young when I first came here...now I am a grandfather”, he remarks. When Lebanese President and Phalange leader Bachir Gemayel was killed in 1982, Roy decided to quit the militia and concentrate on his music store. While the Christian port town of Jounieh is a mere 20km north of Beirut, the drive would sometimes take him up to four hours roundtrip, because of checkpoints and roadblocks. In Jounieh, Roy would purchase foreign records as they came to shore on vessels from Europe. “Some people were scared to drive to Jounieh because of all the fighting, but I wasn’t. I was never scared of dying," he shrugged. “Dancers and actors used to come here! You remember?" Albert prompts him. “That’s right!”, Roy nods, the
memories flooding back. “Samara Nouhara, Dany Bustrus...they all came here to find music. They would sit on the floor and go through my vinyls," he continues, his eyes on his friend “At the time, Lebanese singers like Rabih al Khaoule, Ghassan Saliba, Adnan el Bassal, Pierre Sfeir, would record one song per tape. They would come to my store to make copies of their tapes because I was the only one who had the right equipment. I was much cheaper than the music studios," he grinned.
Now and Then Like the Burj-el-Murr tower, Super Out is one of a myriad of Beirut landmarks with many ghosts from the past. It serves as a testament to what Beirut was, and what it still represents to many of the residents who lived through the war. Like a handful of other old-time barbershops, garages, fruit stands and coffee parlours that are scattered throughout the city, Super Out is a place where many of the patrons who came through the door 30 years ago still congregate. Today, Super Out is neighbor to Behind the Green Door, a hugely popular watering hole for Beirut’s young revelers. As the Gemmayzeh/Mar Mikhael quarter has been revitalized, the ‘Discotheque’ has found itself surrounded by trendy pubs, restaurants and art galleries.
Feature 33 But far from being pleased to see his own love of music reflected by his surroundings, Roy is dismissive of the new developments. “I don’t like what Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhael have become. I preferred it before, with all the old stores," he complains. Recently, he hung a sign in his window reading: “Don’t ask for 500LL," in response to too many passersby coming in asking for change for the parking meter. He thinks his current clientele, mainly “Sunni and Shia from West Beirut”, come to his store because of his extensive collection of Arabic music. “I am still up-todate with new pop music. Just today I got twenty new Arabic songs. Many of my customers are between 10 and 14 years old," he adds, as he sets down on the counter a box of his latest compilation: a mix of Armin Van Buuren, Jennifer Lopez, Akon and Ricky Martin. When asked about new technologies and if the Internet is affecting is business, Roy becomes animated. “Internet annoys me a lot. I cut it off two years ago because people were sending me emails asking me to send them songs. I don’t have time for that. I have a lot of work. Plus, I don’t download any music because the quality is not good enough. I prefer to buy the originals."
for 12 years. He owns the record store Step by Step in Sin El Fil, a suburb to Beirut’s northeast. “Roy is the master," Michel concedes, “but I know more about new English hip-hop and R&B." “I am a specialist in old songs,” Roy interjects. Both shop owners are popular with Lebanese DJs who sample older tracks. A few days later, the mood has changed. I’ve come to the store to collect a “top ten” CD of Roy’s favorite tracks, which he’s been promising to put together for me. But a car bomb has just detonated in the southern suburbs of the city, only the latest in a string of deadly attacks. While the conversation between Roy’s friends and clients in the store takes a more serious tone as they discuss the explosion, he scrolls through the tracks on my new CD, pausing to snap his fingers or exclaim over his favorite songs. He starts to sing That’s the way I like it, shaking his hips. “I remember back in the day, driving around Beirut in my Fiat 124 Sport and this song on my car radio.” Roy epitomizing the resilience of the Lebanese spirit, it’s going to take more than a few explosions to bring this music lover down.
As the day passes, more customers come into the store. Some are after a special compilation, others just want to say “hi” and chat. Michel, a middle-aged man with grey hair who walks with the aid of a crutch, has known Roy
Roy’s All Time Top Ten:
1- Ila Habibi by Najat Alsaghia 2- Je vais t'aimer - Michel Sardou 3- Min by3rif - Pierre Sfeir 4- Alef el amar - George Wassouf 5- Lady in Black - Uriah Heep 6- KC and the sunshine band That's the way I like it 7- Ental el hob - Oum Kalthoum 8- Han el wed - Fayza Ahmad 9- Rajeat fi al Massa 10 - Asfour - Wadih Safeh
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