DJ Lynnée Denise (LA, Amsterdam, South Africa )
entertainment with a thesis
November 27, 2014 10:22 AM PST
I've made love to this human being more than any other in my life's history, on several continents, in several countries and in many cities. Almost daily. Daily people. Saying and sharing this publicly is a testament of the divine sex work our lips and hips have seen. In OurBody the physical emotional weight gives way to freedom. And in it, love lessons and a journey that shapes our skin for futures to be, love attached to the creation of possibilities.
A musical journal, Adrienne and I listened to these songs between our Amsterdam and Detroit story. These are the sounds of our collective quiet fire, the yearning and passion that make transformation and emotional intelligence not only possible but also irresistible. Many rhythms and rituals later, we’re safe in this, still dancing to change.
In this moment, in this country, the most radical thing I can offer is a commitment to love myself and to love beyond what we have been shaped to be. Lovemaking helps to release the rage. Resist by making love, by loving the Blues out of OurBody.
From Adrienne Maree Brown
there is a third space
the scientists say we're not solid at all, miraculous clusters not bound in flesh. i think this means that just as you say there is a third song where two songs blend in a skilled dj's hands, there is a body that forms between lovers that is beyond the individual's pleasure or desire. in that place, an exquisite moment can pull down tears, making room for infinite joy and release. our lovemaking has opened me up, changed me. OurBody has been able to express gratitude for the complex gift of life against all odds, to be compassionate and kind in every condition, to learn who we are, to be liberated, to grow up. Thank you.
Nobody Else But You But You Dance
May 22, 2014 09:54 AM PDT
Sun Ra would have been 100 years old today and I'm in London preparing to present the soundtrack of my own brand of AfroFuturism. Please enjoy the second and final installment of the "Hibernation Series." Detroit's winter cracked my creative spirit wide open. This mix features the electronic music from Africa and space themed Black American jazz. Fix your mind for this.
Satellites Are Spinning Sun Ra Space Is The Place
Fa Laay Fanaan (Ashley Beedle on Marz Mix)
Segunguwo Robert Machiri
“Take Me Out of It” Toni Morrison
Madan Salif Keita
Ancestry Boddhi Satva
Ubatuba (BSC AfroTech Mix) Brazilian Soul Crew
“Blackness” Nina Simone
Moon Dance Keith Worthy
Distant Planet Mr. Fingers/Robert Owens
Outer Spaceways Incorporated Sun Ra Space Is The PlaceAfro-Digital Migration: House Music in Post Apartheid South Africa Vol. II
April 30, 2014 07:58 AM PDT
I wrote this during layovers between Toronto and London, on my way to Amsterdam for the summer. Before I start my next voyage, I wanted to offer my musical reflections on South Africa. Three days ago (April 27, 2014), South Africa's democracy turned 20 years old. I spent much of December and January in South Africa, thanks to the support of my community of listeners, family and friends and a generous grant from The Astraea Foundation Global Arts Fund. This was my third time in South Africa; the first trip happened in 2001 and the second in 2011. The purpose of the trip was to complete the SoundTracking Our Lives Tour, a project that simulated the migration pattern of house music from the U.S. to South Africa, launching in New York, traveling to Chicago and Detroit, and finally, concluding in Johannesburg. The purpose of the tour was to document the work of women who have played a role in the evolution of house and its transmigration, and are currently active in its development. My mission was accomplished. But what I realized almost instantly was since my last trip to South Africa I have developed a new vocabulary, a new understanding of the development of house music. I have been deepening my relationship with its influences, everything from traditional African drumming, to Philly soul, to the tambourines and choral clap rhythms of gospel. Clark Sisters, stand up.
A few days before my landing in Jo'burg, Nelson Mandela made his physical transition. Accordingly, the energy on the streets reflected not only the sadness of his passing, but also the presence of many questions, particularly the politically and socially charged question of ‘progress’ since democracy. One thing that was extremely clear to me was the intricate ways that the apartheid regime institutionalized longstanding practices that until this day uphold the brutal inequalities that exists between Black and White South Africans and shamelessly so. Adrienne Maree Brown, my lover and trip companion, writes about the experience in more subtle detail here:
Still, even with the uncertainty that Mandela’s death brings, house music continues to dominant the sound of the nation. But there was a difference this time, between the house music I heard on the radio and the house music I heard on my taxi rides through the city, or in the cars passing me by on the streets. I had to admit that much of the house I heard on the radio was formulaic (a hard distinction to make with a genre of music based on repetition), and had blown up to “pop” status, losing some of its dark funk. As an outsider I can never really be sure about the politics of commercial vs. underground culture, the music industry, globally, is such a tricky beast. But I do know for sure that I felt less moved by what was most popular, most available. This is why it’s always good, as a global citizen, to seek out the underground community wherever you land. Find those cats you would roll with in your circle at home. The cats who avoid radio as much as possible and keep their ears to the street in search of that very specific sound; you simply know it when you hear it and it can be heard in so many different forms of music, in so many different places on the planet, all we know is that it’s a sound that unites us all.
By the end of the trip I had collected around 100 songs from record labels (Soul Candi), DJs, producers and general house heads. Turns out that the majority of the music I was given did little in the way of touching that little thing inside of me that inspires movement and sets the stage for the perfect mix. I narrowed down my compilation to 17 songs and some of them were tunes I had been listening to for the past year leading up to my trip. Upon returning from South Africa, I spent the winter in Detroit with my honey and during that time I set up my turntables, along with my art. I rooted myself in our shared space and went to work. It was love work, release and reflection work happening in congruence with what Detroiters said was "the coldest winter ever." I spent hours reading, writing and listening to music, doing the best I could to create soundtracks from my travel, relationship and scholarship. The result was a session of mixes titled "The Hibernation Series."
The first mix of the series, The Afro-Digital Migration: House Music in Post Apartheid South Africa Volume II, is a convergence of love stories - my love story with black music, and my love of a black magic woman. My love story of black music led me to the South African house scene, where I embedded myself this most recent trip with new questions of how, when and why house music permeates the soundscape of South Africa. This love has led me to uncover histories of migration, theories of escape, questions of origin and something even deeper: the work of pioneers like Frankie Knuckles (rest in power), in understanding the root systems of house. I've learned to stretch the roots of house beyond disco, gay clubs and the Black church in America. I had to come to understand that producers/DJs like Knuckles and his peers made music from a place of ancestral memory; they were plugged into the source, masterfully re-creating ancient rhythms using both new and dated technology. This means that rather than looking at house music as simply finding its way to SA townships from Black America, I saw that house music, in a way, repatriated to its motherland (haven’t said motherland since my early 90s X-Clan days, but its applicable here).
My love of a writer woman led her to follow me to South Africa, where we learned together about house, the endless beauty of the land, and the political climate of this peculiar place. Together we witnessed the ghosts of the regime juxtaposed against the joyful and sexually liberating sounds of house; it truly is freedom music. We were both moved to the point of creativity, her to writing:
and me to create this mix. This was an incredibly important journey for us, sometimes challenging as we were thrown into a world where post apartheid SA, like post racial USA proved to be a more theoretical concept based on the changing of the guards from white to black people in power, with the model of white supremacy, and all of its arms and legs still firmly in place and in tact. Adrienne and I were invited by filmmaker Palesa Letlaka to speak together at the Afrikan Freedom Station, which was the first time we had ever witnessed each other at work and from that opportunity we connected with South African local artists who wanted to learn more about how we were weaving afro-futuristic and science fiction themes into discussions about house music and social justice.
Overall, I can honestly say that the music for this mix came together and quite well. I am a firm believer that house music, like science fiction, provides us with the opportunity to engage and submerge ourselves in an alternative reality, for at the root of house music is deep faith and joy. It makes perfect sense that house music resonates among so many South Africans; it creates so much space for complexity. I hope you feel the call in this mix to find and follow love through its lineage, its mysteries, and its demands.
Cosmos ft J-Something - Over the Rainbow
April 20, 2014 10:38 AM PDT
“Your heart has to be ready to handle the weight of your calling,” is what she said casually over Korean BBQ, and for this reason and more I grew up reading bell hooks. ‘Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery’ was my first dance with her mind. In it she taught me how to identify the ways that patriarchy, white supremacy and global capitalism threatened humanity’s well-being. More specifically, she challenged me to examine the ways in which our own families replicate models of oppression, sometimes trumping the need, or the awareness of the need, for self-care. bell hooks called on me to think critically as a strategy to heal from social and emotional trauma, a task that would require a lifetime of unlearning.
When commissioned by Dr. Melynda Price, Chair of the African American and Africana Program at the Univ. of Kentucky to make this mix, I was struck by the fact that not a single song came to mind, which is unusual for my process. Typically I have an idea of the direction of the mix, with at least one song to start. But bell hooks has written over 30 books. What could I say musically that would affirm, celebrate and soundtrack her commitment to education, activism, radical openness and feminist scholarship? What music could match ‘the life of her mind?’ The moment I asked that question, Nina Simone appeared. I had a start.
I continued to dig deep into the crates of bell hooks’ life in search of clues about music she loved. On one of those days, after a few hours of probing, she mentioned Tracy Chapman in a lecture. My second artist arrived. From there, I recognized that women’s voices would occupy a large amount of space on the mix. And how easy it would be to create a mix using only women to pay tribute to a world-renowned feminist thinker, right? No, this would not be true to the range of music I have access to, or the core of her ideas. bell warns us to not confuse patriarchy with masculinity. Teaching us that patriarchal dominance can only be destroyed when all of us adopt feminist politics. That said, I invited men to be a part of the honoring, particularly men I feel loved by. Would bell love Bilal? In the song ‘Robots,’ he critiques hyper consumerism similarly to the way she critiques the commodification of Black culture in her work. And Lionel Hampton is from Kentucky, did she grow up listening to the sound of his vibraphone? And consistently she’s made the important distinction between misogynistic and ‘conscious’ rap, would she dig Mos Def? And could Gregory Porter, speak to her encounter with desegregation in the classrooms of the Black south? In this moment I decided to put together a compilation of music that would communicate the essence of her message, or at least, my understanding of it. It would be a mix in dialogue form.
I’ve learned so much from bell’s refusal to adhere to restrictions about what she could and could not write about, and what topics she could and could not explore. When she shifted her focus from critical gender theory with books like Ain’t I Woman: Black Women and Feminism and Yearning: Race, Gender and Cultural Politics to a series of books focused solely on love (Salvation, Communion and All About Love), I knew she was making the decision to become more accessible to communities, beyond the academy. I knew she wanted to have more nuanced conversations about the revolutionary qualities of love and through this series, I was reminded that love was located at the center of the pursuit of social justice. For this reason, I felt jazz had a place among the songs. Betty Carter’s ‘Open the Door’ and Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Red Clay’ has so much emotional and cultural wealth, and jazz itself provided the soundscape for many social movements and plenty of freedom fighters, Malcolm X included.
I discovered the Uptown String Quartet in my college years while working in a record store. I was excited by the fact that they were four classically trained Black women musicians from Harlem and one of them, Maxine Roach, was the daughter of jazz drummer Max Roach. I’ve been listening to their song “JJ’s Jam” for about 20 years and never imagined having the opportunity to add it to one of my mixes. It’s a song from some of the quietest moments in my life; a song with so much space and beauty that I wanted to play with voices and personalities over the music. I thought of the bell hooks book “Rock My Soul: Black People and Self-Esteem,” which features the hand of fellow Kentuckian Muhammad Ali, whom bell loves, on its cover. In my research I discovered an interview between Nikki Giovanni and Ali and it fit perfectly between the song’s imaginary lines.
Another book that came to mind during my process was Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life. It’s a memoir about love, writing and sexuality. Wounds of Passion tells the story of how bell wrestled with an emotionally charged long-term relationship that forced a questioning of her values and worldview. At the same time she was managing the stress of being a black woman academic in hostile predominantly white institutions. She shares that this was one of the most tumultuous romantic partnerships in her life, one that she still refers to, one that still tugs at her heart. Frida Kahlo and Diego came to mind and I used my favorite song from the movie’s soundtrack (Frida), “Alcoba Azul” to express the emotions that give birth to a complicated, transformative and sacrificial love.
Finally, I wanted to leave listeners with the opportunity to feel a sense of hope. To operate from a place of abundance and not the despair normally attached to the business of struggle. I selected a song inspired by something I heard bell hooks say in an interview. She shared that through his life as a farmer and with his profound appreciation of the earth, her grandfather taught her about the importance of life beyond suffering. She took from him that people of color needed to move away from what can feel like a commitment to misery and shift our focus towards self-sufficiency, pleasure, joy and self-care. Aretha Franklin’s “How I Got Over” from the “Amazing Grace” album worked perfectly for these words.
I had the opportunity to present this mix to bell hooks in person. She attended my lecture at the University of Kentucky’s Finding our Place: A Conference in Honor of the Work and Writing of bell hooks. I was moved beyond words by the level of attention she paid to my every sentence, image and sound. I was almost brought to tears when she cheered me on as an active and vocal member of the audience. She expressed to me a love for my mind, an interest in my work and an excitement about being fully seen by me, through my art. We broke bread and shared intimate stories about our histories and exchanged visions of our future. It’s safe to say we bonded. She invited me to her home and pointed out her most precious possessions; her books, kitchen, and meditation space. Her home was a Frida Khalo inspired sacred place with art collected from her travels around the world. The yellow and red painted wooden benches and chairs brought the African and Latin Diaspora to Berea, Kentucky. I felt instantly that the mix was a success. My selections were true of who I thought she was within and beyond print. bell hooks is a genius. she’s vulnerable and complex, sharp and unashamed of the way she walks the world. And with her courage, discipline and dedication, she’s carved out space for me to exist. Please enjoy “Soulful Critical Thought: bell hooks and the Making of a DJ Scholar,” for it was without a doubt, a labor of love.Dark Black Girls (Not Complexion, Complexity)
February 14, 2014 12:48 PM PST
I started compiling music for “Dark Black Girls” in Atlanta, early 2012. I wasn’t quite sure of what direction the music would head in after deciding on the first song, “When I Grow Up” by Fever Ray, a song introduced to me by the hyper-talented Faatimah Stevens, who created the visuals for the sound. In the end I learned that each song was a different iteration of reggae music, more specifically, the one drop. The mix was completed in May 2012, days before I moved to Montreal, Quebec for a stint. I decided that I would release it during a different season because I felt like the sun’s constant presence would betray my intentions for this sound. The “Dark” in the title of the mix is less about skin complexion and more about complexity. The darkness that I hear in this music speaks to that rich place in which we develop our most sacred ideas and private joy. I wanted this to be music for the highly reflective. Winter music. Hibernation and the promise of spring possibility music. Music that honored the collective of peculiar and queer folks who circle me. Tastemakers ignored even within the village. A mix inspired by conversations I’ve had with brand new familiar people. So, in the spirit of sensual excellence and erotic intelligence, I offer you ‘Dark Black Girls,’ a celebration of the investigation of purpose and existence. Listen closely, there’s a beautiful danger in each track. With radical curiosity, follow me now seen? Seen.
Faatimah Stevens: Artist Statement
Navigating through many genres of music is like tasting new succulent cuisine. Finding the latest in international sounds coincide with trying flavors so fresh you transport there, near the epicenter of it all. Even though surrounded by the traditional waves, my sound cloud is quite foreign in origin. Exploring elements from Sweden, specifically Fever Ray (i.e., Little Dragon), has kept my plate hungry for more. Songs like "When I Grow Up" adhere to a familiar quality yet the vocals capture a new frontier. Haunting, personal, captivating. There lies a dash of each within this mixtape. For the cover, Grace Jones was my muse. Up close and personal, her beauty is in your face. Another voice on the mixtape, Grace fulfills the essence of a Dark Black Girl. Daring, bold, red. My creative style is a linear quality that contours features, bodies, even landscapes. The face of Grace is heightened, converged into layers of playful lines, each forming the dark beauty that resonates within her.
Get Free Major Lazer Feat. Amber Coffman
A New Little Dragon
Here Comes The Rain Again (Featuring Sly And Robbie)
700 Mile Situation Res
Nightclubbing Grace Jones
Launderette Vivien Goldman
Why Carly SimonFunk, Faith, Praise (Fly Away Trayvon)
July 14, 2013 09:15 AM PDT
I never intended to release this mix. I considered it to be unfinished, in need of a polishing. Today, I heard it and it allowed me the space to breathe, to remember, to let go, so in that sense, it is perfect and I’m offering it AS IS. AS US. For Trayvon.
Two years ago when Gil Scot Heron died I compiled and mixed music that spoke to the depth of joy and despair that filled his life, and ours as we witnessed his decline. Halfway through the mix I was confronted by the truth of Gil’s life—it represented the collective experience of the people who brave “Winter in America.” For centuries we’ve layered our bodies to survive, to endure this cold. And through activism, scholarship, art, meditation, movement, faith, we stand, sometimes shattered, but always fierce in our ability to release the pain through Gospel, Bluesy Soul, Slum Beautiful Funk. And to Marvin Gaye, Phyllis Hyman, Brenda Fassie, Whitney Houston, Don Cornelius, Vesta, Michael Jackson, Tammi Terrell, Billie Holiday, Donnie Hathaway and all the others who died on the front lines of black music, I call on you and the legacy of your voices and your fingertips, to offer us a way to move through it, beyond addiction, beyond depression. Thank you for speaking truth to power, and for providing the rhythm to accompany the resistance, the healing. This mix allows Shirley Ceasar, The Clark Sisters, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Tramaine Hawkins, Esther Phillips, Gil Scott Heron, Nina Simone and even Richard Pryor to help us better understand what it means to channel the anguish through art.
Funk, Faith and Praise speaks to the historic tension between the secular and the spiritual realm in Black music, and the wear and tear on black bodies in a space that institutionalizes our dehumanization. And while sometimes our reactions are self-destructive, usually in an attempt to numb the pain, we stay singing and clapping, witnessing the lifeless bodies dance into the new world. Transcendence.
I watched your face Sybrina Fulton. Black mama. Fierce. Angry and Graceful. I thank you for your demonstration of dignity. And for you Tracy Martin, Black Father, I felt the knowing in your weeping eyes. Because of your family and this experience my belief is that we will love each other through this, more fiercely than ever, more clearly.
In the loving, gracious and tender words of Adrienne Maree Brown, “Keep going Trayvon, don't look back here, nothing here for you but our stranger's/familiar's love twisted tonight to a grief. Go on home, this place doesn't know how to love you. Axe.”
Adrienne’s words held me close last night. Shortly after learning about the verdict, I was fortunate enough to see her message, right before I hit that point of feeling utterly powerless. Through her words I found a way to live between the space of history and the future. Listen to the mix, then see, feel more here:
Dr. Horace Clarence Boyer (Gospel Historian, Musician)
February 14, 2013 07:16 AM PST
The Love Space Demands, is a choreopoem published in 1991, by Ntozake Shange. In it she returned to the blend of music, dance, poetry and drama that characterized For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide....Her work has been described as sexy, discomforting, energizing, revealing, occasionally smug, and fascinating.”
This is true.
Ntozake Shange forces the kind of reflection that creates discomfort...growth. The first time I heard the words "The Love Space Demands" I paused and dropped everything. That's it. The space, the time, the clarity, the beauty and the pain that holds the hand of growing.
The process of creating a mix is an arduous one. I spend at least 3-6 months listening to each song repeatedly until I figure out the arrangement--the bigger picture. Driven by some of the hardest lessons learned by the heart, my house music rendition of Shange's choreopoem "The Love Space Demands" asks listeners to consider the inspiring and transformative range of emotions that one can feel when riding through that journey called love. And then there's the letting go and doing it all over again. And i'll do it again. Every time. Heartbreak is an opportunity. Each song tells a story of contradiction, understanding, betrayal, yearning, unconditional love, tenderness and surrender.
Last night, around the same time I completed this mix, my best friend, Mr. Asadullah Saed created a new life with this poem. Divine Timing. I read his words and realized they were the liner notes for this mix. Enjoy. Press play, tune in. See track list at the end of the poem...
The Feeling After (poem)
I am fighting to be grateful
but again different
kiss your hand for me
because I can't
getting out of bed
I want us to be better
dancing in circles
1. Love Cannot Eric Ericksson
December 12, 2012 09:59 AM PST
"The School of Badu" is a mix (compilation) inspired by one of the sexiest encounters I've had to date. Amazing what a deep soul connection with another human being can do to and for an artist. The heart is a beast. Take a ride through some of my favorite live performances and studio songs that, in my opinion, exemplify Erykah's work as the multi-dimensional, soul stirring and body moving performer that she is. Listen carefully, then pass it along. Dallas, stand up. embrace....Southern Cosmology: Love Letter to Atlanta
July 06, 2012 12:48 PM PDT
I moved to Atlanta from Brooklyn in March 2011 as a part of a Great (Re) verse Migration. Since being here I've been inspired by the calm of the breeze, the soul of the people and the movement on the dance floor. In circles we dance to house music, fed by rhythms that translate ancestral languages. Bass. With this mix I want to give back to ATL the love I've received, the creativity that's swinging from the history of these trees...and this dirt. Red Clay. My ancestors, my future. Take a musical journey with me as I mix some of my favorite songs from the past 3 months, some of it South African and all of it soulful and deep. I write you now from an airplane on my way to Aruba to teach babies what it is to be rooted in Music and versed in Technology. Arts Rules Aruba 2012.
From the people who bring you The Chitlin Circuit: Deep House in the Deep South, we now offer to the space Southern Cosmology: Love Letter to Atlanta.
dj lynnee deniseThe Afro Digital Migration: House Music in Post Apartheid South Africa
March 08, 2012 03:54 PM PST
The moment I finished this mix, I put my headphones on and danced...to the entire thing.
South Africa moves me.
There cannot be a separation between the music, the history and the people.
With the support of a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study grant, I paid a visit to South Africa, determined to understand The Afro Digital Migration: House Music in Post Apartheid South Africa. I wanted to explore how house music took root in South Africa and shaped its national identity. The impetus for this research was my belief that electronic music in the African Diaspora is an under-explored cultural product. As a DJ, I was driven by the clean production and seamless mixes I heard; as a dancer, I wanted to witness the intricate body movement inspired by house; and as a scholar, I wanted to figure out how, in the face of state-sanctioned surveillance and harassment, the music flourished.
Special thanks and love to Clive Bean (Soul Candi) and Thokazani Mhlambi (Umtshakadulo) for answering my questions and arranging gigs for me to have a platform to express my Black American house experience and pay respect to the South African sound on the decks.
This mix is dedicated to Winnie Mandela, Busi Mhlongo and Miriam Makeba, three women who looked white supremacy and patriarchy in the eye and danced. Power is always subjective, never absolute. All Freedom Fighters come through the bodies of women.
Every single song selected was created by a South African producer/DJ. I've also featured the remixes of some of my favorite producers from the US (Spinna, Abicah Soul and Rocco).
1. Eish Anganzi-- Master Lucra (Johannesburg)
WildSeed Cultural Group provides "Entertainment with a Thesis"
Music that reflects my interest in uprocking, poplocking, world traveling, book reading, movie watching, youth developing culture. The WildSeed Sound.
Known for her eclectic mixes of classic hip-hop, soul, funk and deep house, dj lynnee denise of Wildseed Music draws from Black social and political movements to present the dynamic range of music of the Diaspora. lynnee denise was resident dj for “Schomburg Nights” at the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture and for the Central Park Skaters Association. She performed in the Orchestra of DJs at the Studio Museum in Harlem and in the Sekou Sundiata and Days of Art and Ideas conference at Harlem Stage. Working as the Sound Designer for the Excavating Motherhood exhibit at the Brooklyn Arts Gym in 2007 sparked lynnee’s passion for combining visual arts, youth development and music production to reflect her broad interest in the concept of humanization through music. lynnee has been a guest dj at internationally recognized venues in New York City including Joe’s Pub, Mocada Museum, Deity, Sutra, Knitting Factory, Harriet’s Alter Ego and Rush Arts Galleries. She's spun along side underground and internationally known artists such as Ursula Rucker, Joi, Saul Williams, MC Lyte, DJ Beverly Bond, DJ Spinna, Eric Roberson, Amplified Music (UK tour), Martin Luther, Julie Dexter, Cody Chestnut, Malena Perez, Larry Heard (Mr. Fingers) and Donnie. She was the feature dj at Spelman College's “Take Back The Music” and Toni Cade Bambara conferences in Atlanta. lynnee works as the Director of Programs and Services for exalt youth, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to transform the lives of youth involved the criminal justice system. She holds a BA in Sociology from Fisk University and an MA in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University.
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