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SAMA Old Bollocks

SAMA Old Bollocks

by Andy Davis / 21.04.2010

Say what?! I can't hear you

The SAMAs have come and gone and once again, and it seems the judges of South Africa’s premier music award have rewarded mediocre and derivative music at the expense of original creativity.

Judging for the SAMAs is based on 4 main criteria, all of which are far from empirical: Artistic Ability, Creativity, Production and Entertainment Value. The judging is done by a panel of “experienced and unbiased music industry professionals,” in the words of SAMAs CEO Jandre Louw. Although the Record of the Year award is determined by public vote and the Best Selling categories are also not adjudicated, the numbers speak for themselves. Everything else is decided on by the panel, which really means it’s based on their opinions. And since they had their chance to express theirs so publicly, backed up with a statuette, I’d like to share some of mine. Like how did the Blk Jks album After Robots end up a nominee on the coveted Album of the Year, when, really, it’s far too murky and inaccessible for even nominal mainstream success or even radio play? And besides, far better albums were released in the last year, say for example Tumi’s Whole Worlds or Tidal Waves’ Manifesto, which was disgracefully absent from the list of nominees.

And while we agree with the judging panel that Black Coffee was the rightful heir to the SAMA crown of Best Male Artist and Best Urban Dance Album, we have to ask why JR’s “Show Dem”, probably the biggest hit in South Africa in the last year (with a radically inclusive message in this time of racial tension) didn’t even make it onto the MTN Record of the Year shortlist? JR, astonishingly, also did not manage a nomination for the Best Newcomer award. He did however squeeze a Best Hip Hop Album nomination for Colourful, but that category was won by Tear Gas, who also pipped Tumi’s Whole Worlds. Tear Gas are talented, but their music isn’t exactly breaking new creative territory. It’s pretty straight up rapping in Vernac pushed mainstream with some catchy melodies. Still it’s a far sight better than the Urban Pop winners, Jozi, with their album Wild Life, which is possibly the most overhyped release of the year. In fact it’s hard to believe that’s Ma Brrr’s kid on lead vocals because Wild Life is a cheesy, faux-American schlock pop mish mash deriving most of it’s sound from contemporary hip hop and R&B, with lots of truetone included. In fact listening to it makes me feel nauseous. I cannot believe that album won out over the far more impressive, rootsy and original MXO release Sounds in Motion or even Kwela Tebza’s Made in South Africa. Absent in both Hip Hop and Urban Pop categories were the Pioneer Unit artists Rattex and Driemanskap. Oversight? Yeesh.

Now let’s take a look at the English Rock Awards. The only two nominees who ever stood a chance were aKing and the Parlotones, and you can guess who won it. But before we get there let’s share some incredulity at the also-rans. It’s hard to understand how New Holland, Voodoo Child and Cassette even made it onto the shortlist at the expense of say Rambling Bones (or is that Alternative? Doesn’t matter they weren’t there either), Taxi Violence, Isochronous, Desmond and the Tutus, Ashtray Electric, The Black Hotels (although they did manage an Alternative nomination). Now back to the choice between aKing and the Parlotones. The Parlotones took the prize… but egads what shit music they produce. The title track of their SAMA winning album, a duet with Freshlyground’s usually bankable and impressive Zolani Mahola, was abject, less than ordinary, yawn-inducing pop-rock with the most pedestrian lyrics and hackneyed melodies laid down in a studio, ever. I guess even Zolani’s superhero musical talent is not immune to that Parlotones kryptonite. Of course this is just my opinion here, but it’s strong, and the rampant commercial success of the Parlotones makes me ask some pretty fundamental question about the tastes, or lack thereof, in mainstream white South Africa. The Parlotones are without doubt the most overrated, undertalented wannabe globo-pop-rockers this country has ever produced. Their music is saccharine. Nooit, scratch that. Their music is phenylalanine, that stuff in diet drinks that makes you thirsty and gives you cancer. aKing are supremely more talented than the Parlotones, making authentic South African pop rock with great lyrical content, and in general offering a more innovative and original product.

Even though SAMAs CEO Jandre Louw swore that “the judges focus on the quality of the music rather than the popularity of the nominated musicians”. It would seem in the case of aKing vs the Parlotones, the judges bought into the Parlotones KFC snackbox toting hype over aKing’s more subdued Belville pop-rock stoicism.

Then the Alternative English category seemed to contradict that soundbite further, because it was scooped by the BLK JKS’ almost unlistenable debut album After Robots. Now don’t get me wrong, the BLK JKS certainly have a unique presence on stage and their live set is fascinating (if the sound rig does its job), but the only thing selling that album is the downright juxtaposition-fuelled marketing combo of a group of super-trendy and good-looking black kids playing leftfield alt jazz rock with subtle nods to kwela and mbaqanga, and their inherent promotional nous. I mean this is a band that the world were primed and ready to love, evidenced by the fact that The Fader stuck them on the cover when they had barely even launched their debut EP. So please don’t try that, “we don’t believe in the hype, we let the music do the talking” baloney. Because if that’s the case please try and explain why there were no nominations for all the bands we’ve mentioned like Tidal Waves, Kwani Experience and Rambling Bones?

Now I don’t want to be too dismissive of the SAMAs because MTN as a corporate sponsor do a lot for South African music with these awards, and with their MTN Xploaded initiative – that facilitate and support both young and established musicians to make a living through their music. And we really need a credible South African Music Award to support and reward the local industry. However, in short if the latest SAMAs (and here I’m specifically talking about the categories I mentioned above) were a barometer of South African musical success, we could infer that the current climate rewards musicians that pander to “international” trends and sounds at the expense of more original, homegrown creativity.

Interestingly, if you want to see where the real power balance in South African music lies, let me point you to the fact that the Best Selling Album was Bok Van Blerk’s Afrikaner Hart, the Most Downloaded Track was Kurt Darren’s “Af en Af” and the Most Downloaded Ringtone was Kurt Darren’s “Kaptein”.

From SAMAs Album of the Year: Big Nuz Undisputed

15   2
RESPONSES (45)
  1. Niel B says:

    All italics???

    Otherwise I’m nodding in agreement. I don’t like ragging on the Parlos too much, they are an absolute pleasure to work with and I don’t begrudge them their success. Granted it shouldn’t be coming at the expense of other, more daring acts but I honestly thought the Zolani duet was a nice track.

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  2. missmillib says:

    OMG you are spot on! Especially about the Parlotones and the Blk Jks. I can’t stand the Parlotones and as much as I bought into the hype of the Blk Jks, not many people have their album, which to me, isn’t as good as their EP. And how could you leave out the fact that Lira won in the Best Female Category when her entry was a DVD of song’s she’d won for in 2009. Thandiswa’s Ibokwe is true creativity expressed in song, and Busi Mhlongo didn’t even grab one? and aKing are one of the best groups to come out of this country – they have some awesome, authentic music and don’t have that trying-too-hard overdone backwash The Parlotones call music. That guy must just please give 30 Seconds to Mars their eye make-up back. The Sama people chose these winners because they had the best marketing and probably more publicity than the other artists.

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  3. Andy says:

    Hey Niel… sorry about itals… weird coding mistake. Should be fixed now. Zolani and Parlos colab made me gag. But hey god bless free speech!

    Missmillib… I also much prefer the Blk Jks EP and straight up on the Lira thing. Thandiswa rules. I didn’t even know that… Guess I should have done more research! Classic guyliner comment

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  4. Jesus Mannix says:

    God, that Parlotones chorus sounds like Sonja Heroldt’s “Ek verlang na jou”

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  5. Andy says:

    Also to give credit. Dear Reader (Adult Contemporary English) Die Heuwels Fantasties (Afrikaans Alternative) Guy Buttery (Best Instrumental).

    And at least Louise Carver didn’t win best Female Artist… 😉

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  6. judy says:

    Ok Jeeezus, you like Tidal Waves, Andy. We get it. Move on dot org…

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  7. mjg says:

    Ashtray Electric?????????????????

    Prob the worst band i have seen in a very long time!!!!

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  8. funny says:

    phenylalanine – ahahahahahahahaha

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  9. Stumpy says:

    Judy. Maybe it’s time you move on dot org (bleaurg) from quoting theoverrated Cody Diablo

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  10. Andy says:

    Okay mjg I hear you on the Ashtray Electric thing… they’re about as exciting as New Holland and Cassette, Voodoo Child probably edge them by a nose. But all the other bands I mention, such as Taxi Violence, Isochronous, Desmond and the Tutus et al. are great and more deserving of the nomination.

    Judy amidst that field of mediocrity Tidal Waves are shiny archetypes of originality. And they released one of the best South African albums in the last year that has received barely any recognition. So excuse me if I keep shouting it from the rooftops! And there’s a lot more in this piece, funny you get stuck on the mention of tidal waves…

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  11. Tee Tee says:

    I have come to accept the SAMA’s as a totally warped award show, so you better believe that I agree with every word you’ve written down, particularly the Blk Jks comment because honestly speaking the hype isn’t real.

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  12. Luca says:

    Andy, can you really class Desmond and the Tutus alongside Taxi and Isoc?

    While DATT are exciting and highly enjoyable, they follow the same derivative formula – the album, as fresh as it was at its release, plays through on pretty much the same tempo throughout.

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  13. Andy says:

    ja reckon they can because they write funny and original lyrics and they’re just as polished as, say, aKing… even if what they do is largely derivative and poppy, it does take (trace) elements from kwela and I’d argue that they’re at the top of their game whereas everyone from Ashtray to Cassette et al. are doing derivative, only not as well as the international sound they’re copying…

    But what’s far more interesting is missmillib’s comment about Lira winning the Best Female award for the same album she won last year, only released as a live DVD… at the expense of someone like Thandiswa or Busi Mhlongo… that’s some fucked up shit right there.

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  14. death to interior decorators says:

    Andy dude, time to get real and to stop being soooo naive. No awards ceremony anywhere has anything to do with artistic value, these things are entirely about marketing. Geddit? That’s why the Parlotones will always win – ‘cos their multinational major label has more marketing bling than any of the indies. Your darling Tidal Waves are not gonna trump them at this li’l circus before they get signed to a major and marketed all the way to Sydney and back.

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  15. death to interior decorators says:

    Oh, and is that Bra Hugh in the first photo? Yes, it’s a good thing we can’t hear him.

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  16. podesta says:

    JR isnt a newcomer this is his second album…it was the best ceremony out of all the SAMAS no? I think so, and I’ve watched many live over the years, I Ienjoyed the sun city spectacle and trevor noah truly rocked as a host…its a disgrace tumi didnt win and that pro wasnt even nominated…did driemanskaap etc even enter though? would be interesting to know…Lira should have handed that award over to Busi…old songs should not be in consideration ever again…i guess the problem isnt the SAMAS really, its the dire dire state of SA music that just gets worse every year across all genres.

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  17. Andy says:

    dtid… thought we’d lost you.

    Podesta… your argument is whack… you point out a bunch of problems with the judging (Tumi, Busi etc) and then blame the state of SA music. WTF?

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  18. Al says:

    “The Parlotones are without doubt the most overrated, undertalented wannabe globo-pop-rockers this country has ever produced. Their music is saccharine. Nooit, scratch that. Their music is phenylalanine, that stuff in diet drinks that makes you thirsty and gives you cancer.”

    Hahaha… You made my day! No, wait… you made my year:)

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  19. Bob says:

    With regards to The Parlotones and all the comments coming from people who are obviously in the SA music business or support the lesser known bands (I can smell a rat whenever I hear the same old derogatory remarks from them after being in the biz for over 10 years) I felt they needed some sort of response from someone in the know. They are not backed by a ‘multinational major label who has more marketing bling than any of the indies’. Infact they are backed by an indie with a total of 4 employees working from a house. A label who has supported them for 7 years throughout 3 albums. Back in those days the band supported Prime Circle for 2 years for free and they worked their way up every step on the ladder in the music scene. It is actually the hard work of the band and marketing genius of their manager that has allowed them to grow as they have. You are all granted your taste in music but give effort and hard work as well as the success it enjoys its due diligence please.

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  20. Andrew says:

    Andy

    Although the SAMA is mostly a load of commercial bollocks I am not sure this is great journalism? You are basically saying that you don’t like BLK JKS and that you really like Tidal Waves & Rambling Bones & Tumi.

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  21. Jess says:

    If there was actually a reggae catergory at the SAMA’s the Tidal Waves would take it. Don’t think reggae is a big enough of a market in this country though – which is an indicator of how acts are selected for these awards.

    I would’ve given that SAMA to Steve Newman – no offense to Guy, he is amazing – but Steve has been in the industry for years! And hear you on the Parlotones Andy, we all knew it was going to happen though.

    Either way, I found the SAMA Mc really annoying, and the camerawork for the TV broadcast really unimaginative and not engaging at all. Was there ever more than 3 camera angles on that show? Serious lack of backing band action. Oh yes, and the TV sound feed. Eish!

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  22. Al says:

    @ Bob – Point taken on the hard work of the band and marketing genius of their manager, and if talent grew with hard work, i’m sure they would be deserving or maybe they just stopped concentrating on improving their music. Luckily for them 65% of the SA music audience comprises of trend following commercial radio listening sheep with the inability to cristicise, which is not their fault, its all they’re exposed too on the radio, they just don’t know any better – thats a similar percentage to ANCYL Malema supporters – does that make it right?

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  23. Mmmmm! ??? says:

    There where many questionable nominations for categories and awards given to albums or bands that clearly didnt deserve to be #1 in any way
    I’m 100% agreeing on BLK JKS Andy.

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  24. Tumie says:

    “BLK JKS’ almost unlistenable debut album After Robots. Now don’t get me wrong, the BLK JKS certainly have a unique presence on stage and their live set is fascinating (if the sound rig does its job), but the only thing selling that album is the downright juxtaposition-fuelled marketing combo of a group of super-trendy and good-looking black kids playing leftfield alt jazz rock with subtle nods to kwela and mbaqanga, and their inherent promotional nous. I mean this is a band that the world were primed and ready to love, evidenced by the fact that The Fader stuck them on the cover when they had barely even launched their debut EP. So please don’t try that, “we don’t believe in the hype, we let the music do the talking” baloney”-

    R O T F L M A O !

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  25. lois says:

    I reckon Guy Buttery’s award was the only thing right with this years Samas.

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  26. Ross says:

    Let’s not forget that if you don’t belong to RISA (our anti-piracy org) (which means you’re paying them a % of your sales for god knows what) your entrance to the selections is R2200 + vat (plus 7 or so CDs) as opposed to R330 + vat which means a lot of deserving ‘indie’ artists (i say indie because if you’re signed to a label they enter and pay for you) don’t even enter the competition. So the SAMAs are really an industry award for all the major and some small labels who enter to give themselves a pat on the back at the end of the year and a bit of extra marketing material. What we need is an award that is independent of the industry and in touch with what’s actually happening.

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  27. death to interior decorators says:

    Yes folks, our industry insider Bob tells it like it truly is – ” the hard work of the band and marketing genius of their manager” is what got the Parlotones where they are. Now those of us with a genuine love of music would much prefer if it were “the hard work of the manager and musical genius of the band”. Yup, the machine is far more extraoprdinary than the product it sells and my original point about awards ceremonies is upheld. Ever felt like you’ve been cheated?

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  28. Bob says:

    Actually their manager is a huge music buff and has been his entire life. His cd collection is massive and showcases hundreds of unknown local and international bands from a wide range of genres.He previously managed bands like Marlowe, Perez, The Finkelstiens and many more other varied and diverse genres. As long as there is talent there is potential for success. He has piled hundreds of thousands into the local music scene in the past ten years and is proving to be a real industry player who is making great strides for our local talents rep overseas. Every brick he paves opens ups streets for other bands in SA. He always has an open mind to how far he can take a band and is passionate about making them a success. He has a geniune love for music that ranges from hard rock to adult contemporary. I am of the opinion that these comments come from a bitter place due to lack of success and chips on the shoulders. Believe me I have heard it all before. These attitudes do nothing to uplift the state of SA music. It only serves to strokes your egos.

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  29. Andy says:

    Andrew your comprehension skills are letting you down. I’m saying quite a lot more than that. Pieces like this will always rest on opinions… just like the SAMA awards. But I said that already in the article. Give it a re-read

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  30. Anthea says:

    I also find it interesting that The Black Hotels were mentioned in the article in a somewhat better light than The Parlotones. Raphael, The Parlotones manager, also managers them. I wonder if the Black Hotels achieve fame and fortune would they then qualify to be part of the ‘lets rag anyone succesful’ group of people and fall from the indie pedastil The Parlotnes also once enjoyed.

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  31. Andy says:

    I just wish a more original sounding South African band could reach the same levels of commercial success as the Parlotones. Because no matter how hard the Parlotones try they will always be really, really good at almost sounding like the real thing. They’re basically an original cover band. Much like Prime Circle, Perez, The Finkelsteins, Tweak, Just Jinjer, Watershed and Flat Stanley. Ersatz Pop-Rock. Eurgh!

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  32. therese owen says:

    JR wasn’t nominated for Best Newcomer because this is his second album. But you wouldn’t know that because Cape Town doesn’t listen to seTswana music.

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  33. Andy says:

    No Anthea the fact that I like the Black Hotels and dislike The Parlotones goes to show that it’s not a personal vendetta against Raphael… it’s because i think the Parlotones are shit

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  34. Andy says:

    Eish, so I missed his debut album… he should have at least been nominated for MTN Record of the Year… ne?

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  35. Gluteus Re-Rising says:

    The Tswanas live 1500km away from Cape Town, so why would we make a point of listening to their music? Are you folks in Joburg down with the Ovambo hip hop scene?

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  36. mandle says:

    kwela tebza….you are joking, you find them worth mentioning. now i am not only worried about SA MUSIC but also about the so called music journos who have the space to impart their opinion, maybe u just heard their one song with mxo…figures. we need a pix with you and kwela tebza in their very pathetic trio fashion outfits…very fitiing for you andy

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  37. Andy says:

    That “better days” song is worthy of a SAMA. And at least it’s a truly original, indigenous sound… And I shmaak the fact that Kwela Tebza are rocking penny whistles in pop music…

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  38. pauly says:

    Brilliant title! Our democracy should at least extend to voting for what we think should win

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  39. Twakkie says:

    Parlotones… pfffft. That o khan sounds like an old geezer in a nappy.

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  40. mandle says:

    sorry andy not truly original that mix been done a lot, maybe you havent heard enough sa music that is a bite dude..

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  41. Muckety Muck says:

    EGADS! haha

    Tidal Waves /Tumi / Gang of Instrumentals at kirstenbosch was great couple weeks ago. much respect to them. but seriously, does anyone really care who wins SAMAs?

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  42. Dirk Richards says:

    A Sama judge told me that the judging process is extremely frustrating. The judges don’t know who nominates the albums/artists. It became clear that the record companies submit albums in certain categories – and those albums are automatically being seen as “nominations” and being sent to the judges. That’s why certain albums get “noiminated” in categories where they do not belong. The whole “nomination” process is a farce – nobody’s doing any preliminary judiging to select the nominations. The nominations are automatically the albums that the record companies submit. The particular judge told me in the category he had to judge there were “nominations” that were of such low quality that they don’t deserve to be nominations at all. Ask the people at Sama how the so called nomination process works – I”m sure you will be surprised. A farce, definitely.

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  43. Don Dada says:

    SAMAS – corporate cocksucking at it’s best!
    long live the underground!

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  44. Luke says:

    Oi, Andy nice entertaining write/rant.

    SAMA’s? very much like the Oscars, The World Cup etc – something owned by corporates and old men in suite… so not very on the ground – down to earth etc.

    but, I had an interesting idea: a great category could be best music/outdoor festival – we got some epic festivals going on right now Africa Burns, Balkanology, Rocking the Daisies and of course how Oppi is evolving.

    cheers

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  45. Rockstar 4000 says:

    @Dirk Richards typically one of those uninformed that blasts off without thinking before talking. Do some research before you blast. SAMA entries are open to anyone across the entire recording industry to enter. If you’ve done an album between end November 2008 to mid December 2009 then you are free to enter your album for SAMA 2010 (so all previous year as awards are early next year). Nobody eliminates anything and all entries are put to the judges for any category. Judges decide against all entries and no one else.

    For Record of the Year, its listed from radio plays across all radio stations across entire SA to make it to the list. If the song is heavily played (and not just on one station ie 5FM or MetroFM but across all stations or collective of averages) it will make it to the list. JR’s song really only blew up this year and not between December 2008 and December 2009.

    No award show will ever keep everyone happy which is a great thing. The moment we all become monotone martions that all like the same shit is the moment we should just end this planet. SAMA should be applauded for creating a huge platform for SA music, whether you agree with some nominations and winners or not.

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