Archive for the ‘Canadian’ Category

New Website

June 7, 2011

Hello all!

Many thanks for all your support over the last year as I travel, work and write. It’s come time, however, to change things up a little. As a result, I’ve launched a new website:

www.stevensirski.com

I am still trying to figure out how to post pictures, but I hope to have that done shortly. I’ve tried to clean things up a little for easier navigation. Please let me know if I’ve been successful or if something needs to be changed.

If you have any suggestions, please contact me at stevensirski [at] gmail [dot] com. I’d be more than happy to talk/chat/email with you.

As for this site, I will keep it active for now, but will stop updating it shortly.

Many thanks for your continued support,

Steve

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Winnipeg Music

January 26, 2011
Postered Telephone Pole

Winnipeg band posters on a telephone pole.

Since I’ve started a new journey towards my heritage homeland of Ukraine, I’ve stopped in Poland for the mean time. While here, I’ve had the chance to find some interesting music both from the store and also from those I’ve met in hostels. One Finnish dude gave me a list of 7 or 8 metal bands, while another Polish dude gave me some 15 Polish bands to listen to. In return, I supplied some music from my city and nation.

In this post, I’ll cover the musicians that I’ve been sharing abroad. Further, if I were to run my OWN hostel, these are the artists that I’d want in my music library open to the public. You’ll find rock and metal, folk rock, ethnic, funk, electronica, jazz, and even something for the kids. Be forewarned, some of these bands are no longer together so you may have to ask around for their discs.

Rock and Metal

The Guess Who

There’s an interesting history behind this band and its members. I’ll leave you to Wikipedia it. In any event, The Guess Who website takes you to the current line up of The Guess Who, but former members Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings have continued their careers through other musical ventures. Radio-friendly, classic rock, easy-on-the-ears and catchy melodies are the drive behind this tried-and-true Winnipeg rock group. A “best of” collection would probably sufficiently represent this band’s repetoire. Remember when Lenny Kravitz did “American Woman”? Yea, that was written by The Guess Who. How about “These Eyes”? Again, The Guess Who. But that catchy drum beat to “Takin Care of Business?” That’s Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Now that you know, stop guessing. 😛

The Watchmen

Though they claim to be on a “reunion tour,” a look through their past tour dates suggests that they haven’t really ever taken time off. Sure, they’ve taken some time to release albums, but isn’t that reminiscent of Metallica’s early days, releasing an album every 3 years? A local favourite, they started out way back in 1992 and are still releasing albums. They recently had a documentary done about them titled All Around Us. Some of the more popular albums include Silent Radar and Slow Motion, the last one being a combination of a studio album and a “best of” compilation. They’ve gone in two directions, both rock and electronic, I prefer the first type.

 

Trousermouth from Winnipeg.

Trousermouth

Winnipeg’s Gwar, Sex Pistols or Rancid, hopefully you get the idea. Though not every show is a complete mess (physically), if they play the Albert, you can be sure that the band will bring the toilet paper for the women’s washroom… and soak it in beer before throwing it across the room. These guys have been around forever and probably will stay that way, or until someone thinks it’s not funny any more… which probably won’t happen. Hard to recommend a song, but good party music, ESPECIALLY if you’re not English. Listen to them here on CBC Radio 3. And if I’m correct, I think I contributed video to their DVD, available in their store.

Ciaira’s tears

My first rock band, because who wouldn’t promote a noble effort of being in a rock band that played the Royal Albert? Listen to them here.

Bif Naked

Full of attitude and tattoos, Bif found her bearings in Winnipeg before venturing out into the big wide world. I’m partial to her later stuff, such as “I love Myself Today”. I love the attitude she brings to the table.

 

Serrated Scalpel

If there were to exist a “Study Book of Winnipeg Metal”, the following three bands would be in it. Serrated Scalpel were as heavy as the name suggests. Unfortunately, the band’s website states that they are on a hiatus. Hard, heavy, unrepenting metal, English-learning might be at a minimum with this band, but the music lessons will be top notch. You can find them listed on the Encyclopedia Metallum.

Immortal Possession and Boldface Industry

Again, these two bands are no longer around, but I want to mention them anyway. Immortal Possession is unrepenting death metal in a similar vain to Serrated Scalpel, while Boldface Industry is more heavy metal/industrial. Drummer Rob Shallcross has since gone on to play and record with several different acts, many of them non-metal related. I single him out because he inspired me to play “blast beats”, extremely fast 16th notes played on the snare drum with one hand, while pounding out 16th notes on the double kick pedal. Amazing. Inspiring.

Electro Quarterstaff

I would share this band only with math and music geeks since hardly anyone outside that area in the greater world (and not on North American soil) would readily comprehend. That being the case, EQ derives inspiration from a slew of musical genres which ultimately show up in their final compositions. I remember talking to one of the guitar players and hearing him describe the work they put into their comps had me questioning if he did anything else in his life. I recall him saying that he liked music that could be reproduced both on stage and in the studio, time and again. If you don’t believe, see them live.

The Weakerthans

Again, never really got into them but they’ve been around forever that, if I were not to include them, the list would be incomplete. These boys have a good sense of humour, especially about Winnipeg, writing about it in “One Great City”. YouTube hosts a few videos of the song, just as funny when the audience joins in for the chorus.

Folk/rock

Kayla Luky

Just finished recording her fourth album, this 21-year old from Grandview, Manitoba strikes a chord with me. I picked up a copy of her last album, The Story of My Life, and found it to be as depressing as country-folk is supposed to be. Revel in that depression, because the music’s damn fine. My personal favourite is Merry Go Round. She recently re-did her website too.

Voldis and the Melodicas

I will assume that any foreigners coming to Winnipeg have heard of the Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino. Well, think of the soundtrack to Resevoir Dogs, Voldis and the Melodicas would fit the bill. The grooves and compositions these guys come up with put them in a league above other acoustic rock bands. Apparently the band is actually made up of two other bands, but that don’t matter since the fusion works fine. Good travel music right here and good for learning some slang English as well. Unfortunately, they had sold out their first album and were printing more before I left for Poland.

Ethnic

Madrigaia

An absolutely phenomenal, all-female acapella group that sings traditional folk songs from around the world, including Canada. I heard this group at the Winnipeg Jazz Festival, and they had me hooked. I still listen to both albums for percussion inspiration. You can still find their work on MySpace.

Taran

My first venture into Ukrainian polka music. Released one demo and one full length. You can still find the full length. If not, I’ll get you a copy.

Zrada

Another one of my efforts as a drummer in Winnipeg. To see them live is an experience.

Bafana/Jay Stoller

A tribal percussion group in Winnipeg, the coldest city in the world? Yes, it’s true. Fronted by Jay Stoller, who also runs a djembe school in Winnipeg, this percussion ensemble plays both traditional African rhythms and some of their own creations. As far as I know they only have one disc out, but they do play at the annual Folklorama in August.

Fubuki Daiko

A pounding display of Japanese percussion. The core group I think is 4 or 5 people, but they run a school and swap students in and out of performances as they need. They have toured across the world and have released a few albums, but seeing them live is pretty neat because the drums really do reverberate in your chest.

Sonic Flow

I’m not sure how old this band is, and I couldn’t get their “official” website to work, but I recently picked up a copy of their CD. Combining the sounds of the didjeridoo, the washbucket bass (which you can also see in my movie, The Five Muses), table and the guitar, this band has an utterly incredible fusion of sound.

Hoosli from Winnipeg, Canada.

Hoosli

Hoosli is my favourite Ukrainian men’s choir. Yes, the music is often religious or based on old folk tunes, but hearing this choir perform live is truly a marvelous experience. I like their Christmas album, although all of their albums are pretty damn solid. I’ve always thought their singing would be great for a movie soundtrack. Maybe one day folks, maybe one day.

Funk

Moses Mayes

The masters of funk, Moses Mayes. These guys have been around for quite a while and have relased a few albums. Apparently they’ve just re-started, but you can still find their discs in some of the local music stores.

JFK & The Conspirators

A mixture of raggae and funk, these guys are easy listening, I bet they could find a market in Korea if they wanted it. I have their one disc, Mash Up the Dance. Not sure if they’re still playing out, but you can have a listen on CBC Radio 3.

Electronica

 

Vav Jungle of Winnipeg.

Vav Jungle

A hairstylist and an electronic artist, Eve Rice makes a parade as Vav Jungle, an electronic music act both eclectic and catchy. I picked up her Pap Rock album and thought it was awesome.

Jazz

Ron Paley Big Band

I prefer his acoustic big band work over his electric work, but this man has been around since the Winnipeg stone age. For me, the acoustic jazz has more of what I associate with the “big band” sound, but you can tell he’s pushing boundaries with his electric work. You can listen to his discography here.

Steve Kirby

And if you ever get a chance to see bassist Steve Kirby, do it. Originally from New York, he came to Winnipeg to set up a better jazz program at the University of Manitoba. He doesn’t play in any one band, but he has released one disc, Wicked Grin. Your best bet to catch him is at Winnipeg’s Jazz Festival.

And for the kids…

Fred Penner

Probably the most accessible and appropriate man to learn English from, he’s a children’s entertainer. But don’t let that deter you. Since this man is a must in a child’s development, Fred Penner has gathered legions of fans young and old. My favourites include Otto the Hippo (about a hippo who goes to the big city to be a rockstar) and Ghost Riders in the Sky, Mr. Penner also recorded one of my favourite Christmas albums.

And there are many more.

I think almost every city can lay claim that they “have the best local music scene.” Well no shit, cause the kids who got nothing to lose but everything to gain can try anything, the bigs can’t. And then there are other bands such as Jet Set Satellite, The Perms, The Barrymores, Kenmode, the Vagiants, Jerkwater, the list can go on. Best thing to do is pop into the local music store (such as Music Trader in Osborne Village or Into the Music in the Exchange) and ask the desk guys. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, just walk into one of the live music venues in Winnipeg.

If you think that Winnipeg is all ice, snow, and depression, you’re wrong. A vibrant music scene keeps this city rolling all year long.

Zrada Music Video: Black Sea Mania

December 3, 2010

Zrada logo.

Some folks will remember when the band originally posted this video. It was when we recorded the first Zrada album, Return of the Wagon, way back in 2006 (and now out of print). Recorded in one weekend, we rented the same camera that got busted during the Taran music video shoot. This song still stands as one of my favourite recordings.

Taking a cue from A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica, we assembled some footage from the recording session and put it together. You can watch the final product on Vimeo. Enjoy.

Reminiscences of a Winnipeg Musician Part 3: Ciaira’s tears

November 30, 2010

As I was writing up my posts about Winnipeg rock venues, it dawned on me that I’d done quite a bit of recording here in Winnipeg. By no means do I claim to be a great studio artist (my band mates would probably have more than a few stories to share), but I’ve been in Winnipeg studios for five recordings. The first true band I was a part of was called Ciaira’s tears.

This is the band with which I learned how to play on stage with, encouraging my “free-form” drumming style (metronome anyone?). This is the band in which I went from long hair to a shaved head. This is the band in which I learned about marketing and postering. This is the band with which I made my first studio and live recordings. This is the band that went through a band member change only to break up a couple of years later. This is the band that taught me tact with women, with moderate success. This was my first rock band.

Originally, the band was called Ciaira’s Problem, of which I was not a part. Then shortly before I came along the band was renamed to Ciaira’s tears. You’ll have to ask Mr. Baria for the story cause I’m still not clear about it. Something about a girl named Ciara not liking Steve.

There were three of us, three Steve’s. And yes, we heard all the lame-ass jokes you could muster: Are you The Three Steves? You could use Steve Cubed. Usually followed by some sort of dumb laugh. Suppressing the urge to say “Shut the fuck up,” the band went by Ciaira’s tears. The second “i” in Ciaira is courtesy of my guitarist who, for all his computer wizardry, doesn’t like using spell check. (Maybe this is why Ciara didn’t like him?)

Early photo of Steve and Steve.

We released two recordings. For those of you lucky enough to have a copy of the original Jellybean Single (released in January 2001), know that there were only something like 50 copies ever made. They’re rarities. 😀 I personally recorded those tapes from the master tape. And it all had to be done in real-time, no CD ripping here. The tape had 4 tracks total: Jellybean, two jam songs, and a crappy version of Alconol.

The firstest first recording was Jellybean, probably our catchiest song. We were lucky because my guitarist was taking a studio engineering course at Studio 11 at the time (guess who else was in the class, John Turner of Phoenix Sound). The class needed a guinea pig band, and so we volunteered. One cold Winnipeg evening, we trucked in all of our equipment, set it up, and let the students handle the mic placements and recording. It was also the first time I’d ever used a click track, and that took some getting used to!

Life After... EP. Released March 2002. Cover design by Steve Baria.

We decided to hit the studio again later that year and record some more tracks. The result was the Life After…, called such because the recording was supposed to represent the life of the band after Jellybean. You see, Jellybean was a fan favourite, but it was a rarity. Jellybean was catchy, the rest of our songs not so much (except maybe Mrs. Alexander).

We rehearsed like mad and recorded three more songs. Though I encourage you to listen to the songs for yourself, I think Jellybean was about an ex-gf, Stuckpig is about gutting pigs (it’s not really, but I don’t know exactly), Aconite is about vampires, and Pink Napkins is about… well, that’s a fun one to figure out. We also added two of my favourite songs from a live show, Alconol and Mrs. Alexander (the first song about tylenol and alcohol, the second about a wayward son).

We tried to make a music video for Aconite, but I don’t think that will ever see the light of day. I wrote and shot it for one of my university classes, casting my brother and his then-gf as vampires. The band makes an appearance (as vampires playing instruments), but only a short one since my instructor encouraged me to tell a story instead of just recording the band play their instruments. I shot it on 16mm black and white film, costing somewhere around $800. I’ll chalk that up to a learning process.

Early poster.

Early poster.

But Ciaira’s tears was on the wane. Band tensions increased and our desire to keep trying decreased, all of us looking for something different. So, after 6 years together, some 43 shows played in the gritty bars of Winnipeg, 2 two recordings, and one last show at the Collective Cabaret, we called it quits.

But Steve! I want to listen to your music! I’m eager! Tell me more! For those of you interested in hearing my early drum work with my first rock band, you can find many of our songs on the CBC Radio 3 website. In addition to the Life After… EP, you’ll find a couple more recordings. One is titled Make Me Happy, recorded live after a lineup change, and the Changing String Jam Pt. 1, which was one of the two jam songs included on the Jellybean Single.

The next logical step for me, of course, was to join a polka band, but that story will have to wait for another time.

Reminiscences of a Winnipeg Musician Part 2: Venues Not Operational

November 18, 2010

In this post I continue my jog down memory lane visiting the venues that were once testaments to the vibrant Winnipeg music scene. If you want to see more photos, you’ll have to check out my other Flickr page here.

Blue Note Cafe. The only venue ever to black list us. Wow. The bookie was kind of a douche anyway and I didn’t like dealing with him (and I’m sure he didn’t like dealing with me). We were even stopped early. Eeeps. But this venue (now defunct) lays claim to hosting my first show ever as a drummer. I didn’t want my parents in attendance because I though it’d be too crazy for them to handle. Oh, how crazy it was, 12 people showed up, 6 to support the band. Found on Portage Ave near Arlington, the venue was pretty small and had an even smaller stage. It may have fit 50 people. I think it’s a restaurant now or a record store, or both.

Wise Guys Downtown. The venue at which we recorded probably one of our best live shows, has now been converted into some dance bar. Oh well. Those were the days when it was a sports bar and grill on the weekend but local bands hailed the stage on Wednesday nights. For every ticket turned in, the band made $1. I think we made $78 that night, one of our highest grossing shows. We also played one show at Wise Guys On Campus (which I’m told was recently shut down). It was a cover show, the only of its kinda.

Haunted Masonic Temple

Masonic Temple, formerly a music venue called the Blue Agave. Careful, it's haunted.

Most notably not operational is the now boarded-up Masonic Temple. That building was a brothel of ideas that didn’t work out, everything from restaurants to music venues to the original purpose of being a temple. We played this venue as part of The Evolution of the Scene, an attempt to connect bands and music industry folk. At that time, the venue was called the Blue Agave. 10 bands in 5 hours, it was absolute mayhem, but it fucking rocked. Lugging our equipment up three flights of stairs we only played one thirty-minute set. But that’s not all. The place is said to be haunted. When we played there, we were always careful to leave one seat open for the ghost of the house, in case the ghost wanted to watch the show. Tales of blood streaming down the wall, falling beams, footsteps, etc. all freaked the hell out the building’s workers. Finally, it shut down and hasn’t been used since. It’s for sale, if you’re interested.

The Former Collective Cabaret

The Former Collective Cabaret, now an American Apparel. 😥

Collective Cabaret. As much as I love globalization for the fact that I can buy Starbucks in South Korea or Burger King when in doubt in Bangkok, it really struck a chord when one of my favourite venues was turned into an American Apparel. Host to the last ever Ciaira’s tears show, the Collective Cabaret embraced mostly rock, punk and metal music. It had a great sound system, it was spacious, and it even had a video screen so I could try my “Rock’n’Film” show idea. It was run by the same generous, we’ve-dealt-with-worse managers of the Albert, the Cabaret was a bright spot in the Winnipeg music scene just down the street from the Zoo and, more recently, The Cavern.

Wellington's

Could not find the entrance to the venue called Wellington's, a formerly popular goth hang.

Wellingtons. I don’t think this place is still operational. Well, I think it’s more one of those places that you have to be invited to. As in, “Pssst, there’s something going on at Wellingtons, wanna go?” To which you’d respond “sure” cause you’d neither know where it is or what was going on. Think raves for goths. I remember they had dirty white tiles for floors.

Rogue’s Gallery. Oh the Rogue’s. My bandmates spent more time here than I did, mostly because they were older and a part of the “coffee shop hang out” group. Bands played upstairs, which meant lugging the equipment up the winding stairs (fun stuff). Laid back atmosphere, paintings on the walls, books to flip through, and some games to play while sippin’ coffee. Though I’m not clear on why the place shut down, I do know that they often got noise complaints. Or maybe it was only when we played.

The Stone. Another venue attached to a hotel, but this one is found in St. Boniface. I don’t know what it is now, but it’s sure as hell not The Stone. I can’t remember if there was a strip club next door or if the place was a strip club, but I remember there being strippers around.

Killarney, Manitoba. My rock band’s first, and last, national tour was to this small city about 3 hours west of Winnipeg. Playing to an all-ages group, it was set up by one of the girls living there who had heard us online. The kids went off hard that day, complete with most-pit, devil horns, and all the black they could find in their wardrobe. Fantastic energy and a highlight in my career as a drummer.

I would be remiss not to mention the fact that Ciaira’s tears only ever played one house party, at my future sis-in-law’s parents’ place. Thanks to our melodic sound and amps set to 11, we cleared the room within a few minutes, though some of our better friends toughed it out. She even paid us $60, which I’m sure we spent on booze. Zrada and Taran, on the other hand, played some house parties which were renowned to get out of hand, often with people juggling (shirtless) with empty wine bottles and patio furniture being moved onto the roof.

And so we played the stages of the Winnipeg rock music scene, sharing them with the likes of Burnbox, Fuller, Needlefish, XengineX, Jerkwater, Dreadnaut, Serrated Scalpel (watch the first video, insane!), Faust, The Product, HCE, Lowball, The Velvet Pill, Trousermouth and a whole list of other like-minded future-rockstars. Yep, those were the days.

As a concluding note, I think I will add one more part to this series, part 3: Ciaira’s tears.

Reminiscences of a Winnipeg Musician Part 1: Venues Still Operational

November 16, 2010

Recently, over a few beers with a high school friend, he mentioned that his younger brothers were going into the studio to record their first album. They would be recording with a man named John Turner at his new studio. Now, more than likely none of you know John Turner, but I’ve known him for years. He was part of a band called Burnbox with whom we shared the stage so many years ago in our younger, more ambitious days as rockstars.

That got me thinking about all those years I spent slumming around in nothing but the classiest places of the Winnipeg music scene. So, one fine gloomy and overcast November day, heading out toward my new favourite hang, the Millennium Library, I decide to take a wander past some old venues. I even took pictures of some of them which I will post shortly.

Wow. I hadn’t realized how many different venues we played at. As a result, I’ve separated this post into two parts: those that are still operational, and those that, well, are retired like an aging, washed-up rockstar. In this part, I’ll cover those venues that are still operational.

West End Cultural Centre. Still operational and recently renovated, this is the last of the small-venues in Winnipeg before you step up to the Burton Cummings Theatre. When my rock band, Ciaira’s tears, played there for a band battle, it had a great sound system and competent sound engineers. I convinced my cousin, then at university, and five of her friends to climb into my Chevette and watch my band. One of the easiest venues to load into, and much cleaner than some of the other venues on this list. This venue often hosts touring acts and helps support both the Winnipeg Jazz Festival and the hippie-joint-fest that is the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

King's Head Pub & Restaurant Full View

Catering to music of all kinds, the King's Head Pub remains a staple in the Winnipeg music scene.

The King’s Head. Though Ciaira’s tears never played here, Zrada did. It was the last venue I played in Winnipeg with Zrada back in 2008. Still operational, the venue is hospitable to bands of all types, encouraging Irish, Ukrainian, and jazz music acts. They also play host to a series of shows during the Winnipeg Jazz Fest. Though they’ve had the same bar staff for ages, they still employ smart and beautiful waitresses. 😀 And not far from the King’s Head is…

Rear View of the Royal Albert Arms Hotel

The rear entrance to the long-standing Royal Albert Arms venue.

Royal Albert: Stickered Wall

One of the stickered walls in the Royal Albert venue.

The Royal Albert. *Tear* Great place. What a fucking dive. I’m not sure how many other bands experienced the same plight our band did, but every time we played a show there the bar owner would tell us that someone or some thing got broke that afternoon. Maybe it was just coincidence. But this bar is iconic and legendary in the Winnipeg music scene. One time it even payed host to a Winnipeg Fringe Festival show, Henry and The Angry Inch. Everything my parents encouraged me not to be was on display at this bar: rock, metal, and punk, the same words used to describe the audience are also applied to the music. Piercings, tattooes, knives, drums, beer, blood (and, during Trousermouth shows, toilet paper) harmoniously meld with the band stickers plastered on the wall and the unsafe pillar on the side of the stage. If you haven’t played the Albert, you haven’t paid your dues. Oh, we were warned about the Albert curse: play the Albert more than once a month and your band is doomed to fail.

The Zoo: Rear View

Rear view of The Zoo rock venue.

The Zoo. The bar, not the lovely sight-seeing animal park for families. No no, it used to be biker bar #1, The Zoo is the Village’s quintessential rock palace. Loud, proud, and fucking dirty, this venue is attached to the Osborne Village Inn and has a beer vendor out back. Attracting both local and touring acts, this venue is part 2 of 3 in the essential Winnipeg scene. It has one of the loudest sound systems on the scene, and a competent sound guy to work it (a rare combination). Pick a famous Canadian rock band, and they probably played at The Zoo at some point during their formative years.

Pyramid Cabaret

The Pyramid Cabaret

The Pyramid Cabaret. Part 3 of 3 for the mandatory Winnipeg small-venue scene. We played there once or twice, most notably when my first band, Ciaira’s tears, released its first (and only) EP, Life After…. Who would’ve figured it could snow so much in March? Well, cheers to you folks who made it out to that show because I think that was the most people we ever played to, somewhere around 90-100. Sold damn near every copy of our CD, too! Thank goodness because my gtar player lost the rest of the CD inserts and stickers. But this venue isn’t just for local acts, touring acts also stop by. From what I can remember of the night, the most notable band to pass through here was GWAR. Insane, blood-spattered, and politically-aware space-jockeys smash about the stage chopping off the heads of presidents and terrorists while spraying the crowd with blood and alien semen. And then I had to explain to my bookstore boss why I had green and blue dye on my face the next day. Wonderful show. Full of excitement.

The Academy

The new location of the Academy Coffee Co.

The Academy Coffee Co. (No website!) Before the ACC moved into Osborne Village, it had a location near yuppied-up River Heights. The River Heights location closed down as the owner devoted all his energy to the new place in the Village. Owned and operated by the same dude who ran the Noiseworks music stores, Brian, this place was phenomenal. I really liked the place when it was both a CD store and a coffee shop. But, when it was a coffee shop, he couldn’t sell alcomahol. So, he changed that. Catering primarily to acoustic, jazz, and blues artists, Brian always went to great lengths to ensure the sound was gorgeous before resuming his duty at the cash register.

Having covered the places that are still opened, in my next post I’ll cover those that have been shut down and mention what those places have now become. Careful, one is even haunted.


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