Django in June

Artists & Staff in 2015


In 2015 we will be happy to reconnect (and reconnect you) with several artists who have been here before...but not for some time. I'm thinking here of Wawau Adler, Joscho Stephan, and Tcha Limberger.

We'd also like to introduce you to some total newcomers, starting with the members of RP Quartet from Paris, France: Edouard Pennes (g.), Bastien Ribot (v.), Remi Oswald (g.) and Damien Varaillon (b.). This year's substantial German contingent includes one brand-newbie: the young double-threat (guitar and violin) Sandro Roy. From Montréal we welcome Damien Levasseur, and from Spain via New York City, we have jazz accordion maestro Victor Prieto.

And of course we've invited back a bunch of old friends: Tim Kliphuis heading up our (incredibly strong) violin staff, Don Stiernberg back on mandolin, the peripatetic Denis Chang... Well, that list goes on for a while, so why don't you just have a look at the one we've provided below.

Then plan to join us—which is to say, them—for an incredible week of jazz á la Django, in June.


Guitar Violin
Wawau Adler (Germany) Tim Kliphuis (Holland)
Joscho Stephan (Germany) Bastien Ribot (RP Quartet; France)
Edouard Pennes (RP Quartet; France) Sandro Roy (Germany)
Tcha Limberger (Belgium) Tcha Limberger (Belgium)
Sandro Roy (Germany) Mandolin
Rémi Oswald (RP Quartet; France) Don Stiernberg (Chicago)
Damien Levasseur (Tcha-Bado; Montréal) Accordion
Denis Chang (Montreal; DC-Music School) Victor Prieto (Spain; NYC)
Adrian Holovaty (Chicago) Dallas Vietty (Pennsylvania)
Christine Tassan (France, Canada) Bass
Jeff Radaich (California) Damien Varaillon (RP Quartet; France)
Jack Soref (Boston)  


Wawau Adler: Guitar

Wawau (pronounced "Vah-Vow") Adler was first brought to my attention years ago—by both Andreas Oberg and Ted Gottsegen—as a player I should consider inviting to Django in June. It didn't take much arm twisting. He was our featured guitarist in 2007 at the very first Django Camp, and his concert with Tim Kliphuis helped set the standard we've tried to match ever since. It hasn't been easy.

Wawau was born in Karlsruhe to a Sinti (Gypsy) family in 1966. Largely self taught on guitar, he learned to play Gypsy Swing directly from Django's recordings, working through the difficult passages over and over again as so many of us do. Unlike most of us, however, he was ready to give his first concerts at the age of 13. In his book Gypsy Jazz: In Search of Django Reinhardt and the Soul of Gypsy Swing, Michael Dregni includes Adler in a list of the youthful prodigies (Bireli, Jimmy Rosenberg, Raphaël Faÿs, Samson Schmitt...) that Sinti culture seems to produce with remarkable frequency.

Since that time he has absorbed other jazz influences, including those of Charlie Parker, Wes Montgomery and Pat Martino. Like many of the best contemporary GJ players he is as comfortable playing straight ahead jazz on electric guitar as he is playing early Django repertoire on a Selmac. On several recordings, though—Back to the Roots, Vols. 1 & 2, Here's To Django—his focus is clearly on the Gypsy jazz of his formative years.

Wawau has played all the biggest GJ festivals in Europe, including the mainstage at Samois. He's been featured on the cover of Robin Nolan's, Gypsy Jazz Secrets. And of special note to DiJ students, one of Denis Chang’s first releases at DC Music School was, “In The Style of Wawau Adler.” It is a goldmine of licks and Sinti guitar technique from a true master of this style. So is hanging with him for a few days.



Joscho Stephan: Guitar

I think we can safely credit Joscho Stephan with having introduced Gypsy jazz to as many North American guitar-geeks as just about anyone. Maybe it's because of his many appearances at the big Chet Atkins love-fest that takes place in Nashville every year. Or Lincoln Center. Or Birdland. Or some video that has caught on: this take on Django's Tiger, for example, has had some 130,000 views on YouTube. (Django's own, right next to it has had about 90K.) I frankly don't know how he's done it. I do know—because he was here in 2010—that folks get very excited by his playing.

Born in Mönchenglach, Germany in 1979, Joscho began studying guitar (Classical, Rock) at the age of 6. At 15 he first encountered the music of Django Reinhardt. Within two years he had formed a quartet with Dad on rhythm guitar and with the release in 1999 of his Swinging Strings, Joscho established himself as one of Europe's hottest young players. He is now some 15 years less young. Still very hot.

Students of guitar should note that in addition to being a virtuoso player, Joscho is a thoughtful and articulate teacher. Good news, that, because he'll be with us not only for a weekend performance, but for all for Django Camp as an instructor.


Edouard Pennes: Guitar

One of the best sources I have for finding new talent for Django in June is the artists who have already been here. They know best what we're up to and what we'd be looking for in our teachers and performers. I believe it was Aurelien Trigo (here in 2014 with Christophe Lartilleux's, Latcho Drom) who first recommended RP Quartet, and specifically guitarist Edouard Pennes, whom he called "the sweetest guy ever, generous and a really great player." That may be the gushing of a friend, but if so, Edouard has a knack for getting friends to gush over him. And when one of your "friends" is the esteemed Serge Krief, I'm inclined to listen up. Krief's words:

In my mind RP Quartet is one of the few contemporary groups that best integrates the French swing style of Django Reinhardt. I had the privilege of having its two guitarists, Edouard Pennes and Remi Oswald, as students for many years. Just as I was taught by Matelo Ferret (swing and jazz musette genius, contemporary to Django Reinhardt), I taught Edouard and Remi in the traditional oral manner. They are in my mind the best solo and rhythm guitarists of their generation. (Translation Guillaume Goussault.)

In case you are wondering, “RP” is the initials of (violinist) Ribot and Pennes, and also the abbreviation for the Région Parisienne where the members of the quartet live and teach. The group's specialty is straight ahead jazz repertoire of the 60's (give or take a decade) served à la sauce Django. The links below should get your mouth watering for a taste of that.



Tcha Limberger: Guitar & Violin

Here you have the entire contents of an email I received from our friend Patrus (of after Djangofest Northwest 2012.

"One word -- Tcha."

It was a word I'd heard before. Vocalist, guitarist and violinist Tcha Limberger was, after all, born into one of the great lineages of Gypsy jazz. His grandfather, the violinist Piotto Limberger, was a contemporary of Django's and so among the 1st generation of performers to play Hot Club repertoire with a Gypsy twist. His father Vivi was a member of the now-legendary Waso with Fapy Lafertin and Koen De Cauter, and it was they who tutored Tcha on Django-style guitar.

Despite these spotless bona fides, Tcha has not limited himself to working within the Gypsy jazz idiom. To mention just one of his many areas of study, as a young adult he travelled to Budapest to make a serious study of Hungarian folk music traditions. He has since founded bands playing authentic Magyar Nota and folk music from Kalotaszeg, Transylvania.

Tcha was first (and last) here in 2013 and we're having him back at this, the first opportunity. Although violinists will have the opportunity to work again with Tcha, this year his primary role will be as a guitar instructor. If you'd like a foretaste of what he has to offer, check out the material he and Denis Chang prepared for Denis' DC Music School: In The Style of Tcha Limberger on either instrument. Guitar Violin


Sandro Roy: Guitar & Violin

When I mentioned to Denis Chang that I was contemplating showcasing German talent in 2015 he encouraged me to check out this young man, Sandro Roy. So I did, and based on my interactions with him so far I think many of us will be thanking Denis (once again) for lending us his treasure map.

Born into an Augsburger Gypsy family of musicians, Sandro was only 7 when he received his first violin lessons and 13 when he became a national prizewinner at the German „Jugend musiziert“ competition. The prizes and honors have kept coming, and so have the sort of press clippings that only a GJ geek can fully appreciate: Sandro at 15 playing with Hän'che Weiss, at 18 with Stochelo Rosenberg, etc.

It is worth mentioning (especially for violinists, who arguably have to work even harder on technique than guitarists) that Sandro's formal training is on classical violin and that he regularly performs as a featured soloist with symphony orchestras. But count him among that relatively rare breed of classical musicians who manage to benefit from that training without accruing any apparent stylistic or creative limitations. In the liner notes to Sandro's debut as a leader, German jazz critic Alex Schmitz says: Give the young man whatever you like, a violin concert of Bach or Glasunow, a jazz standard à la Thad Jones’ ‘A Child is Born’, Sarasate’s ‘Zigeunerweisen’ or something deeply Viennese by Kreisler – Sandro Roy...will record any musical challenge with seeming effortlessness, rising to it brilliantly every time.”

And while we're on the subject of Sandro's versatility, here's the clincher: he is a very accomplished Gypsy jazz guitarist as well. In fact, he will work during at least 2 of our 3 sessions a day with guitarists at Django Camp. So...everyone gets a share of this new-found treasure of a musician.


Remi Oswald : Rhythm Guitar

Remi Oswald started out playing sax and clarinet but—long story short—has opted for specializing in rhythm guitar. I invite you to read the quote from Serge Krief in the profile of Edouard Penne (above) to see how that's been going!

Remi has studied extensively with Krief and, like other members of RP, at the Centre des Musiques Didier Lockwood. As the videos below demonstrate, he's a busy sideman in diverse settings with the best of the best in Paris and elsewhere.

He's been my primary contact with RPQ since I first approached them and I have found him to be reliable, friendly and very helpful. I'm confident that you are going to have the same pleasant experience of him here. In fact, you are likely to have it before you even get here, as he has graciously offered to provide rhythm tracks for the Tier 2 Core Repertoire we're encouraging you to learn this year. (See the Get Ready Musically pages for more on that.) He'll be our rhythm specialist at Django Camp.



Damien Levasseur: Guitar

Damien and I have been trying to get him here for several years, which is saying something when we're talking about a musician who is only 24 years old. What it's saying, specifically, is that he got good fast.

He got turned on to Django's music in 2004 at the perfectly impressionable age of 14. Two years later he joined Montreal's, Maânouche Swing, with whom he recorded two CD's. In 2007, he won the 1st prize at
the Montreal Jazz Festival contest. Three years later he took the Grand prix de la guitare de
. Like I said: good, fast.

His current combo with the guitarist Charles Fréchette is called Tcha-Badjo. Formed in 2012, they have been on the road or in the studio ever since. They have two CD's to show for it, and they've left their tire treads bit by bit on the byways of many countries, including those of both Europe and the Americas from Canada to Argentina. They will be back on tour in Europe in the spring and summer of 2015, as a matter of fact. But this year we're both stretching to get him here. So even if it's a stretch for you, too, come meet Damien.




Denis Chang : Guitar

Denis Chang has been on our staff at Django in June from Year 2 on. (Year 1, we had no "staff", just our guest artists, the Robin Nolan Trio.) Early on Denis attracted the attention and earned the gratitude of many students of the style by virtue of his high-quality transcriptions of solos by Django Reinhardt and other GJ masters, especially those of Django himself and the extended Rosenberg clan. Next came the authoritative DVD's produced by HyperHip Media: Jazz Manouche: The Art of Accompaniment, and the four volume Jazz Manouche: Technique & Improvisation.

Throughout that time Denis has cultivated friendships and musical collaborations with many European masters of the style—some well-known, some less. No matter. Denis recognizes quality when he hears it. Lucky for us, he's a quick learner and a generous teacher, so we all get the benefit of his continued travels, his attentiveness to (some would say, obsession with) detail, and his eagerness to share.

With his latest project DC Music School coming online, Denis is creating an even wider platform from which to do just that—share. By all means check it out. But note this as well: with that project under way, his work and travel schedule are now scary-busy, which means that opportunities for face-to-face tutelage with Denis are getting rarer. Come June, you always know where to find him.


Adrian Holovaty: Guitar

Adrian Holovaty started by wearing the "student" cap at Django in June, attending Django Camp from 2007 to 2012 as a fervent jammer and spongelike absorber of all we had to offer. In 2013 he donned his "teacher" chapeau to become the first non-professional musician to make the transition from camper to staff.

How'd that go, you ask? Great—he was among our most highly-rated teachers on the post-camp evaluation. No surprise there—Adrian has been teaching weekly gypsy jazz classes at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music for several years now. Not incedentally, he's also the guy who has brought us all Soundslice, a great tool for students of any genre.

He was back on staff again in 2014 and again won praise and thanks from all quarters. Last year also offered him some great opportunities as a rhythm guitarist. He played rhythm for Joscho Stephan at the Chet Atkins festival in Nashville and on tour with both Robin Nolan and the Rhythm Future Quartet. This is an American, with a life—kinda like, say, you. Come ask him, "How you do that, Adrian?"


Christine Tassan : Guitar

Christine Tassan was born in France, but emmigrated to Quebec in 1994. Her musical migration led from her first love, singing, through classical guitar and songwriting before bringing her to a serious study of Swing guitar à la Django. You can recognize and enjoy all these influences in the music she now makes with Christine Tassan et les Imposteures, with whom she shared the mainstage at the 2014 Festival Django Reinhardt in Samois. Of the 14 songs on their disc, C’est l’heure de l’apéro, Christine wrote or co-wrote fully half. The four women who make up the troupe are all vocalists (as well as instrumentalists) and their tight, sophisticated vocal arrangements bring a welcome balance to a tradition heavily tilted toward men and things with strings.

Christine first joined our guitar staff in 2013 and has received rave reviews by the only critics whose opinions matter: the many Level 1 students who have studied with her. They appreciate her patience, her preparation and the self-evident pleasure she takes in sharing her knowledge with them. Anyone new to this style or still working on the basics is fully warrented in wondering, "Will there be a place for me at Django in June?" Christine Tassan is one of many reasons we can answer, with confidence: "Oui, oui!"


Jeff Radaich : Guitar

Lotsa folks here first met Jeff Radaich as the rhythm guitarist for the Gonzalo Bergara Quartet, a role any GJ guitarist can be proud of. But like so many of the best European rhythm players, Jeff plays lead well enough to front his own band. And, come to mention it, he does. A couple of them. Here's the blurb from one:

The Black Market Trust is an American Gypsy-Jazz group consisting of lead guitarist Jeff Radaich, rhythm guitarist Chris Irwin, and bassist Brian Netzley. Their sound is characterized by a hybrid of both new school pop and old world jazz. Combining a Brill-Building-sensibility to songwriting with flashy guitar and an incredible swinging rhythm section, the BMT makes jazz for people who hate jazz.

They put out their first CD last year. I know, I know, you crave more blurb. Here:

Bad-to-the-bone debut album inspired by Django Reinhardt, and informed by Eddie Van Halen and The Beatles. Comes in an eco-friendly cardboard sleeve shrink-wrapped in non-eco-friendly plastic. The album features 10 original songs and a rousing version of the classic "Good Morning" from the musical "Singin' in the Rain."

Nice copy, and even better music. Jeff has been on staff here many times now. The best way to find out why, of course, is to work with him.


Jack Soref : Guitar

For the last few years Boston-based Jack Soref has served Django in June with distinction in a number of capacities. He is the person most responsible for the Core Repertoire lead sheets we make available each year. He leads one of the morning warm-ups on those tunes. (Early morning duty earns you double points in my book...thanks Jack!) He is the one primarily responsible for communication with the teachers regarding our instructional program in the months leading up to the event. And, last but not least, he is himself one of said teachers.

Jack became captivated by Django’s music after two life-changing visits to the Django Reinhardt festival in Samois-sur-Seine in 2002 and ‘03. (Which may be where we met...I was there in '03 too.) As a teenager he managed to pick up tips and tricks from players such as Robin Nolan, Jan Brouwer, Jonny Hepbir, and Alfonso Ponticelli. Subsequently, Jack moved to Boston to continue his studies at the Berklee College of Music, as well as at our very own Django Camp. For half of 2011, frère Jacques studied the music of Django Reinhardt at its source by moving to Paris, France. While there he tormented us with emails detailing his exploits jamming and performing with old masters (Boulou!, Florin!) and young bucks of the scene on the Seine. He meant well.

Jack has since performed in the Django style with his band Sinti Rhythm and as sideman with just about every GJ player within 2 hours of Beantown. Most recently he's been playing with Ameranouche. He has been a featured artist at the Brooklyn Djangology Festival two years running and played on the main-stage of The Midwest Gypsy Swing Festival in 2009. He's one of the feathers in our regional cap and—as you'll have the opportunity to discover for yourself —a terrific teacher.



Michael Horowitz: Guitar

Time it was, if you didn't have direct access to an instructor playing in the traditional Gypsy style you were to left to your own devices when it came to figuring out how Django got his distinctive sound, how he moved across the fingerboard, or how he and his accompanists approached rhythm guitar. With the publication of his Gypsy Picking, Michael changed all that and, in one fell rest stroke, raised the bar for written Gypsy jazz instructional materials everywhere. (I exempt the Gypsies’ own oral tradition from the sphere of his influence. But how many of us have— like Michael—had access to that?) Since then, his Djangobooks publishing company and website have continued to provide an extraordinary array of resources for students and fans of this rich tradition.

Michael has joined us at Django in June every year since Year II (2005) and he'll be back again this year for the weekend. Truth be told, folks usually keep him too busy with merchandise for him to teach much, but if you're working your way through one of his books and you have a question, here's your big chance to put it too him face to face. Then root through the DjangoBooks storehouse on site —he'll have a large selection of books, CDs, DVD's, picks and strings—and set yourself up for the coming year.


Tim Kliphuis: Violin

Since the earliest editions of Django in June (including when it was just a weekend event) Tim Kliphuis has joined us roughly every other year to head up our violin team. In fact he was just here last year, so a year without Tim is getting to be a rarity. Which suits us just fine.

My first exposure to Tim's work was on one of my very favorite Gypsy jazz recordings, Fleur D'Ennu, with Fapy Lafertin. I believe it was through those early collaborations with Fapy that Tim first began to make his mark on the international Gypsy jazz scene, but he has since performed and recorded with many of the top-tier GJ guitarists: Stochelo Rosenberg, Angelo DeBarre, Robin Nolan, England's Gary Potter and many others.

But we might just as easily turn that around and point out that they have had the priviledge of playing with Tim Kliphuis. He is, after all, not only a dynamic performer but a recognized expert in the jazz violin styling of Django's most memorable counterpart, Stephane Grappelli. He offers workshops on Grappelli's style around the world, puts on his own Grappelli Camp in Holland and has produced a rich and growing compendium of instructional resources for students of the style, including Mel Bay's, Stephane Grappelli Gypsy Jazz Violin and the HyperHip Media DVD Hot Jazz Violin. Among his many recordings we note The Grappelli Tribute, released in in 2005, and the Tim Kliphuis Trio’s recent live CD “The Grappelli Album” which includes some of Tim's favorite material from the Django Reinhardt years as well as 5 re-premiered Grappelli compositions.


Bastien Ribot : Guitar

Judging from what I've seen and heard of RP Quartet, they are poised to bring both major skill and big fun to our humble gathering here in the really distant provinces of Paris. This teaser from the group's website gives us a taste of both their wit and their talent. (There are subtitles available, so click that little "CC" box if your French is faible.)

As you can see, Bastien Ribot will be a major contributer on both the wit and talent fronts. He'll team up with Tim Kliphuis as our primary violin instructors at Django camp this year. (Though, fret not my fretless friends, Tcha and Sandro will be accessible to you as well.)

Bastien is both a graduate from, and now an instructor at the esteemed Didier Lockwood Center for Music in Paris. In addition to RPQ's two excellent albums featuring GJ treatments of straight ahead jazz classics, Bastien fronts Lo Triò, a latin jazz project. He also waxed a trio CD as band leader featuring original compositions across a wide range of styles. Around and about, Bastien has performed with so many great jazz manouche players from Paris and beyond: Tchavolo Schmitt, Angelo Debarre, Adrien Moignard, Sébastien Giniaux, Michael Gimenez, Gwen Cahue, Ritary Gaguenetti. And now, your turn!


Victor Prieto : Accordion

Dallas Vietty (below) knows as well as anyone what we are looking for in an accordion instructor/performer at Django in June. So I turned to him this year to help me find someone whom both he and our accordion students would enjoy working with. He had several suggestions, and when I pressed him to give me his top pick, here's (in slightly edited form) what he said:

Victor Prieto is my top recommendation. He is a killer, amazing jazz player performing at the highest level of jazz in the US. What's more, he is a master educator. He is my teacher. I don’t know of anyone else who has more of command, knowledge, and concept of jazz accordion than he does.  And he really cares about education. He created the curriculum, concept and leadership for the jazz accordion program in Spain. Victor runs summer camps for accordionists in his hometown in Spain, and they sell out quickly. He loves to play and loves to teach. What Victor will teach will be immediately applicable to Gypsy Jazz. 

Sold!!! For much more on Victor Prieto, swing by his website, or just enjoy a couple of the videos we'll link you to below. He'll be with us for all of Django Camp.


Dallas Vietty: Accordion

Dallas has a really nice bio of himself on his really nice website so I'll mostly let him speak for himself:

"Dallas Vietty is an American jazz accordionist located in Easton, PA, specializing in the Parisian swing-waltz style of Musette and Gypsy Jazz. He began playing the accordion in 2001, and has studied jazz and arranging at California State University Northridge and accordion performance with Stanley and Joanna Darrow at Acme Accordion School. 

As a soloist he performs widely, and won first place in the Free Bass category at the American Accordionist Musicological Society Festival in 2011.  As a band leader, his groups have performed at Musikfest 2012, Djangoary Festival 2011 and 2012, Djangofolies Festival 2012, Djangology Festival 2012, TEDxPhilly 2010, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, and many other concerts around the country. As an educator he has taught at the famous Django music camp Django in June, led workshops at the American Accordionist Association Conference 2012, and has a prolific private studio and growing online teaching presence. He is one of a few who have a curriculum and knowledge of Musette and Gypsy Jazz for the piano accordion.

He currently leads Musette Project, a contemporary take on the modernist waltz compositions of the mid-century Parisian accordionists, and Hot Bijouxx, an early 20th century inspired  hot swing group."

Very thorough, huh? Plus...we're "famous" now! Love that. Dallas has been on our staff for several years at this point, working with the other accordion teachers/performers who cycle through. Every time he gets rave reviews as a skilled and generous teacher, and all 'round mensch.


Don Stiernberg : Mandolin

It says right here on the "bio" page of his website that, "for decades Don Stiernberg has been known around Chicago as a busy and versatile musician." Well, the "busy" part I can attest to, as I write to him just about every year to see if he'd like to work with our brave band of Django-mando players. Last year he was busy again, but for once my procrastination paid off because in early January something fell through...and suddenly he wasn't. So Don was our mando-man in 2014 and we're happy to report he'll be back this year.

Now, back to that bio page of his:

"His 1999 release "About Time" on Blue Night Records garnered exposure on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Since then he has appeared at festivals and clubs around the country and recorded four more titles for Blue Night Records: "Unseasonably Cool"(2001), and, with guitarist John Carlini, "Angel Eyes"(2004)and the all-Gershwin collection "By George"(2005). "Home Cookin'"(2007) makes jazz vehicles out of tunes by Bob Wills, Wes Montgomery, Jethro Burns, James Taylor, and Stevie Wonder. Don's mandolin can also be heard on dozens of recordings by other artists in genres ranging from bluegrass to pop and children's music."

An experienced teacher, Don has been a faculty member at The Mandolin Symposium and taught at Steve Kaufman's Acoustic Kamp, Ashokan Western and Swing Week, The Winnipeg Folkfest, Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas, The IBMA World of Bluegrass in Louisville, KY and elsewhere. He has written the jazz column for Mandolin Magazine since it began publication. Don fronts his own jazz quartet and gigs lots. So, all in all, a "busy and versatile musician." Indeed. Don't miss your chance to spend a few days with him at Django in June!


Damien Varaillon: Bass

Bassist with this year's featured group, RP Quartet, Damien Varaillon began on basse électrique, then headed to the conservatory in Marseille, France. There, and later at the Conservatoire Nationale Supérieure de Musique et de Danse de Paris, he pursued studies on contrebass across genres: classical, chamber music and jazz. This training has prepared him for a wide variety of settings and if you check out his profile on the RPQ website you'll find a long list of orchestras, festivals, big bands, club dates, radio shows, master classes, etc., in which others have availed themselves of his talents.

In the midst of all that is his current work with RP Quartet, which is as demanding a gig as any. Not unlike our friends, Les Doigts De L'Homme, RPQ plays well-crafted and well-executed arrangements of sophisticated, challenging music. That can't happen without a strong foundation. That's Damien's job, and it is one he excells at. At Django in June this year, bassists will have the opportunity to work closely with him so you can do the same, whatever opportunities may come your way.

To see and hear Damien Varaillon at work, please see any of the RP Quartet clips above in the profiles of Edouard Pennes or Bastien Ribot.



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