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Awakening Bhakti
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Ever dreamed of having Jai Uttal sing the Names in your living room? How about a little kirtan lesson from Uttal himself? Or maybe you’d love to hear him retell — in his inimitable style — some epic scripture, like say…the Ramayana?  Well now’s your chance.

As part of his quest to “share my music, my heart and my experiences with people without being on the road all the time,” Jai Uttal is trying something new (to him anyway): offering an online course for fans and followers, webcast from the comfort of his own home to the comfort of yours.  It’s called “Awakening Bhakti” and you can register for it here.

We asked Uttal why this course, why now, why online? He said that traveling “has taken a bigger and bigger toll on me, physically and emotionally” in recent years, and that this course is part of his effort to create a “sustainable lifestyle” that lets him be at home with his family.

“I LOVE SINGING WITH AND FOR PEOPLE!!!” Uttal told us (in all caps, yes) in an email interview in between recording sessions for his album in-the-works, “Roots, Rock, Rama,” which he is making with long-time collaborator Ben Leinbach plus Jeff Cressman and Peter Apfelbaum, the horn section of the Pagan Love Orchestra, Uttal’s band for the Grammy-nominated 2002 album “Mondo Rama.”   Despite his obvious passion for live, up-close and personal sankirtana, Uttal says he just can’t take the travel. The online course is “a way for me to share with everyone in a deep, meaningful and relaxed way from my own home.”

‘Hang Out’ With Jai

There’s a full description of the course at www.whereismyguru.com, which is hosting it.  Uttal told The Bhakti Beat that it’s a chance “to learn about bhakti and how it can became the central core of our lives and how some of my life experiences have deepened my own relationship to this path; to hear where some of the songs come from, and stories about my Guru, Neem Karoli Baba; to receive never-before-seen videos of my live performances; to hear the entire Ramayana in five chapters; to receive audio recordings of many live kirtans, and to just hang out with me and get to know me a bit better…”

Jai Uttal at Bhakti Fest 2012 by TheBhaktiBeat.com“Awakening Bhakti” takes place over three weeks beginning March 1.  At the core are four live, interactive web-conferences with Uttal that can be downloaded and viewed at any time.

The $99 price includes everything.  Seems like a reasonable investment to bring Jai Uttal into your living room, no?  Sign up here.

Call & Response Scholarship Available

Still, not everyone has an extra 100 bucks lying around waiting and available to awaken their bhakti, we get that.  That’s why we were so happy to hear that the Call and Response Foundation is offering a scholarship to one lucky bhakta in need of some financial support.  All you have to do is write to jen@callandresponsefoundation.org before March 1 and tell her why you need the scholarship. One winner will be randomly chosen from the entries and announced on the Call and Response Foundation’s facebook page.

Do check out all the good work of the Call and Response Foundation — under the expert leadership of Jen Canfield, this non-profit organization is taking the healing power of chanting into places you wouldn’t expect, like prisons and psychiatric centers and recovery services.  Plus, they’ve just launched a new program to support and maintain community kirtans across the country. In short, they’ve got your bhakti back.

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The Bhakti Beat welcomes your support!  We are non-commercial and not-for-profit,  a free service to the bhakti community that is completely self-funded save for the loving contributions of Bhakti Beaters like you.  Your support is critical — please share the Beat with your bhakti peeps, connect with us on social media (links below), and consider a one-time or recurring donation (DONATE HERE) to help us keep this bhav boat afloat.  All contributions are used exclusively to cover the direct expenses of bringing you News, Reviews, Interviews and Videos from the kirtan and mantra-music world.  Thank you from the bottom of our bhav brain, heart and soul. In loving service...

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
Dear Lord, kindly engage me in your service.
 
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grammy nominationAnd the winner is….Mantra!

Grammys season is officially underway, and once again, mantra music represents — more than ever before. Nearly two dozen bhakti-flavored releases are among the list of contenders in early voting for the 2016 Grammys Best Album Nominees in the New Age and World categories, for which first-round voting by members of the National Academy of Arts & Sciences (NARAS) ends Nov. 4.

Judging by the breadth and diversity of the bhaktified music releases on the first-round ballots, the “non-genre” of kirtan/mantra/sacred chant is alive and well — from the vantage point of the commercial recording industry, at least. The albums that we would place under a broad umbrella of bhakti or bhakti-related mostly fall into the New Age category in Grammy world, though a few of the bhakti titles are found in the World Music category. (More on the odd categorization of kirtan here.)

I know what some of you are thinking…”Who cares about the Grammys?! This is BHAKTI. It’s not about commercialism, or winning awards, or being “the best” of anything; it’s about devotion and service!” I hear you. Really I do. The way I see it, if the Grammys help bring attention to the sacred practice of chanting and unlatch the gates for even one person, is that a bad thing? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Grammy 2015 contenders by TheBhaktiBeat.comWho Made the List?

First things first. One of the biggest surprises on the list — and perhaps the best news for bhakti purists — is second-generation Krishna kid Madi Das, whose charity album “Bhakti Without Borders,” produced by Dave Stringer, features duets with a host of female Vaisnava vocalists singing traditional Krishna bhajans. If we had to pick a favorite among all of these contenders, “Bhakti Without Borders” would be it.  We love everything about this album, and P.S., ALL of the profits benefit a school for girls in India (which is most of the proceeds, because ALL of the musicians on this record offered their time as seva). Now THAT is bhakti.

Also up for consideration are widely known artists like Deva Premal & Miten with Manose (“Songs for the Sangha“) and Russill Paul (“Mantra Magic“) alongside up-and-comers like vocalist Tina Malia (“Bridge to Vallabha“) and folkish singer/songwriter Brenda McMorrow (“My Heart Bows Down to You“). The many flavors of Sufism are nicely represented with “Sufi Kirtan,” from newlywed folk/world/rocker duo HuDost — marked by the otherworldly vocal magic of Moksha Sommer — and a new-to-us band called Rocqawali for “Sufi Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which seamlessly blends powerful Pakistani qawali music with 70’s-style rock. Representing the Jewish tradition of sacred chant is the Kirtan Rabbi Andrew Hahn’s “Nondual,” where ancient Hebrew prayers meet modern rock and reggae. Bhaktified dance music — yet another subcategory in the chant world (is that a sub-non-genre?) — is there too, with Marti Nikko and Dj Drez’s chant-dance fantasy “Dreaming in Sanskrit” and Desert Dwellers’ electronicized house mix, “The Great Mystery.”

In the Kundalini corner, Simrit’s “From the Ancient Storm,” White Sun‘s self-titled debut album, and Sirgun Kaur’s “Dayaal” are in the running along with the ever-popular duo Mirabai Ceiba (for “Sevati“). On the instrumental end, Bansuri flute master Manose, who has played for a decade with Deva Premal & Miten, is on the ballot for “Call Within,” and Hans Christian, master of too many instruments to name here, made the list for “Nanda Devi.” An Indian classical flutist known simply as Flute Raman is found on the World ballot for an album of traditional bhajans called “Krishna Lila.”

But wait there’s more. While we can’t in any stretch of the word consider them “kirtan,” a few others on the ballots are worth noting for their inclusion of mantras in some tracks or their ties to the bhakti world, including: Peter Kater, who has three — yes three! — albums in the running for the nomination in New Age (“Heart of Silence,” “Etheria,” and “Love;” Daniela De Mari & Breath of Life for “Awakening;” David Vito Gregoli for the ambient “Om Land,” and a Classical Indian instrumental disc featuring Saraswathi Ranganathan on veena called “Refreshing Raga Blues.”

All told, the bhakti-ish contenders represent roughly 15 percent of the total New Age list of 116 titles and only a few of the 122 entries on the World ballot. The full lists cover a lot of musical ground, everything from spoken-word meditations to ethereal shamanic ritual music to ambient instrumentalism to synthesized electronica. Among the broadly defined kirtan-related releases are some real gems that deserve a closer look, and The Bhakti Beat will be doing that on a weekly basis between now and Dec. 7, when the Grammy nominations are announced.

We’ll also give one Grammy-contending CD away each week, so stay tuned to our facebook and other social media pages to enter the contests. (Links below.)

With so many bhaktified releases in the running for a nomination, this year marks a new high for mantra music in Grammy world. But it’s certainly not the first time the chant community has gotten Grammy fever. Krishna Das quite famously snagged one of the coveted Grammy nominations in 2012 for “Live Ananda,” and made history by being the first kirtan artist to perform at the Grammys (aired on the webcast). You saw that, right? A decade earlier, Jai Uttal was the first in the kirtan “non-genre” to be nominated for a Grammy, for his pioneering record, “Mondo Rama.”

Last year, more than a dozen bhakti albums made the first ballot, and a record called “Bhakti” by Paul Avgerinos — a new-agey fusion of Christianized chants and ambient electronica that was about as far from traditional kirtan as you can get — made the cut to be nominated but did not win the Grammy.

What It Means

What does it mean to be on the first-round ballot? Essentially, it means that you met the eligibility qualifications and got your entry in on time. Ballots were sent out Oct. 14 to NARAS members, who have until Nov. 4 to cast their ballot for the album they’d like to see nominated for the Grammy in each category. There are about 30 Grammy categories altogether, including the biggies, Album of the Year and Best New Artist. In the New Age and World categories, only one Grammy is given: Best Album.

Let’s state that again so there is no confusion: the first-round ballot voting is to decide who among the contenders will be NOMINATED for a Grammy in their respective categories. It’s the first step. The nominations will be announced Dec. 7, then NARAS members vote for one nominee in each category to receive the Grammy — the music industry’s highest award. The Grammys telecast this year will be on Feb. 15.

So tell us Bhakti Beaters: Who would be YOUR pick for a Kirtan Grammy?

_____________________

The Bhakti Beat welcomes your support!  We are non-commercial and not-for-profit,  a free service to the bhakti community that is completely self-funded save for the loving contributions of Bhakti Beaters like you.  Your support is critical — please share the Beat with your bhakti peeps, connect with us on social media (links below), and consider a one-time or recurring donation (DONATE HERE) to help us keep this bhav boat afloat.  All contributions are used exclusively to cover the direct expenses of bringing you News, Reviews, Interviews and Videos from the kirtan and mantra-music world.  Thank you from the bottom of our bhav brain, heart and soul. In loving service...

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
Dear Lord, kindly engage me in your service.
 
Follow The Bhakti Beat on facebook
Follow The Bhakti Beat on twitter
Subscribe to our YouTube channel
Follow Bhakti_Beat_Brenda on Instagram
Find us on Google+

 

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Okay, Christmas isn’t exactly a Hindu or Vaishnava holy day– we get that — but apparently it is a national holiday in Mother India, and celebrated exuberantly.  Here in the West, well, Christmas is hard to escape, no matter your religious leanings (or lack thereof).  We’re willing to bet that there are a few people out there who’ve got some kirtan junkies on their gift list, or who might (gasp!) be one themselves and need to drop some hints.  We asked around, and the Wish-List items poured in. 

So here it is, The Bhakti Beat’s Official 2012 Holiday Gift Guide for Chantheads, Kirtan Junkies & Mantra Revolutionaries. 

These are not just any gifts, mind you.  These are gifts that, in one way or another, embody the spirit of devotion and service that is bhakti, from handmade malas by an up-and-coming Midwestern wallah to the gift of sight for a blind child through an international non-profit foundation.  Conscious gifting that supports the bhakti community.  Way better than Walmart.

What would you add to the list?

1. The Best of the Fests

If you go to just one big kirtan event all year, Bhakti Fest had better be the one.  Nowhere else — outside of India of course — will you get this much mantra music from this many masterful musicians all in one sweet spot.  Choose from Shakti Fest in May, Bhakti Fest Midwest in July, or the One and Only Original four-day extravaganza in September.  Until Jan. 1, you can get the Holiday Deal:  Bhakti Fest West tickets for $200 (they will eventually go up to a full price of $400 each).  Or, buy two tickets for $350.  Similar deals are available for Shakti Fest.  As a bonus, if you buy a ticket by Dec. 17, you’ll be automatically entered to win a free ticket to Bhakti Fest and a free download of the live CD, Be in the Bhav, recorded at Bhakti Fest 2011.  What could be more bhavalicious than that?

Special Holiday Deal for Shakti Fest/Bhakti Fest: $50 off 2 tickets.
Buy Bhakti Fest tickets
Bhakti Fest website

 2. Mantra Malas Made with Bhakti Love

Photo Courtesy of BijouxPascale

So, maybe your kirtan buddy already has mala beads wrapped around his or her wrist.  But does she have a hand-knotted gemstone mala from BijouxPascale?  Individually crafted devotional beads infused with bhakti love by Midwest up-and-coming wallah Pascale LaPoint (of the band Kirtan Path), the malas are available in two dozen different gemstones.  Each is one of a kind.  We love this green magnasite one that stars a circular disc as the 109th “guru bead,” but there are lots more to choose from, plus necklace sets and earrings.  And you know these malas are not just a fashion accessory, right?  Japa — repeating a mantra 108 times, using the beads to count — is an ancient and very powerful meditation mode. 

**Special for Bhakti Beaters: Use code BHAKTIBEAT2012 and get 10% off your order.
BijouxPascale on etsy.com

3. Demystify the Harmonium

Got a wallah wannabe on your list?  Queens, N.Y.-based bhakti firefighter Keith Villanueva (aka Hanumanji) has created a harmonium-learning program that’s all the buzz among budding bhaktas and long-time chant-leaders alike.  At the core is Demystifying the Harmonium Workbook A-Z, a comprehensive guidebook with step-by-step instructions on how to play melodies and create chord progressions in every key.  With the purchase of the book comes membership in an exclusive group on facebook where you can access tutorial videos for more than a dozen chants and interact with others who are learning or perfecting their techniques.  Kind of like a support group for chantaholics.  Get it all for $45.

**Special for Bhakti Beaters:  Free shipping on the workbook (normally $6); contact Villanueva directly for details.
www.harmoniumworkbook.com

4. Bhakti Art from Jennifer Mazzucco 

Artwork by Jennifer Mazzucco

How about some inspiring spiritual art infused with the energy and images of India?  Devotional artist Jennifer Mazzucco — whose artwork adorns SriKalogy covers and the upcoming debut CD from Nina Rao — has just released her third self-published book of original artwork and observations on life.  Opening Up in Sweet Surrender, described as a daily journal of a recent year in Mazzucco’s bhakti-infused life, has 265 pages of her signature artistic musings and devotional doodles, fused with words, colors and images to “connect with the divinity within,” she writes.  It’s kind of like Be Here Now-meets-Sark/Juicy Life, stylistically and energetically.  Softcover: $58.95/hardcover: $77.95 (less $10 for the holidays). 

Mazzucco’s creations are also available as art prints and greeting cards at the websites below — a huge selection of sacred images on FineArtAmerica.com and a multihued collection of Ganesha block prints on etsy.com. 

Buy “Opening Up in Sweet Surrender” on blurb.com (Use code GIVE10 to get $10 off the book for holiday giving.)

**Special for Bhakti Beaters:  BONUS Handmade piece of artwork with every purchase:
Art Prints & Greeting Cards from Jennifer Mazzucco on FineArtAmerica.com (email Jennifer when you’ve purchased to receive the Bonus Gift)
Hand-Carved Block Prints featuring Ganesha, on reminders2bepresent on etsy.com (Bonus Gift will be given automatically)

5. Beeswax Candles from Dharma Boutique

Photo by Jonathan Sherrill

Do your friends and loved ones a favor this year and fill their stockings with beeswax candles and tea lights — or any non-paraffin based candle.  Those cheap tea lights you can get at Walmart for $3 a hundred?  Not the best thing to light up your altar or sacred space.  There’s a growing appreciation that such candles, which are typically made from the dregs of petroleum processing, emit toxic chemicals like toluene and benzene.  Right now, pure beeswax candles handmade by a small group of women in Rajasthani, India, are 20 percent off at Dharma Boutique, the import business owned and operated by bhakti bassist Adam Bauer.  And while you’re stocking up on tea lights, check out his inspiring collection of devotional objets d’art, textiles, singing bowls, jewelry, and vintage items collected on his travels to India and beyond.  Dharma Boutique supports fair trade and sources its products from family enterprises, small crafts-people and local artisans wherever possible.

**Special for Bhakti Beaters:  Free tulsi mala with purchase of $100 or more.
Pure beeswax candles from Dharma Boutique (20% off with code MAYA)
Dharma Boutique Home Page

6. Make Music Happen

Hey here’s a radical thought: buy music from the musicians who make it.  Because, let’s face it, most of these artists who are enriching our lives aren’t getting rich off their efforts.  It’s a dirty secret outside of the music industry that artists themselves get mere fractions of pennies for each “play” on sites like Spotify.  Physical CD sales are way down, and digital-download sites like iTunes and Amazon each take another cut of the profits along with music publishers.  At the same time, record labels are less likely to finance a studio recording up front, leaving the onus of CD production to artists.  Crowd-funding services like IndieGogo and Kickstarter are practically viral these days.  How can we, as consumers of this very unique niche “product,” best support the artists we love? 

Fantuzzi at Bhakti Fest 2011

There’s no simple answer, but one approach is a spin on “Buy Local.”  Go to the artist’s own website and follow their links for purchase.  Some have mechanisms for purchasing music directly from their sites, or they will direct you to the link that is most amenable to their continued survival as artists.  Take every opportunity to buy CDs directly from artists on tour.  Or, go to your favorite conscious-living store to buy them; most stores will order the CDs if they don’t have them in stock, and you’ll be demonstrating to the store owner that there is a demand for this music.  Support artists’ fund-raising drives, like the recent ones of Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band and David Newman, by pre-buying CDs and other perks to help finance the recording, mixing and making of new releases.  Make your gifts of music also gifts to music. 

Start today!  These are just a few of the CD-funding drives ongoing right now in the mantra-music world:
Multi-Instrumentalist Phenom Sheela Bringi, for her Debut CD
Up-and-Coming Sikh Songstress Sirgun Kaur, for her Debut Solo Kirtan CD
Ecstatic World Music Warrior Fantuzzi, for Ease and Grace CD
Texas-Based The Bhakti House Band, for CD and “Peace Love Om” Seva Project 

7. Give Good Karma

How about giving the gift of sight to a blind person this holiday season?  Or economic opportunities for impoverished women and children?  Start a new tradition that will make a real difference in the lives of people in need by giving “Gifts of Service” from the non-profit Seva Foundation.  Seva was co-founded by Google CEO Larry Brilliant in 1978 in collaboration with Ram Dass, Wavy Gravy and others, and is a leading innovator in eye-care services and other programs that create sustainable solutions to poverty and disease in vulnerable populations around the globe.  With Seva’s Gifts of Service, you can honor a loved one by directly helping to reduce suffering in the world.  A $50 gift, for example, covers the cost of cataract surgery for one person; $100 supports the well-being of Native American women by providing health education, building community support and fostering leadership development.  You can also buy Seva merchandise like T-shirts, caps, or this sweet calendar of children around the world, and the foundation will use your donation where it is most needed.

Seva Foundation’s “Gifts of Service” Program

8. Win-Win Gifting

Photo courtesy of Girish Music

Love the idea of giving presents that serve a greater purpose, but still want something tangible to put under the tree for your sweetie?  We have the perfect solution:  a gorgeous Lakshmi bracelet, handmade by Long Island, N.Y., bhakta Nadine Wolff.  Every penny of the proceeds go to Wolff’s fundraising drive for Off the Mat Into the World’s Global Seva Challenge India, which supports grassroots initiatives to help rescue and rehabilitate women and children victimized by the sex-trafficking trade.  Your lucky gift recipient will be invoking the blessings of Lakshmi — the goddess of wealth, prosperity (both material and spiritual), and beauty — and you will know that you contributed to putting an end to the poverty and abuse of women and children in India.  Act fast — before Dec. 15 — to get the special price of $45, available through a collaboration with Girish Music.  ($60 after Dec. 15.)

Lakshmi Bracelet in Support of Global Seva Challenge  (Special Price of $45 till Dec. 15)

9. Spread the Bhav

Larisa Stow: Reaching Out

How about making a donation in your loved one’s name to a local, grass-roots group or artist who is doing charity work in your community? There are lots of small and mid-sized charity organizations working hard to bring the healing power of mantra music to populations in need — from children to people with mental illnesses to prisoners.  Larisa Stow & Shakti Tribe have pioneered this model in the prisons of California through their Shakti Tribe Peace Outreach.  Benjy and Heather Wertheimer have taken their Shantala sacred music into prisons in Oregon.  The Call and Response Foundation, a non-profit based in Vermont, has spearheaded chant programs at children’s and psychiatric hospitals with Dave Stringer, the Mayapuris, and Gaura Vani.  It’s another way that kirtan is being taken “out of the yoga studio,” as Gaura Vani has said.  Be part of the movement; give a gift that gives again and again.

 

Okay, your turn:  what’s on your own Bhakti Wish List?  Tell us about your favorite bhakti-inspired artist or merchant.  Which chant CD is on your must-have list? 

Hare Christmas to All One!

Namaste Santa. (Photo by Prakash Singh/Agency France-Press/Getty Images)

 

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Act Now & Win a Free 3-Day Pass to Shakti Fest!

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UPDATE:  WE HAVE A WINNER!! Congratulations BRIDGETTA TOMARCHIO — you have won!!  Thanks to all who entered.  Check this space for live updates from Shakti Fest, beginning this Friday, 5/11.

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Want to go to Shakti Fest?  Of course you do!

How about going for free?  Now’s your chance to win a FREE THREE-DAY PASS to the shaktified celebration of the divine feminine at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center in California’s High Desert (May 11-13).  It’s simple to enter, and you can win a ticket worth over $275!

HOW TO ENTER

On Facebook:

SHARE the link to this blog post (http://thebhaktibeat.com/?p=851) and “tag” BOTH The Bhakti Beat and Bhakti Fest in your posting.  That’s it!  Tag and Share. You can write whatever you like (suggested wording below), just as long as you tag both The Bhakti Beat and Bhakti Fest — that’s our signal that you are entered in the contest.  (To tag on Facebook, first “Like” each page, then type @ before you type the name of the page; the pages you’re tagging will be highlighted and hot-linked.)

So, you might share the link with an intro that says, for example: Shakti Fest is THE place to be in the bhav!  That’s why I’m entering this contest from @The Bhakti Beat [tagged] and @Bhakti Fest [tagged] to win a FREE 3-day pass!  Find out how to enter here: http://thebhaktibeat.com/?p=851

On Twitter:

Same concept: tweet the link, tag the peeps!  You can use your own language — just don’t forget to tag @TheBhaktiBeat and @BhaktiFest.  Or, cut and paste this wording:  A free pass to Shakti Fest from @TheBhaktiBeat and @BhaktiFest? I’m in! Here’s how: http://thebhaktibeat.com/?p=851 

Not on Facebook or Twitter?

No problem.  Leave a comment here (in the blog comments) saying that you want to win the free pass, and be sure to include your email in the appropriate box (it won’t be shown publicly, and we’ll use it only to notify you if you win).

The Details

A winner will be randomly selected from all entries received by May 3.  So hurry!  Eligible entries are those that share the blog post link and tag BOTH The Bhakti Beat AND Bhakti Fest, as described above.

If you just can’t get to California in time for Shakti Fest May 11-13, Bhakti Fest has generously agreed to allow the winner to exchange the free pass for a pass to either Bhakti Fest Midwest (June 29-July 1 in Wisconsin) or Bhakti Fest’s fall bash in Joshua Tree Sept. 6-9.  How cool is that?

The Gratitude

Oodles of gratitude to Bhakti Fest founder Sridhar Silberfein and producer Mukti Silberfein for generously making this contest possible.  We love you!!

Now, enter the contest!  Tell your peeps!  Be a winner!

Here’s the link to share:  http://thebhaktibeat.com/?p=851

Good luck!  Here’s what you have to look forward to…

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