SHAPE reveals showcase at Novas Frequências

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SHAPE platform will have a showcase at the Novas Frequências festival this December, and these news are quite special for two reasons.

Firstly, as Novas Frequências happens in Rio de Janeiro, this qualifies as our second large showcase beyond Europe. And, as the line-up features no less than 13 SHAPE acts, the word “large” is indeed appropriate.

Secondly, the showcase will offer an early glimpse into the 2017 artist list of SHAPE, as 11 of the 13 acts are from our next year’s roster.

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Novas Frequências is the main regular festival of advanced and exploratory music in South America, and its sixth edition will take place between December 3rd and December 8th. As previously with Mutek, the festival will become a meeting place for all 16 founding festivals of the SHAPE platform: the organization will have one of its two annual meetings in Rio, therefore the curators and artistic directors from all SHAPE festivals will be in the city, looking for interchange, cooperation and new collaborations with the local scene.

Meanwhile, the showcase itself will demonstrate the diverse artistic influences and interests, merging within SHAPE – artists within its line-up have been nominated to platform by 12 different member festivals, each with their own take on the future of adventurous music and audiovisual art.

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The showcase will feature: Vienna-based composer, performer and sound artist Andreas Trobollowitsch (AT); Black Zone Myth Chant (FR), a project of Afro-centric psychedelia and hypnotic footwork by psych-drone artist High Wolf; two projects by Budapest-based musician Gábor Kovács (HU) – the noisy, experimental punk duo of Céh and the more rhythm-oriented, but no less confronting solo project Új Bála; J.G. Biberkopf (LT), whose “audio theater” works are impressive collages that draw on a wide range of influences, including grime and musique concrète; experimental guitarist and composer Julien Desprez (FR), who will present his improvisational performance/light installation Acapulco Redux; Mr. Mitch (UK), one of the key names in the burgeoning instrumental grime movement; artist Mike Rijnierse (NL), who specializes in site-specific installations, and who will present his new work Relief; Sis_Mic (FR), the latest project by electro-acoustic music composer and installation artist Pôm Bouvier B.; Lancaster-based virtuoso pianist and free improviser Stephen Grew (UK); Toxe (SE), a central figure within Staycore – a new ground-breaking label from Stockholm. 

In addition to the aforementioned 11 artists from the 2017 list of SHAPE acts, the line-up of the showcase will also feature two alumni of SHAPE 2016: multidisciplinary artist Gil Delindro (PT), who will participate with multimedia performance Voidness of Touch, and experimental vocalist Stine Janvin Motland (NO) who will present her project Fake Synthetic Music.

More details about the showcase will be revealed soon. Meanwhile, You can find out more about the upcoming edition of Novas Frequências on the festival’s Facebook page.

…and, of course, stay tuned for our full announcement of the 2017 SHAPE artist list!

Photo #1 – Sis_Mic; photo #2 – Toxe. 

UH Fest: ‘Experimental music has become an economic category’

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UH Fest is one of the rare events dedicated to adventurous modern music in Hungary. Since 2001 it has staged more than 450 performances during 7 festivals and a number of one-off events. Not focusing on genres is a principle that is reflected in UH’s overall activity and programming. Any given member of its audience is likely to hear music s/he did not “intend to”, or, from another point of view, to explore something new. Theirs is a deliberate strategy to juxtapose artists not only from different genres, but also with different approaches and moods. UH Fest and events are organised by the Ultrasound Foundation, a not-for-profit, grass root organisation that functions only with (incredibly dedicated) volunteers. This year, the event will take place between 2 and 9 October 2016 across numerous venues in Budapest (check out the programme here). Several SHAPE artists are set to play: Klara Lewis, Lanuk (who were both nominated into SHAPE by the festival), Syracuse, Ignatz, Stine Janvin Motland and Stara Rzeka. We talk to UH Fest organizers András Nun and Krisztián Puskár. 

How did you start?

András Nun: We had the idea to do something in the field of music and there was an initiative called x-peripheria, which was connected to an internet radio called Pararadio at the end of the 90’s. The guys approached us to do something together – they would programme one day and Ultrasound would programme the other. By that time, we’d already had our first event. At some point they stopped doing it, and Ultrasound carried on alone. The official beginning – at least for me – was in 2000 with the first concert.

What was the main motivation?

AN: The motivation comes from the previous decade, which I spent attending concerts in Vienna and other cities close to Budapest, being envious of the music events they had over there. The biggest inspiration was a festival called Phonotaktik, which only had two editions.

But it all started from a DIY perspective, rather than an institutional one?

AN: At that time and still to this day, we are just ordinary citizens without an institution behind us. We have a foundation, which is a legal entity, but not in terms of an office or infrastructure. It was a grassroots initiative, a family venture in the beginning, because my sister and brother-in-law were also involved.

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UH FEST 2005 / Dalek

Did you do it every year afterwards?

AN: No. That was also a principle, that we’d do it for fun and there was no pressure to do it every year. We only did the festival when we could get money because we didn’t want to endanger our private households.

The state never supported you?

AN: Not really. By that time, I’d had a history of working with NGOs and grant programmes, which helped. In the early 90’s, there existed an example of support for music initiatives through a seasonal autumn festival in Budapest. I clearly remember approaching them with an idea to invite Coil and it wasn’t possible. Being an independent grassroots initiative without any institutional or political support means that we won’t ever have access to state money.

Has this relationship changed depending on the Hungarian government currently in power?

AN: It doesn’t make any difference. We have applied to the local art council, but they never supported our initiative unless we had an EU grant (because they would have to support the initiative locally). I can compare it with my day job, which is more political in a way. There is no difference between the governments. If it’s a left-wing or liberal government, the relationship is not friendly, they approach us for advice, though they never listen to it. If it’s a right-wing government, they don’t even consult with us. It’s similar for these cultural ventures.

Has the programming of the festival changed in terms of its concept?

Krisztián Puskár: It has always been about inviting people that are doing something special. There is no shift in the concept. Of course, the world is changing. After 2010, a new generation has arrived.

What about your motto: “New Kind of Joy”?

KP: UH Fest’s Gergo Kiss had written a text about the basic concept of the festival, and this part seemed perfect. We wanted to express the joy in something that is considered very abstract, dark and artsy.

AN: We are interested in music that inspires us. We don’t want to cater to mass demand. We don’t want to produce a festival with hyped names, so that we can be 100 percent sure that it will be sold out in a minute. And it’s very difficult to do something like that in Hungary.

KP: We say ‘no’ pretty often, and it’s not easy.

AN: We say ‘No, thank you’.

But you don’t do annual festival themes.

AN: No, that’s so artificial to me. So we just stick to our motto. This year, combined with the visuals, we want to be a bit darker, more political and confrontational, reflecting what is going on in today’s world, and this doesn’t really go well with “New Kind of Joy”.

KP: I think resistance is full of joy in a way.

Can you describe how a lineup is born out of this idea, for instance this year?

AN: It’s important to have somewhat popular acts. But it is also about consciously trying to build an open-minded audience that is ready to listen to something new. And thus, we try to slowly and organically build it. We don’t want to remain in a closed circle of well-educated and snobby music lovers who look down upon those people who are a bit younger or come from different corner of music. It’s important not to grow rapidly, but constantly try to convert new listeners and try to show them new sound strategies and offer them this new kind of joy, which is missing from their life. This also comes from my experience when I was around 30, and all those friends who had collected tapes with me suddenly abandoned music and said they wouldn’t come to a concert because they didn’t know the band playing. It pisses me off so much that, past a certain age, people are not open to new things, not only in music, but in general.

KP: New kind of joy is about an intuitive approach to music and about showing how to break out of the stylistic ghettoes we all live in. Over-intellectualisation has the same physiognomy as over-hypeness.

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Charlemagne Palestine @ UH Fest 2014, Vakok Iskolája (fotó: Csatári Gergely)

How do you put together a programme each year? Is it a mixture of who made what album that year, and your personal choices?

KP: It’s a mistake to invite somebody based on an album. It’s a mixture of recorded music, live music, and our own choices. We all discuss this.

You mentioned resistance as one of the themes this year.

KP: Activism is at the base of our festival. But we don’t want to be didactical about it. It’s a personal experience for everyone and we have to reproduce the tension. A strong stage performance and powerful art are always political acts. It should be the performance that brings attention, not the name.

AN: When you are living in times when hatred towards minorities is high, you can present very strong images showing that you’re against it. But we don’t want to do it explicitly. Sometimes agencies require an artist name to be put in big letters as a headliner, but we reply that it’s not possible. It’s against our ethos. There is no hierarchy. It’s also about venues, which in our case also creates categories. The venue is important and has to fit the performer. We also pair artists together. You can highlight contrast and certain quality.

KP: We try to avoid misusing artists. A lot of festivals lack the relation between a space, artist and dynamics.

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DJ Nigga Fox (fotó: Zólyomi Károly)

What do you think is the relationship between the festival, the public and the artists?

KP: There’s always this tendency, but this has been the case in every decade, that something becomes an industry. It’s always important to find a way to not be influenced by that. It’s very interesting that so-calledexperimental music has become an economic category, which is against the basic notion of what experimental is.

What is your relationship with the local scene? You also organised these Demo events where you gave emerging artists an opportunity to perform for the first time.

KP: We started these Demo events to find musicians who publish their music on the internet but don’t necessarily perform live, and give them a kind of open rehearsal space with an audience. We had several editions twice a year. Lots of acts grew out of this, such 12z or Gábor Lázár.

AN: A certain part of our audience are musicians themselves and the Demo events created a possibility to build trust and an audience during those years that we didn’t hold a festival. In terms of the festival itself, what I find important is that it’s really a kind of festivity, a communal happening with a certain atmosphere. It cannot be compared to open-air summer festivals, which are recreational events where music is not the focus. The atmosphere and the vibe of our events sets the festival apart from everyday life in this country. For instance, there are many foreigners at our festival, which engenders a different atmosphere.

KP: We have a conscious audience, which is a result of the festival’s 16 years of activity.

Is there anything that stands out over the last 16 years of the festival?

KP: I nearly broke my ankle during a Vatican Shadow concert two years ago. It’s a weeklong experience, there are many great moments every year.

Resonance FM show on Skaņu Mežs festival 2016

In this hour-long broadcast, organizers of the Skaņu Mežs festival in Riga, Latvia take you through the program of its fourteenth edition, coming October 13-16 and November 12 and featuring Autechre, Zebra Katz, Michael Finnissy, Charles Gayle with John Edwards and Roger Turner, Mona De Bo as well as many others. The Creative Europe-supported SHAPE platform is represented by Klara Lewis, Peder Mannerfelt, M.E.S.H. and Young Echo’s Killing Sound.

More info on the festival here.

Watch: SHAPE @ UH Fest pre-show

Budapest’s UH Fest organised a special SHAPE event on 23 September, featuring Piotr Kurek, who performed with his rhythmic music project Heroiny, Slovak field recording enthusiast Jonáš Gruska, and local act Buster Keaton (UK). Watch a video report of the event below.

The main events of UH Fest 2016 will occur October 2-9, featuring 9 SHAPE acts. More info here and here.

Video by Bartha Máté.

Susanna Gartmayer: ‘Don’t ever trust yourself too much!’

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Susanna Gartmayer studied painting and printmaking and is self trained in bass clarinet and composition. She is part of many ensembles of elusive musical genres, for example the experimental rock band Broken.Heart.Collector or The Vegetable Orchestra (music for instruments made of out of vegetables). She participates in SHAPE with three different projects. Gartmayer’s live show, based on the album AOUIE, is played without amplification. She exhibits the same attention to detail – the setup for each tune is slightly different, taking into account the way the audience is sitting as well as venue acoustics and the playing position she wishes to adopt. As one of the SHAPE artists, she will play at the upcoming Musikprotokoll festival in Graz. 

You studied painting and printmaking and taught yourself bass clarinet and composition. Can you talk about your journey to music and music-making?

Playing music has always been a very important part of my life. As a small child, I already improvised on the recorder and in my youth I started to play saxophone. I couldn’t really unite with my teacher for a musical style we both liked, so I played classical music on sax… I never stopped practicing during my art studies. Two years after my graduation, in 2002, I had a very big “art crisis” (regarding the reasonableness of fine art), so I decided to start my own bands, since the question of meaningfulness of music was and is not bothering me, music is necessary – period.

Already then it was clear to me, that I needed to have more than one band to unite my extremely eclectic musical interests. My very first bands after 2002 where: the experimental chamber music trio “Splitter” (with accordion and violin) and the experimental rock band “When Yuppies Go To Hell”, playing a rather aggressive, loud and juicy music. At the same time I started to write or rather assemble – veeeery slowly – my own pieces for these bands.

I then took private lessons for saxophone, bass clarinet and composition with some inspiring musicians (Petra Stump, Gerald Preinfalk, Michael Fischer, Peter Herbert). I started to play at free sessions, where I dealt with my stage fright and met a lot of musicians that became colleagues and friends. And then I became part of The Vegetable Orchestra and started to play concerts all around the world. And, most importantly, in 2004, I finally found THE instrument of my choice, bass clarinet….

You have been involved in various projects. Can you talk about them?

I still am involved in various projects (I prefer to talk about the present), and – as already mentioned – I love to work in different contexts regarding style, aesthetics, audience, attitude. I’ve started to play solo a few years ago, since nowadays I prefer to work with composition and structure in even more detail. Also, I am very interested in this “almighty” and at the same time awfully exposed and lonely situation…

My present rock band is called Broken.Heart.Collector”, including all the members of the wonderful trio bulbul (raumschiff Engelmayr – guit, Didi Kern – drums, derhunt – bass) and the great Slovenian singer/paetzolt flute player/electronic musician Maja Osojnik. It’s a blast to play with them, all of them being very versatile and free musicians.

Then theres my trio Möström, with wonderful Tamara Wilhelm on her self built DIY electronics and Elise Mory, playing the keyboards. Our music sometimes seems to me like a manic-depressed teenager, I love to dive into the lunatic sonic possibilities of our special instruments. And I love that humour is a very important part of our music!

I also love my “last remaining” improv band with Dieb 13 on turntables and drummer Katharina Ernst (Gartmayer/Ernst/dieb13). With them, I’m confident in finding extremely diversified music together, powerful and tender, odd and challenging.

In my duo with Brigitta Bödenauer, on electronics, where we musically work with polyrhythmics and rather sparse abstract structures, I may finally act out on my interest in playing with roles and the appearance on stage – since costumes and staging are part of our performance.

And then there’s The Vegetable Orchestra.

The Vegetable Orchestra is based around a simple idea – vegetables become instruments. Can you talk about the project and how/whether it inspired you in your other work?

I would say, The Vegetable Orchestra is based on the idea that you can make music and art with everything!
Only shortly after they started – their very first show was meant as a satire of classical orchestras – they realized that serious music is really possible with vegetables and countless instruments were invented since then.  Another important aspect of the orchestra, is our direct democratic structure. Since it was founded as a projects of friends, we kept it that way, everybody makes decisions and has the same responsibility. And that’s also how our music works: our instruments are very limited, but together it’s complex music.

Two aspects of the work with the orchestra have inspired me a lot: the first is “limitation by choice to find new ways of doing things” ( – in other words “the search for the inherent richness within restricted fields”). I still feel like my focus on the acoustic multiphonic bass clarinet bears a lot of possibilities in the future. The other aspect is my general interest in artistic collaborations without a chief, in other words theory and practice of collaborative work processes.

To what extent has your playing been influenced by jazz (free jazz) and do you have anyone you admire from that field?

Improvisation is a very important principal approach for my work. But when I play improvised concerts, I still am very interested in a big variety of expressions and musical styles. I call it multi-idiomatic improvisation. “Free Jazz” is very often handled like a historic genre, I am just as interested in this style, like I am interested in many other styles. But certainly there are many many impressive and inspiring figures in the wide field of improvised music, who went their very own way.
Joelle Leandre, John Butcher, Irene Schweizer, Paul Lovens, Sophie Agnel, Hamid Drake, Liz Albee… “Jazz Jazz” was never really my thing, it always seemed rather conservative and narrow to me. That’s the reason why I preferred to play classical saxophone, as if this was not so conservative.. : )

Listen to a radio special featuring Gartmayer’s music on Resonance FM. 

 

What does experimentation mean to you – and how do you approach it in your various projects?

On one side, experimentation means focus. If you have all the possibilities in the world, you might never find new ways for/of X or Y. Experimentation means also an improvisational approach to me, only when you accept that you can´t control everything, will you get unexpected results. Also, I try to have my patterns of thinking reviewed sometimes. Don´t ever trust yourself too much!

You are based in Vienna. Can you talk about the city’s active improv and music scene that you are part of?

I like the not overwhelming (size-wise) but still lively music scene in Vienna. There are even various improv/experimental circles, that partly dissociate them from each other. It’s great that one may take aesthetic discussions that seriously! And this also speaks for the still quite positive climate for arts and culture in the city. I like, that there are several series and festivals for experimental music and art here. Sometimes it can also get innervatingly cushy, lazy and slow here (- there’s a saying that everything happens 20 years later in Vienna). That’s when it’s wonderful that my life and art gives me the opportunity to travel and get to know other places and ways of living.

Watch: Charlotte Bendiks at Red Light Radio

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Norwegian DJ and producer Charlotte Bendiks was one of the several SHAPE artists performing at The Hague’s TodaysArt festival last weekend (23-25 Sept 2016). Her DJ sets focus on sexy dance and body music. Although her main genre is classic house, her sets are inspired and influenced by music ranging from disco to African groove and Latin beats. She is widely known for creating euphoric, hot and sweaty dance floors. Doing live vocals and percussion as well as integrating other musicians has become somewhat of a trademark for this girl – transforming the whole performance more into a happening instead of just a simple DJ set.

Growing up in Tromsø, the techno capital of Norway, it is not strange that Charlotte Bendiks got interested in electronic music at a young age. She started DJing in her early twenties, developing into a highly respected and sought-out artist over the years.

Watch & listen to her set at Amsterdam’s Red Light Radio below:


Marta Heberle’s error-prone music

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Marta Heberle is an artist and theorist fascinated by transhumanism and the idea of transgressing and transcending the human. Doing very different things at a time and disregarding disciplinary confines as well as those of genres, she focuses on electro sounds with a club vibe while at the same time producing another label with weird unbearable noise frequencies. Her experiments can be located at the intersection of sound and performance. For SHAPE she will bring these two different types of expression together. One can expect a wall of noise broken apart by naive synth melodies and danceable beats. 

Where are you right now?

I’m in Lodz in the centre of Poland, finishing my doctoral thesis.

Can you talk about your thesis?

I’m writing about living media art from the perspective of classical aesthetic principles like form, beauty and truth. Living media art is a narrow part of bioart. The artefacts that are presented must obey a chosen definition of life. So far what I’ve deduced in my thesis is that life is a phenomenon of a very relative character.

Can you explain this relativism?

When you start researching the phenomenon of life it turns out that there are multiple definitions, which are all considered to be true. They are often contradictory. A biochemical definition considers DNA molecules in a laboratory glass as living, a metabolic definition says that life exchanges energy with the surroundings without altering its general properties. Right now, some researchers say that due to the dominance of the metabolic definition in the 70’s, it was considered that there was no life on Mars. If you use a different definition, the Mars discoveries can be considered as life. It’s very difficult to define life. All these definitions have been dominant at some point, but it’s like fashion, it changes. You can consider a car a living entity, because it’s exhaling and consuming energy. From another standpoint it’s not, because it’s not reproducing. And when you take this into consideration, you can think of a computer virus as living because it is multiplying itself.

How does technology come into the equation in this respect?

I’m mostly talking about living media art. Living media art is life – life according to a given definition of life – but it’s a life mediated by some kind of technology. It can be genetic engineering, computer software, etc.

Do you view it from a dystopian or utopian perspective?

I’m not judgemental. When you think of the transhumanist perspectives, they are usually very optimistic and utopian. On the other hand, there is the idea of technological singularity, also associated with transhumanism. It perceives the idea of artificial intelligence as the greatest achievement in the history of humankind, but this achievement will inevitably destroy the human race. I think if it’s going to be the greatest invention, then we should just welcome the change, even if it brings an end to human affairs.

In terms of your own music and performance, you also work with technologies in a certain way. The aesthetic of your music uses atonality, noise and beats. Do you see any parallels to your academic work?

You could say that my interests are bipolar. On one hand I’m interested in the idea of life, on the other I’m interested in the idea of transhumanism, but from the perspective of inevitable annihilation. So I’m working between these two polarities. I’m not using very advanced technologies in my performances. It is just a simple open source technology, but I’m also working with analogue synthesizers and sound generators. What I’m striving to present is a situation which is incomprehensible. I want to create an experience of singularity in which the human cognitive apparatus feels lost and tries to find its way in the maze of symbols and meanings. You could say that my performances are very chaotic because they are composed of very different things. As a theorist, I have to name things all the time. But as a musician, I’m not really keen on naming what I’m doing. I say that I make music for people with hearing impairments.

So the reception of your music is important?

Absolutely. During my performances, I use very high and low frequencies. Even if you’re deaf, you can enjoy my performance because you can feel the substantial value of sound going through you. It can for instance make you vomit. I’m also focusing on the bodily reception of sound.

Is physicality important to you?

It is. I’m not a trained dancer, but I’m trying to include some elements of movement in my performances. I’m using custom made devices that are wearable. I’m trying to invent non-human movements. I’m wearing technology on my body, and it is imposing certain limitations on my movements and making my body move in a certain way. The human body is then presented as an instrument or a medium that is necessary for the operation of the instrument.

In your opinion, how will music and music technology develop in the future?

I think that in pop music, real artists will be completely replaced with avatars. The machines will do the job entirely, like in William Gibson’s Idoru. The general public will just need a hologram, and the music will be played by machines. Pop music uses very simple algorithms. When it comes to music I’m making, I’m hoping to become an infinitely multiplied uploaded mind: a ghost in a machine making music.

What are you working on right now?

I’m wondering if there is beauty in living media art and creating some very naïve music.

Naïve?

I come from the very centre of Poland, which was once considered to be the second Manchester. I was born in the 80’s so I was probably listening to sewing machines in Lodz as well as Kajagoogoo and Depeche Mode in my mother’s womb. These are my inspirations. This is the kind of music I’m making right now. It’s very danceable, sweet noise music, which is very affirmative. Except that in my music production, it’s always disco that goes wrong. It always gets detuned. It’s error-prone music.

http://schwarzgerat.bandcamp.com/releases

photo: Jill Kuno

Photos: SHAPE Bucharest 2016

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On September 15 – 17, Romania’s Rokolectiv festival hosted its second special SHAPE event, titled SHAPE Bucharest. Andi Stecher, We Will Fail, Orphan Swords, Charlotte Bendiks and Syracuse participated, while Raze De Soare‘s Utopus played a solo set and Stine Janvin Motland presented her interactive installation Subjective Frequency Transducer, which registrates and regenerates the internal resonance of the performer.

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All photos by Vlad Dumitrescu.

Photos: SHAPE @ Riga Anglican Church

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Since 2006, Skaņu Mežs – one of the two coordinating festivals of the SHAPE platform – has been participating in Riga’s White Nights, a cultural forum that calls all local initiatives to host night-long free-entry events.

As always, Skaņu Mežs participated with a six-hour concert program at the Riga Anglican Church, presenting what can be considered a mini-festival, comprised of very (genre-wise) diverse performances. The 2016 edition of the Skaņu Mežs’ White Event featured performances by four SHAPE acts – Spatial, KABLAM, Susanna Gartmayer and Hyperaktivist.

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Photos by Didzis Grozds, Zane Zelča and Elīza Āboltiņa.