Atwood Magazine Celebrates AAPI Heritage Month 2021, Pt. II

Atwood Magazine Celebrates AAPI Heritage Month II
Atwood Magazine Celebrates AAPI Heritage Month II
In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, Atwood Magazine invited AAPI artists and music industry representatives from around the world to participate in an interview series reflecting on identity, music, culture, inclusion, and more. Today, and throughout the month of May, Atwood Magazine will be continuing those conversations in celebration of AAPI Heritage Month, engaging with artists and publicists alike to discuss the roles of heritage and representation in their own art, the state of the music industry, and its role in promoting diversity, visibility, equality, and more.
In Part I of our series, Atwood Magazine spoke with and highlighted 10 members in the industry, asking them to reflect on their own heritage, the relationship between music and identity, AAPI artist inspirations, and how we can challenge the music industry for better representation
Mitch Mosk, Editor-in-Chief
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featuring Shawn Wasabi, Sharon Cho, Elephante, Gabrielle Current, Clinton Kane, Dolly Ave, Calvin Langman of The Happy Fits, Chloe Tang, Katie Sin, and KOAD!
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:: Celebrating AAPI Heritage ::

Atwood Magazine Celebrates AAPI Heritage Month I

  follow our AAPI Heritage Month playlist on Spotify  



:: Shawn Wasabi ::

Shawn Wasabi © Shawn Serrano
Shawn Wasabi © Shawn Serrano

What is your heritage?

Filipino-American

What is the significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, for you?

It’s a time to be more introspective and sentimental considering the recent global traumatic events especially with Anti Asian hate. I’ve taken it more upon myself this APAHM Month to think about my family and what they experienced coming to the United States.

How do you perceive or experience the relationship between music and your AAPI heritage and identity?

In the music industry especially being Asian American it feels like there is support and loneliness at the same time. There isn’t enough people to share this with.

How do you feel the music industry can improve, when it comes to representation, inclusion, and diversity?

We need to have conversations among ourselves and our peers. Be aware of your biases and don’t put people in boxes.

Name one or two AAPI artists who have had a significant impact on you, and why they've had that impact.

Far East Movement – Hearing Like A G6 on the radio was a wow moment for me.

Awkafina – I really look up to her for being so humble and talented. She came from music and moved into the Film/TV industry.

Lastly, what are you working on currently? Anything coming down the pipeline you’re excited to share?

Working on some new music, but in the meantime go listen to my new song “i dip” and my album MANGOTALE!

•• ••

:: Sharon Cho, Manager, Duran Duran ::

Sharon Cho
Sharon Cho

What is your heritage?

Korean

What is the significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, for you?

More than anything, it is a reminder of how much I love my community and a celebration of how much we have contributed to this country over the years.

How do you perceive or experience the relationship between music and your AAPI heritage and identity?

Unconsciously. The truth is, my AAPI heritage and identity informs every experience and relationship I have. It’s such an important part of who I am that I don’t think of it as separate to myself or something I turn on and off. I experience life as an Asian American woman everyday. Similarly, music has been a constant in my life. From memorizing lyrics to every 80’s pop song on the radio while I was learning to speak English praying I’d fit in in school, to, 40 years later, watching in awe as companies like 88rising redefine the look and sound of popular music, it’s always felt like a natural extension of myself and has taught me anything worth knowing.

How do you feel the music industry can improve, when it comes to representation, inclusion, and diversity?

By getting better at listening. In particular, to people whose experiences are very different to our own. And when you don’t see yourself in their stories, recognizing that the value of that person’s life is never less than your own. By being OK taking yourself out of that equation, sometimes. By letting someone else speak.

And accepting that none if this is a quick fix. That it will be hard work and uncomfortable and go beyond one social media campaign, a moment of silence, a hashtag, etc… and being excited to do that work.

We’re getting better at it. I remain hopeful.

Name one or two AAPI artists who have had a significant impact on you, and why they've had that impact.

Margaret Cho was the first Asian American personality I saw on television who wasn’t a supporting character or an ornamental addition to an on-screen cast. She was a lead. She was bold, strong, loud and told the truth. She talked openly and honestly about race, gender, sex and sexuality. And for a teenage me, at the time, she was a godsend. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Margaret Cho. And felt, for the first time in my life, that I could relax into myself and give myself permission to be creative and follow my imagination as far as it would lead me without fear of what bad might happen. I finally had an example of what that kind of life could look like.

One of my favorite books is “Blu’s Hanging” by Lois-Ann Yamanaka. The book is written in Hawaiian pidgin which is challenging and it’s become somewhat controversial over the years but it remains a hugely important piece of writing for me. It’s a gorgeous reminder of the breadth and complexity of the Asian experience in America and, for me, it provided a peek into a new and unfamiliar world that I am inextricably connected to.

More recently, I’ve become obsessed with the British singer Rina Sawayama. Her album Sawayama is SUPERB!

Lastly, what are you working on currently? Anything coming down the pipeline you’re excited to share?

I have been working with Duran Duran for nearly two decades and this year they celebrate 40 years of making music and killing it in general! They have a new single just out which will be followed by a new album being released later this year. We should all be so lucky… creating art with your best friends for all those years and still waking up inspired and full of new ideas and ambition? Man, I love those guys.

I am also head over heels in love with the rising star that is Angelica Garcia, who Magus Entertainment have the immense good fortune to represent:

•• ••

:: Elephante ::

Elephante © Alex Lopes
Elephante © Alex Lopes

What is your heritage?

Chinese American

What is the significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, for you?

It’s about acknowledging Asian Americans as a part of the American collective – we have our own unique experiences that should be valued for what they are and not forced into any box.

How do you perceive or experience the relationship between music and your AAPI heritage and identity?

Growing up, I was conditioned to believe that Asian Americans couldn’t be pop musicians. I didn’t see anyone who looked like me that was doing the things I wanted to do, and it took me a many years to really believe that I could. My music all comes from a place of trying to embrace my identity.

How do you feel the music industry can improve, when it comes to representation, inclusion, and diversity?

I think it can do better to support and promote young minority artists that are just starting out. Getting off the ground for any artist is near impossible – doubly so for artists that don’t have resources or connections. Helping developing artists to get over that first hump will help more voices be heard in a broader way, and ultimately just help to create more great art.

Name one or two AAPI artists who have had a significant impact on you, and why they've had that impact.

Mike Shinoda was a hero to me – he could write, sing, produce, and do it all, and broke down the barriers between rock, hip hop, and electronic music. And of course Steve Aoki is the godfather of Asian Americans in dance music, and showed that Asian Americans could be on the biggest stages.

Lastly, what are you working on currently? Anything coming down the pipeline you’re excited to share?

I just released my first single “High Water” and music video off my upcoming album – I’ve been spending the last year at home and not touring, so I’m incredibly excited to show everyone all the music I’ve been creating.

•• ••

:: Gabrielle Current ::

Gabrielle Current © Nicole Lewis
Gabrielle Current © Nicole Lewis

What is your heritage?

I’m half Filipino, Korean, and Swedish.

What is the significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, for you?

I’m really proud to be a Filipino Korean American. It’s special to have an entire month celebrating our culture. I hope this month in particular can bring awareness to new artists or businesses that people may have never heard of. It’s also special knowing that I can have a voice in the AAPI, especially the Filipino community. I’ve learned through my Filipino culture how important our values of family and togetherness is. My main goal for music is to spread love and encourage community, it’s just how I was taught growing up.

How do you perceive or experience the relationship between music and your AAPI heritage and identity?

Just like my mixed nationality, I feel like my music is a blend of everything that influences me the most- R&B, jazz, neo-soul, and pop. There weren’t many Asian artists in music when I was younger, so I hope to be a voice that inspires and shows that there is room for everyone in all genres/styles.

How do you feel the music industry can improve, when it comes to representation, inclusion, and diversity?

I am seeing more inclusivity in the entertainment industry, which is incredible! Ultimately I don’t think ethnicity should affect the value or credibility of an artist’s work (in a negative way especially). You can like a song without even knowing what the artist looks like–you like what you like. With that being said, I do think it’s important for every culture to have the representation they deserve in pop culture and entertainment, since opportunities to share our voices weren’t available in this way in the past.

Name one or two AAPI artists who have had a significant impact on you, and why they've had that impact.

I have always been such a big fan of Raveena’s music and work. She incorporates her culture and identity within her art in such a beautiful, seamless way–it inspires me to do the same.

Lastly, what are you working on currently? Anything coming down the pipeline you’re excited to share?

I’m getting ready to release my debut EP, called Virgo, which drops May 27th. I’ve been working on this project for quite some time now so I can’t wait for it to finally be out in the world.

•• ••

:: Clinton Kane ::

Clinton Kane
Clinton Kane

What is your heritage?

Filipino/Norwegian

What is the significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, for you?

The chance to unite with other asians and pacific islanders and relate in a way.

How do you perceive or experience the relationship between music and your AAPI heritage and identity?

I think it’s amazing that other Asians and Pacific Islanders can relate to me and see themselves through me because we have a sense of similarity.

How do you feel the music industry can improve, when it comes to representation, inclusion, and diversity?

I honestly don’t see any major issues as far as the music industry but i think one thing we can do is for more Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is to step out of the comfort zone and chase after their dreams if that’s in the music industry.

•• ••

:: Dolly Ave ::

Dolly Ave © Sam Li
Dolly Ave © Sam Li

What is your heritage?

I am 100% Vietnamese!

What is the significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, for you?

For me this month is a reminder that every opportunity I have to share my art and my voice is an opportunity to give back to the community. It is also a reminder that we add value and history and culture wherever possible from the words we speak to the food we share.

How do you perceive or experience the relationship between music and your AAPI heritage and identity?

The relationship between music and my heritage is complicated. I am very proud of where I come from but I do not want to always feel stuck in the “Asian” category. We are talented individuals outside of our race and should be recognized equally in music.

How do you feel the music industry can improve, when it comes to representation, inclusion, and diversity?

The music industry has a long way to go in terms of representation and it all starts with visibility. The more opportunities for us to share our art and our thoughts the more the younger generation can feel empowered to sing, produce, and write.

Name one or two AAPI artists who have had a significant impact on you, and why they've had that impact.

I would say Rich Brian really stands out to me. He came to America and learned English to pursue a rap career and broke many barriers in terms of the music industry. I love the idea that music has no barriers. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what you look like, what language you are singing. That’s what the American Dream looks like to me. He created space for himself despite all odds.

That’s what the American Dream looks like to me: He created space for himself despite all odds.

Lastly, what are you working on currently? Anything coming down the pipeline you’re excited to share?

I am so excited to share the more recent work I’ve been making. I’ve evolved so much [since recording my brand new Sleep EP] in terms of my writing and sound. That’s what is great about music. It’s a voice diary of my growth.

•• ••

:: Calvin Langman (of The Happy Fits) ::

Calvin Langman of The Happy Fits
Calvin Langman of The Happy Fits

What is your heritage?

I am half-filipino, with my mother being from Manila, Philippines and my dad from Cleveland, OH (as referenced in our song “Too Late” with the line Ross sings “I could be whole if I didn’t go out passing free notes with all the secrets we know from half-bred Filipinos (that’s ME!)”. My grandmother Leticia and grandfather Caesar Isaga moved over to Englewood, NJ in 1970 to pursue the American Dream and start a laundromat, while also working in the financial sector of New York City for a little bit to get by. Their life in Manila left much to be desired and due to their financial situation could not afford to take over my mother, Maria, and her two brothers Arnel and Alex (shoutout to the Isaga’s!) immediately. My mother does not reflect fondly on her memories of growing up in Manila. One detail that I always remember of her home in the Phillipines is that it was quaint, with an outdoor hole in the ground for a bathroom and dirt floors. For the first eight years of her life, my mother was raised by her grandmother before moving over to Englewood with her brothers. In fact, my mom did not even meet her birth parents until she moved over to America.

My grandmother Leticia shortly after moving to the United States (Calvin Langman)
My grandmother Leticia shortly after moving to the United States (Calvin Langman)

What is the significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, for you?

To me, AAPI Heritage Month is all about paying homage to our immigrant ancestors and the beauty of American diversity. I remember being taught about diversity growing up in rural New Jersey in Kindergarten, about Ellis Island and the influx of immigrants from all over the globe that came to the Statue of Liberty to pursue a better life. Too often lost in this broader story of American immigration are the individual stories of Asian immigrants. My grandparents, mother, and her siblings have lived extremely unique lives full of courage and perseverance that I could not even imagine. When my mother moved over to Englewood when she was eight, she did not speak a word of English and was held back in school. She was made fun of for looking different and having rougher hands, so the kids would not play with her. Through the language-barrier and social alienation, my mother persevered and found herself with a Science degree out of Rutgers when she was just 22, younger than I am right now. I think these stories are important to remind us of how unique and novel this American experience is. While as a child I was taught to view the Immigration influx of the early 1900s as something that “has happened”, I now see and appreciate the fact that Asian immigrant stories are still taking place right now, as well as the growth of American integration and inter-cultural respect.

How do you perceive or experience the relationship between music and your AAPI heritage and identity?

I don’t think The Happy Fits would be around if not for my mother. Through all her hardships she came out the other side with the soul of an angel. One of her best friends growing up was her record player, and even before coming to America she was one of The Beatles’ biggest fans. Since she did not speak English, she said in the Philippines they would often just make up their own lyrics that fell in line with the vowels and syllables McCartney or Lennon were singing. Whenever The Beatles would come on the radio growing up, my mother would instantly start singing (albeit not the right words) and dancing. It is that exact same free spirit I try to encapsulate in my music.

How do you feel the music industry can improve, when it comes to representation, inclusion, and diversity?

We need more airtime and more stories told. I grew up a hardcore Yankees fan and idolized Hideki Matsui because he was the only guy on the team that looked like me despite being Japanese (often when he hit a home run I used to say “Go Arnie!” because he looked like my uncle Arnel to me). When it comes to rock and roll and what I do now, there are not many Asian Americans on the frontlines. In a recent American Civil Rights class I took, we learned of Kenneth Clarke’s social science research that helped sway the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board. In Effect of Prejudice and Discrimination on Personality Development, Clarke found that children as young as three years old begin to develop racial awareness and feelings of belongingness. The awareness that children in America develop nowadays is strongly influenced by who is on the billboard, on the TV screen, or on the Instagram ad. The more Asian Americans are represented in pop culture, politics, and the media, the better sense of belonging we all will have. With the recent explosion of K-Pop I think we are well along our way, though I would be ecstatic to see that same energy and airtime for fellow Asian American artists.

Name one or two AAPI artists who have had a significant impact on you, and why they've had that impact.

I recently learned about the band Fanny and I think their story and music is fascinating. They were one of the first all-female rock groups to get on the Billboard Hot 100 in the 1970s and included two Filipino immigrants June and Jean Millington. Their music sounds as good as any post-Beatles rock. Just check out ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’ and it will get you dancing in no time. I think the first time I ever heard of Filipino pop musician was during Bruno Mars’ first NPR interview back when Doo-Wops and Hooligans first came out. I was 12 at the time and have been a big Bruno Mars fan ever since.

Lastly, what are you working on currently? Anything coming down the pipeline you’re excited to share?

I am currently moving to Greenpoint Brooklyn to work on our 3rd LP. We are about to release the last three music videos for What Could Be Better, meaning we will have made a music video for every track on our 2nd full-length LP. This was a great feat and I feel strongly that we are releasing our three best videos for last. The next one coming up for “She Wants Me (To Be Loved)”, is my personal favorite as it includes our first ever dance video, something we are all very nervous and excited for the world to see.

•• ••

:: Chloe Tang ::

Chloe Tang © Ruchi Parikh
Chloe Tang © Ruchi Parikh

What is your heritage?

I am full Chinese American. My mom was born in Vancouver, BC and my dad was born in Phoenix, Arizona.

What is the significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, for you?

AAPI Heritage Month has become more significant to me ever since moving to LA a couple years ago. When I was young, I didn’t grow up around a lot of other Asian kids so it was my natural instinct to suppress any of my Chinese culture in fear of being made fun of for being “different.” My life has changed drastically since then as I learned more about myself and my heritage so this month just reminds me of how much I’ve grown.

How do you perceive or experience the relationship between music and your AAPI heritage and identity?

It’s interesting because sometimes I think I’ve experienced the music industry in the same way as everyone else. I worked really hard because I knew I wanted to do this from a very young age. I went to music school, learned as many instruments as I could, played open mics and eventually moved to LA to pursue this career full time. Sometimes it feels like the industry has really welcomed me with open arms. However as I got older, I learned more about the ecosystem of the music industry and how it is set up to make certain things harder for minorities, which is true for many other industries as well. For example, it is widely known that the majority of the music industry is male dominated. I’m lucky to have not felt mistreated by the men that I work with because they respect me and my art. The problem lies with how the image of success has developed over the many years the industry has been present. We have set examples of what success looks like and if you do not match the description, you have to work harder to convince people that you are worthy of that success despite where you come from or what you look like.

I am grateful for the good things that the music industry has given me. I’ve connected with more AAPI artists than ever before and I cannot describe the joy I get from building a community of incredible musicians. With that being said, I see myself growing more and more aware of the industry every day because I know there’s still a lot that can be improved. I do my best to represent my family and my heritage so maybe one day a little Chinese girl will see me sing and see herself in me.

How do you feel the music industry can improve, when it comes to representation, inclusion, and diversity?

I could go on for hours about how I think the industry can be improved, but I want to focus on where the beauty and music industries meet. I consider myself very lucky to have grown up in a supportive household where my parents never questioned when I wanted to wear black lipstick in 8th grade. I am lucky to have grown up with a mom who set a great example of what inner beauty is. Even so, I still tried to change my appearance every 3 months whether it was getting piercings or dyeing my hair or getting new clothes, because I was convinced that I was unwanted because I looked different than all the girls at my high school. We need to not just tell, but show young audiences that being “different” isn’t a bad thing. If there were someone who looked like me who was at the level and adoration of Britney Spears when I was 6, my life would be very different. We are definitely getting there, but once the world starts to see more Asian representation in the entertainment industry, I truly believe things will drastically change for young people struggling with their identities. They’ll be able to see that the beauty industry is directly profiting from making us feel like we have to change our natural features to be beautiful when really, we are beautiful because of those things.

Name one or two AAPI artists who have had a significant impact on you, and why they've had that impact.

The first AAPI artist that comes to mind is Will Jay. My friend showed me one of his songs called “I Can Only Write My Name” and it’s about his experience as an Asian American feeling disconnected from his heritage. When I first listened to it, I cried. I genuinely had no idea that anyone else felt the same way I did my whole life. It was a moment I will never forget.

Another artist that has changed my life is NIKI. I’ve watched her come so far and have always respected her talent. She just has something so special and I’m so happy that it is being recognized. Every song she puts out feels so real and true to her that it feels like I know her just through the music. NIKI has some incredible melodies and lyrics that take me to new places.

Lastly, what are you working on currently? Anything coming down the pipeline you’re excited to share?

I’m working on a summer single and an EP right now that is set to come out in the fall. I’m more excited about this group of songs than I have ever been before. It’s a much more fun and carefree side of me that I don’t think people have seen yet. Picture early 2000s beats with some raunchy lyrics and a little bit of rapping! I have a song about this Youtube influencer named Chloe Ting, a song about having sex in my parents’ minivan in high school, one about the infamous “what are you?” questions, and many more. They are all specific to my experiences, but I think my fans will be able to find relatable aspects as well. Get ready bitches!

•• ••

:: Katie Sin ::

Katie Sin
Katie Sin

What is your heritage?

I identify as Korean American. I am biracial, Korean and white.

What is the significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, for you?

I appreciate that the month of May holds significance for AAPI visibility, coalition building, education, and celebration of the extremely diverse identities that fit under the AAPI umbrella. I do also wish that the significance of AAPI Heritage Month would extend beyond a month, that greater understanding of AAPI people and history could be more than an obligatory set of programs or a passing moment.

How do you perceive or experience the relationship between music and your AAPI heritage and identity?

My songs are the best form of communication I’ve got to express my point of view. And of course, my point of view includes my identity as a biracial Korean American woman, and the songs that I write are very much written through that lens. At the same time, my songs are about big, relatable things like love, loss, and connection. I cherish both of these aspects of my writing, the specificity of sharing my point of view through my particular identity, and also the wider goal of connecting with people who hold identities that are different from mine.

How do you feel the music industry can improve, when it comes to representation, inclusion, and diversity?

The music industry has a long way to go to treat people better who have traditionally excluded and exploited race, class, and gender identities. While the past year has been devastating for a lot of the industry in many ways, I hold onto the hope that we’ll build scenes back up and recover in a way that is more equitable than ever before.

To me, this looks like adequately compensating, rewarding, and representing a broader set of music workers than the usual suspects, and doing so year round. As an example, the Audio Engineering Society estimates that 93% of audio engineers and producers are men. We have to ask ourselves why that is so and recognize that it’s going to take a lot of work to fix that statistic to be a more equitable one.

In an industry that is increasingly becoming pay-to-play, that is so built on knowing the right people, every decision to hire or represent people has to be intentional if we want to actualize this change we talk about.

Name one or two AAPI artists who have had a significant impact on you, and why they've had that impact.

Michelle Zauner (Japanese Breakfast) has been making work that feels so culturally familiar to me and that I haven’t found represented in media anywhere else. And even beyond her music, which is great, I really enjoy her recent video work and appreciate how she’s made a name as a writer as well with “Crying in H-Mart.” I love a well-rounded artist with a vision.

Lastly, what are you working on currently? Anything coming down the pipeline you’re excited to share?

I’m working on a 3-song EP that I’m excited to finish and plan to release this summer. The songs are about loneliness and making efforts to love and connect with other people, pretty significant themes for me and most people I know as we deal with the challenges of being humans in 2021.

•• ••

:: KOAD ::

KOAD
KOAD

What is your heritage?

South Asian/Indian

What is the significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, for you?

I’m Indian and growing up it seemed like white people got credit for just being white everyday, so I guess it’s nice there’s a month where we get our flowers. But sometimes it feels performative to cover up real issues that are happening with Asian countries.

How do you perceive or experience the relationship between music and your AAPI heritage and identity?

I just live it. It’s in my blood to make things that sound like my idea of “home.” When I put in tablas in my beats to rap over, it’s not that I’m doing it for my brand so people just know I’m brown—it’s so people know I’m brown AND I’m the magical hip hop artist to ever do it hahah!

Name one or two AAPI artists who have had a significant impact on you, and why they've had that impact.

Joji. His music got me through funny dark times when I was younger, so I definitely am not shy of giving Joji his well deserved flowers.

Also Freddie Mercury. I learned about him relatively recently, and I realized that we actually have a lot in common, which is wild to say but makes sense. Seeing him navigate so many things that are difficult for brown kids and seeing Bohemian Rhapsody (the movie) after I went through a bunch of similar things he went through… I knew that I had a little bit of that guy ingrained in me. I never even knew he was Indian, fucking wild.

Lastly, what are you working on currently? Anything coming down the pipeline you’re excited to share?

My debut mixtape Treehouse will come out, and it’s the most magical mixtape you’ve ever heard in your life. I also have made stupid amounts of music beyond ‘Treehouse,’ so expect me being sexy and being your favorite rapper.

ATWOOD MAGAZINE CELEBRATES AAPI HERITAGE MONTH 2021, PT. I

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ATWOOD MAGAZINE CELEBRATES AAPI HERITAGE MONTH 2021, PT. II

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ATWOOD MAGAZINE CELEBRATES AAPI HERITAGE MONTH 2021, PT. III

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ATWOOD MAGAZINE CELEBRATES AAPI HERITAGE MONTH 2021, PT. IV

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ATWOOD MAGAZINE CELEBRATES AAPI HERITAGE MONTH 2021, PT. V

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