City Guide: DJ Rachael presents Kampala

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DJ Rachael first came onto our wavelength thanks to Instagram – more specifically The Black Madonna’s Instagram – who posted pictures of the two of them, as she joined DJ Rachael last year in her home town of Kamapala, Uganda, to participate in the ‘Femme Electronic’ workshop. Femme Electronic is a project co-founded by Rachael to help grow a community and increase opportunities for women in electronic music in Uganda. She’s been working in the industry for over 20 years, pioneering the melting pot sound of Kampala, both in her selections as a DJ and drawing upon hip-hop, house and traditional afro-folk in her own music.

As soon as we heard about Rachael we knew we had to ask her to make us a city guide on Kampala and share all the amazing music she’s collected from her city in East Africa. Her mix does not disappoint. She’s gone old-school hip-hop with her mixing style, meaning she’s managed to fit in ninety (!!) songs in two hours, filled with a tonne of high-energy and uplifting Ugandan afro-beat, hip-hop and electronic, spanning from the 70s straight up to Kampala’s fresh releases of today.

Check out the map above and interview below for DJ Rachael’s favourite spots, while you listen to a 100% Kampala mix.

Favourite place to buy records?

Music stores in Kampala are totally nonexistent, save for a few places like Nakumatt stores which only sell a few African CDs. Previously we bought music from Musicland which closed shop.

The local music in Kampala is mostly made in digital studios without live instrumentalists and the music played in llubs and bars by Djs is picked up from their local friends who own shack Mp3 shops. Personally I’ve collected lots of music from my international clientele who hire me for their corporate or private parties. I also download some music off the internet on iTunes and local music websites like mdundo and howwe biz. Sincerely no one really cares about records because the Djs especially cannot afford it.

Favourite live music venue?

Jazz Ville Bar and Lounge with a beautiful thatched roof canopy, located on Bandali Rise off Luthuli Avenue in Bugolobi Kampala, is a firm favourite with Jazz lovers, Rock/Blues and live music enthusiasts. The venue hosts good live bands at least 3 times a week. I watched Jemimah Sanyu an enterprisingly uplifting underground musician right here and I loved it.

The National Theatre located in the mid city is another good place for live shows and is host to the Bayimba International festival held in September every year, which gives local and international musicians a platform to showcase their art. I’ve performed at the festival for the last 7 years at the very popular Silent Disco in the yard, but in 2015 I headlined the mainstage as a Dj and 2016 too under my collective of female Djs/producers, Femme Electronic. The community is still in its infancy right now.

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Best soundsystem / favourite club?

There are several event companies and soundsystems sprawled around the city but in my opinion Silk Events located on Spring Road Bugolobi Kampala has the best soundsystem in the land. They managed the sound at my 20 year celebration party “The Rapture” in 2016 for that matter. I had a residency with Club Silk, whose owner also manages Silk events, for several years and I thought they had one of the best sounds in any club in Kampala and host very large shows like recently the UB40. Closely following Silk events is Fenon Records on 2nd Street Industrial Area Kampala. I also run a similar business (Skit Mobile Events) which offers services on a smaller scale since it’s still growing.

There are some great clubs and bars in Kampala but my personal favorites right now are:

Big Mikes Bar located on Acacia Avenue Kololo , whose clientele is as variant as the clothes you wear though with a more expatriate and corporate crowd than any. The music is also varied and more internationally based but with touches of good African bands playing at the bar every week.

Bubbles O’Learys, located just below Big Mikes on Acacia Avenue, is another favourite with some spacious open spaces and club area. It’s changed management recently (I can see a few raised eyebrows here because there were rumours of segregation and racism a few years back).  It’s now all looking up with their very charming unassuming Asian/English owner.

Liquid Silk located at Village Mall Spring road Bugolobi in Kampala, is also a very friendly bar for the urban, hip, corporate and your very average Joe too. With a good setting and good service it hosts some very good events and parties.

Club Guvnor too on 1st street Industrial area offers the best nightclub soundsystem currently.

Hollywood Masawa Bar located in Bunga Gaba road opposite Oryx Petrol station has the best underground music scene in Kampala right now. It’s not your average fancy bar but it gets the job done. The owners, who also organize the Nyege Nyege International festival, invite several off the main scene international Djs and musicians who in turn play at this bar. Several great parties and events have been held here of which I’ve been a part of in the recent past.

Best party in the city?

Kampala is the party city of East Africa I should say, and Kampalans are party animals. There are a number of parties and festivals all year round. My favourite party though is my own themed Rapture DJ party which started off as a celebration for 20 years in the business. The Rapture, which was held in a warehouse on 1st street in the Industrial area in June was intense. Previously I used to hold small parties but as the fanbase grew my management team decided we do the warehouse.

It hosted several DJs, DJ Ena Lind of Mint Berlin from Germany, one from Kenya and DJs from around the world.  I’ve been encouraged to hold it every year by the satisfied fans who turned up and thought it was their best party yet! So it’s on.

Blankets and Wine” which occurs every 3 months at the Lugogo Cricket Oval on Jinja Road in Kampala, hosts several different live musicians from Uganda and Africa and has been dubbed East Africa’s premier blankets and wine experience. You come with a picnic basket, wines, chairs, and sit back to enjoy the immense talent, art and fashion on show. This is one of the best parties to network and I’ve personally met a few clients here.

The glamorous Abryanz Style and Fashion Awards (ASFAs) is a themed event that appreciates individuals and organisations that contribute to the growth of the fashion industry in Uganda.

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Best view of the city?

Kampala is the city blessed with seven hills so has lots of places with mouth gaping views. You can sight so many great views from places like Naguru hill, Kololo hill, Makerere hill.

In my opinion though, Cassia lodge located on Plot 15 Buziga Circular Road Buziga Kampala takes this one. I personally played at this venue for a friend’s wedding and couldn’t get over the view. It’s a vantage point to spot the beauty of Kampala and its lights in the night, while catching the coolest breeze while you are at it. Joram reminded me of this view.

Take a ride up Kololo hill too on the outskirts just near the city centre. Considered a haven for the top dogs and Kampala’s rich, you will catch a good number of various views and top landmarks of the city and surrounding areas and twinkling night lights; and maybe a Bentley too if you are lucky.!

The Hotel Diplomate on Muyenga Tank hill, which could be the highest hill in Kampala, is located on Diplomate Road in Muyenga on the outskirts of the city and has the gem of the views.! Very breathtaking view of the city as well as parts of Lake Victoria. Be prepared for the very steep climb or drive up the hotel though.

Favourite Cafe’s and Restaurants?

The wide range of restaurants and cafés varies from international to the local cuisines.

Undoubtedly Café Javas has risen up the ranks to be considered the best Café in town. It’s not for nothing though, they’ve got the most friendly staff and some of the best services around the city.  Good food too. Very friendly to children who they cater for wholeheartedly even without you asking. My 7 year old son Cruz reminded me of this café when I was puzzling about this. The Café has got several branches splattered around the city and beyond so you know you are covered.

Shaka Zulu is a great place for anyone wanting to taste and explore the different local foods on the Ugandan market. It recently won an award for best Ugandan cuisine from the Kampala Restaurant Awards. People from all parts of the surrounding areas flock this place for lunch. Yummy yummy Ugandan dishes here. I’ve driven past it several times in a rash home and the aroma always makes me tingle and want to stop.!   Located at Plot 5, Bishop Campelling Road, Kiswa, Bugolobi.

Yujo Izakaya a Japanese restaurant near Nakasero Primary school, serves a great menu of oriental and international foods.

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Is there somewhere you like going to escape the hustle and bustle and take some time away for yourself?

I love travelling and going away from the noise and crowds. On my day I usually escape to the little quiet town of Jinja in the East of Uganda. An interesting and refreshing journey this, littered with markets like Namawojjolo where you grab the best chicken on stakes, right through the biggest forest in Mabira which offers beautiful scenery, across the Nile through the bridge that connects Kampala/ Central  and Jinja/East Uganda.

This is home to waterfalls and dams like the Itanda Falls, the source of the River Nile, Lake Victoria; which waters in turn gave birth to all these other joys like Bungee jumping (I’ve never quite put myself up for it. I still freak out), white water rafting, Horseback safaris, Ziplining at Griffin Falls in Mabira forest and more; and the serenity of the Nile Reptile Park. The hotels here have gotten more expensive since it’s become one of the best tourist places in Uganda.

Best place to experience something unique to Kampala City? 

There’s always something strange and nostalgic about certain places in Kampala, in a good way.

If you pass by the 5 star Sheraton Kampala Hotel on Speke road or the house of laws, read the Parliament on Parliament Avenue, or just walk down the Golf course on Yusuf Lule road, or inside Makerere University Wandegeya, you will notice a big winged bird, bald headed, long beaked scavenger. This bird is called the Marabou stork (Kaloli in local Luganda) and feeds on rotting meat or garbage but is quickly becoming a national symbol of Uganda because of the pure amazement it brings to foreigners..

You will also notice quite a sight of the small taxi bikes locally called Boda Boda when you walk or drive by the Uganda Electoral Commission head office at the round about on Jinja road in the city, all packed together during the peak hour traffic jams. Just jump out of your ride and take one it will be so much quicker; but buy a helmet first because the riders are quite reckless at times. I used to ride a big luxury bike years ago and felt quite good feeling the wind on my face and having the freedom to change lanes as I wished. I was always careful though. Try it.

If you walk on the sidewalks of the city especially in the night and on the outskirts you will probably get a chance to see the now world famous “Rolex” snack being made out of eggs and chapatti. It’s the fastest growing snack in the world as reported by CNN. FACT! So grab yourself one as you go along. You will love it.

Me and my team turned it into a small business at the Nyege Nyege International festival, which I featured on, last year at the Nile discovery Resort in Jinja and made quite a killing, though it was exhausting doing it for hundreds of revelers. Don’t know if we will have a repeat!

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First thing you miss after leaving Kampala City?

One can easily have a life in Kampala without much ado. The people are warm and funny. If you visit a restaurant or bar several times they will soon call you auntie, uncle or even baptize you with a name of their own.

Boda Bodas are what I usually miss from the city because they ease travel so vastly. You jump the queues of the long traffic jams in a flash. Then I also miss the Rolex mentioned above.

Then you miss the quick communication gotten from Ugandans and Kampalans who are quick to help you get around in any unfamiliar places visited (Lydia Namutebi). The pirated movies/tv shows which are easy to get access to from your local roadside hawkers (Lydia)

The lack of judgement of foreigners because Ugandans are so friendly and warm up easily to foreigners unlike in other places I’ve visited. In Berlin, Germany, when I last visited in October 2016, playing at the Proxi Club, people on the streets were all keeping to themselves for instance. There are many expats in Kampala from around the world because the city allows for ethnicity and diversity, food and culture.

Best place to see another medium of art other than music?

The Uganda Museum at Kitante on Kira Road Kampala, which houses great cultural, historical collections of pieces of Uganda from years past.

The Nommo Gallery next to State house Lodge, though be ready to get a rundown search, head to toe since you are in the vicinity of the official Presidential house. TIP: Don’t carry any guns!!

Worth mentioning: Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo in Namugongo off Kireka on Jinja road. The Royal Kasubi Tombs, the cultural burial grounds of the Kings of Buganda, the biggest tribe in Uganda which I happen to belong to. Found in Kasubi. I also come from the family that birthed the current King Ronald Mutebi of Buganda, who is one of the most loved leaders in Uganda, and whom I’m first cousins with. I rarely see him though.

Are there any markets in your city worth checking out?

I love shopping for shoes, clothes and rare items in downtown malls in the city like the Owino Market recently renamed St. Balikuddembe Market, before they remodeled it. It sells second hand items, the vendors are friendly and you can always get a bargain deal. Most of the traders there knew about me. It’s always a good crazy shopping there.

I love the Craft market on Buganda Road street in the city for any locally made Art and craft stuff. Quality Supermarket in Ntinda business district is also a favourite for kiddie clothes and Christmas shopping. It’s worth also checking out the Nakawa Market on jinja Road for all food stuff, Wandegeya Market in wandegeya, Kisekka market downtown and Nakasero Uptown Market in the city center where everything costs probably double.

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Where will you find the friendliest, most interesting locals to have a chat with?

The local market areas at the food sections and the car wash bays are the most convenient to have random chats. I love chatting with the local lads at this offbeat popup almost Car wash in Naguru opposite Toyota Uganda showroom, where we have a chat about all the gossip from the city ranging from politics, celebrities, housing and economic situations to the newest joints in the city. Sometimes I just stop by, greet them and hand them a few bucks for water in the hot season, because at the end of the day they are simply my fans. I love them.

What’s the best and worst thing about living in Kampala city?

Kampala is a dusty city for one and not so clean in most parts. In the rainy season sometimes diseases break out easily especially in the crowded slum areas; like the thyphoid fever outbreak a few months ago which killed some people; and colds and coughs among children especially all through the terms.

There’s a lot of noise from trucks and cars that are driving by and honking their horns or playing loud music advertising shows; so if you live near the main roads as I’ve done for so many years it gets to you. Remember I sleep almost in the mornings and these cars go off at that time.  Plus the congestion and thus very horrid traffic jams that gang up especially when the kids start school or close to the holidays. Fuel consumption becomes a menace. There are also petty thieves posing as cyclists at times and careless riders and motorists.

The teargas meted on rioters in the city when they disagree with the government; so if you happen to pass through the center and were unaware you can get caught in between. (Lydia Namutebi) TIP: Move with mineral water and a hanky. !

On the upside there are many things to like about the city ranging from accommodation, transportation, culture and ethnic diversity. It’s easy to find good places to stay, cheap hotels and cheap restaurants with good food. Living in or around the city is a plus too, because everything is easily accessible from any products or gadgets or musical items you may need. Transportation is so much easier too. It’s easy for me to go to and from work in my job as a DJ in the night since most of the clubs/bars are closely interlinked round the CBD of Kampala. We’ve got Uber now and boda bodas. TIP: Look out for registered bodas with helmets and IDs.

Who’s doing good things for Kampala music right now, who you’d like to shout out? 

I feel my boy Giovanni Kremer Kiyingi, an underground instrumentalist and musician, is doing well on the market right now representing Uganda on the International stage.  My project members of Femme Electronic which is starting to take off giving girls lessons on music production and DJing, where we recently featured the Black Madonna from Chicago, a leading talent buyer at Smart Bar Chicago, Mixmag and Resident Advisor’s best Dj 2016; at the Establishment Club 1st street Industrial Area opp Toyota Uganda Dec 2016.

Hanif Rehemtulla of Yujo Izakaya hosts good underground musicians at his restaurant in Nakasero.

Joel Sebunjo a now trending world musician reppin Uganda around the world, my Santuri Safari crew based in Nairobi, Gregg Tendwa NBI, Ken Mvaalye (DJ Dark Meme) Goethe Zentrum Kampala, my Boutiq Electroniq crew in Bunga and organisers of the Nyege Nyege International festival DJ Moroto & Derek, Hollywood Masawa Bar, Dj Thomaz, Hannif Rehemtulla of Yujo,  Melanie Kiwagama of Melinjani Clothing label and my East African manager and stylist, Faisal Kiwewa of Bayimba and Doa Doa festivals, Solomon Muleyi of Kampala Sun, Edgar Batte of the Daily Monitor, Steve Jean of Fenon events, Uncle Charlie of Flex Events, Elvis Sekyanzi of Silk events, Saba Alex from Sabasaba music Los Angeles, Lillian Mbabazi, Cindy Sanyu , Apass, Bebe Cool and Chameleon some of the biggest musicians right now and my buddies, my little boy Zola Cruz who is the biggest child model, Joram Muzira of Joram Model Management, Kastimo Tony my producer, my Aunt Mrs Liz Lubowa one of my big inspirations, Ameer the proprietor of Bubbles and the Establishment Club, the Black Madonna Smart Bar Chicago, Vice Media New York, the Blip discs London, On the Corner Records London, Ena Lind Mint Berlin Germany,  my Scraych Rekordz team who have been there with me all through, my lovely “kids” from Seth Academy and SETH Foundation in Buziga Kampala, Bernard Okongo my co-founder at Seth Foundation and all my friends and lovely fans. Love you all.

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What are some of your favourite up-and-coming DJs/producers/musicians bubbling up in Kampala city right now?

Upcoming DJs I should mention are the duo of Slick Stuart and Roger, DJ Kampire and DJ Phoebeats from Femme Electronic, Sitenda is a growing force in her genre, Jemimah Sanyu a great vocalist and instrumentalist, Sheebah Karungi one of the top musicians of 2016 in Uganda, Giovanni Kiyingi the best upcoming musician and instrumentalist right now, I call him the one man band’

Could you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us? Where and how did you record it, what was the idea behind it and are there? 

I recorded this mix at my home studio Scraych Rekordz after selecting the tracks that I thought have been on the hit dance scene in Kampala over the years, songs I’ve had on my hitlist through the years.

It starts off with the early 70s and 80s local songs where Uganda’s favourite old time band Afrigo Band and the late enigmatic Elly Wamala ruled the airplay. It transports into the 90s and 2000s where we have the Chameleones and Bebe Cools and the talented duo of Radio and Weasel featuring hugely. Then we get into the 2010s and the now with the future of Ugandan music blooding the new crop of singers, who took on the mantle, with the older ones. It ends with my new remixes made for the future fusing old classic Ugandan tracks with the electronic feel, and tracks we did with Santuri Safari, of which I’m a apart of more of my own tracks as well.

Are there any interesting organisations/charities/projects involving music based/happening in your city?

The Bayimba initiative is teaching girls how to play instruments through the Bayimba Foundation. The Bayimba Academy is the arts education pillar of Bayimba, offering a range of practical training for visual and performing artists throughout the year. They strive to empower artists through creativity, innovation, and collaboration with our curriculum.

DOADOA is a joint initiative of a number of leading creative entrepreneurs in East Africa that have joined forces to develop the market for performing arts in East Africa and unlock the potential of the East African creative industry by providing an annual platform for professional networking and mutual learning.

The Laba Arts Festival. Initially the LaBa! was aiming on giving especially visual artists a public platform, getting artists out of the usual gallery spaces to interact with their environment and audience. With time the festival has been changing, always trying to adapt to the necessities and movements of the art and cultural scene in Uganda.

I also created, with the help of Santuri Safari, the Femme Electronic Project, a DJ and music production initiative to teach girls how to DJ and produce electronic music based on the local instruments of East Africa. It’s still in its infancy but has had a helping hand from Santuri East Africa Nairobi and Goethe Zentrum Kampala, and Native Instruments Berlin, Germany, who sent us some DJ equipment and a keyboard. We hold workshops once a month and recently hosted Blip Discs from London and The Black Madonna from Chicago Smart Bar who gave the girls great tips and lessons. We hope to achieve more with help from the world out there. The website is not yet running but we have a facebook page.

Santuri Safari is another music oriented organization I work with. This is a collective of DJs, Musicians, Producers and Instrumentalists who aim at putting East African music on the global map with collaborations and offers a platform for artistes to learn under a vibrant underground environment and create a movement while putting their music out there. Find out more on this here.

And finally, what’s on the horizon for you in terms of live dates or releases we should look out for?

I’m getting set to have my Rapture party remade for 2017 in the month of August. I’m getting set to feature at the inauguration of the Impact Hub Firenze in Florence Italy on 10th Feb 2017. I have something cooking with Femme Electronic UG & KE and Santuri Safari  featuring the magnanimous DJ Goldierocks from United Kingdom with the support of the British Council Kampala.

I’m working on tracks to complete my first ever Album produced by me that features other talents, to be released late this year from my studio Scraych Rekordz. I will also feature on some summer festivals 2017 in Augsberg Germany and Spain at the Etnosur


Philly Lutaaya – Nkoye Okwegomba
Ragga Dee – Nkabongere
Frank Mbalire – Ndikwambala Ng’Ekooti
Elly Wamala – Enkuba Mu Ddungu
Afrigo Band – Speed (Rmx)
Bobi Wine – Akagoma
Afrigo Band – Amazzi Genyama
Afrigo Band – Mp’Eddembe
Kyansuti ft. Bebe Cool – Okunsunasuna
Afrigo Band – Olumbe Lwo Bwavu
Halima Namakula – Ekimbewo
Bebe Cool – Mambo Mingi
Sammy Kasule – Ekitobero
Jaonita Kawalya (Afrigo Band) – Wololo Nfunda Nomubi
Afrigo Band – Eyauni Emaali
Radio/Weasel ft Sheebah – Nkwetaaga (Remix)
Radio & Weasel – Ekyama
Perfect Generation – Wampologoma
Rabadaba – Love Portion (Mpako)
Radio & weasel – Nakudata
Chameleone – Basima Ogenze (Rmx)
Cindy Sanyu ft. Navio – Ndi Mukodo
Maro ft. David Lutalo – Mubi Bubbi
Bobi Wine ft. Nubian Lee – Nakumiss
Emperor Orlando – Sirika Baby
Perfect Generation ft. Steve Jean – Bundu
Chameleone – Bageya
Cindy Sanyu – Bintabula
GNL Zamba – Magna (attack)
Qute Kaaye – Jinkeese
Remah Namakula – Fire Tonight
Jacki Chandiru – Gold Digger
Navio ft. – Leka Kwenyumiriza
Daxx Kartel – Spectacular
Cindy Sanyu – Party Paka Kucha (Rmx)
Bobi Wine – Kampala
Dr. Chameleone – Owakabi
Mun G – Mbwase
Napoleon – Mo Money
Julianna – Eddiba
Big Trill – Pretty Girls
Margla Da Raggamuffin Gyal – Tinku Tinku
Captain Dolla – Emesse
DJ Moses – Sunda
Yung Mulo – Tebakusobola
Ziggy Dee – Eno Mic
Lillian Mbabazi and A Pass – Memories (X-Mix)
Red Banton – Nonya Money
Daxx Kartel – Baala
Radio and Weasel – Can’t let you Go
Yung Mulo – Love Me (Xmix)
Dj Rachael ft. Pryce L Ton – Conductor
Ngoni – Bigula
Sarah Zawedde – Kambere Nawe
Sheebah Karungi – Ice Cream
Ragga Dee – Oyagala Cash
Ragga Dee – Empeta
Ceasorous – Dangerous
Mun G. – Sala Puleesa
Irene Ntale & Radio and Weasel – Bikola
King Saha – Mulilwana
Ngoni – Digi
Sizzaman – Angella
Chameleone – Mama Mia
Ronnie Banton – Kawuna
King Saha – Muleke Agende
Sweet Kid – Brenda
Dj Rachael (4Raynsom) ft. Mocha – Jamboree (Tukikole)
Clever J. – Mazzi Wanane
Eddy Kenzo – Mbilo Mbilo
Titi tabele – Segwanga
Alan Toniks – Mu’Ngatto
Ruyonga – Tutuuse
Hilderman – Double Bed (Mazongoto)
Dj Micheal – Kwata Kwata
Weasel and Radio – Bread and Butter
Lillian Mbabazi – Kawa
Benji (Slim B) – Tonight
Toniks – Itaano
Vamposs – Love to dance (Siika)
Rachael Magoola – Obangaina
Viboyo Oweyo ft. Mun G. Big Trill & GNL Zamba – Zzina Remix
Benji (Slim B) ft. DJ Rachael (4Raynsom) – Anamitini (I Love You)
DJ Rachael ft. Kastimo and Frank Mbalire – Bamulete (Scraych dance Rework)
Santuri Safari – Kolingo (Love) [upcoming] Sarabi, Susan Kerunen, Gionanni, Dj Rachael – Min Kulu (Scraych Remix)
Sarabi Band, Bantu Clan, Giovanni Kiyingi, Susan Kerunen, DJ Rachael (4Raynsom) – Africa Ni Leo (Scraych Afro Drummer Mix)
Santuri Safari – Xylophone (Alejandro Mosso rework) [upcoming] A Pass and DJ Rachael and Kastimo – Wuyo (Scraych Euro Rework) [upcoming] DJ Rachael ft. Kastimo ft Karama – Amasanyalaze (Scraych Scream Rework) [upcoming] Makadem ft. Santuri Safari – Salaam (Radio Version )                      


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