My First-time Experiences with the SSO National Day Concert (2019)

[THIS ABOVE IMAGE IS DOWNLOADED FROM SSO FACEBOOK PAGE]

Grateful to the SSO for giving this opportunity to d/Deaf to enjoy the National Day celebrations at Esplanade Concert Hall, especially when the interpretation in Singapore Sign Language was provided for us last Saturday.

I decided to write this blog about my experiences attending this concert for the first time this year. My opinions are different from those of my Deaf peers who attended it.

The first half of the concert was complex for me to listen, partly because of my profound deafness. I know that Jeremy Monterio is renowned for his jazz piano music. It’s really hard for me to follow this kind of tempo and rhythm. Even if I play this kind of song, it is really very challenging for me. Well, many see me as the Deaf musician in Singapore. Sometimes, they mention that I remind them of Evelyn Glennie, who is a famous world-class percussionist. I actually do not like to be the subject of comparison, based on musicality. Yes, I am different from other deaf musicians, like Dr. Azariah Tan, and Ron Tan. Although I had obtained the certificates in ABRSM Percussion (Grade 6 & 8 with Merit), I may not play great as you think.

When I watched Jeremy Monteiro Jazz Trio (namely, Jeremy Monteiro (piano), Tamagoh (drums) & Christy Smith (bass)) perform with the orchestra, it was really intriguing or fascinating to look at them. However, it was tough to listen (even if the sign language interpreter tried her best interpreting their music).

During their music playing, I then remembered about my ReSound multi-mic. I quickly connected it to my hearing aids, and the sounds became clearer (with less noise, which is cut off from the (open) environment). But still, there was no difference.

The second half was more enjoyable for my peers and me. We shared their feedback with one another. The interpretation quality of this year was better than the previous one as she tried her best to allow us to resonate our deaf, visual minds (based on musicality) to the music & songs, such as Kampong Overture, the Awakening, March On, Our Singapore Dream and Home, with her interpretation. It would be better and more powerful to have conceptual interpretation and representation by Deaf.

Not only having the interpretation for Deaf, but also feeling music (through air-filled balloons) is another alternative for music appreciation. There are many other ways for us to enjoy arts and music, and it could be the efforts of promoting inclusion.

Now, I remember why I started learning percussion music. Again, thanks to the SYNC SINGAPORE programme (that was conducted by Jo & Sarah, and organised by VSA Singapore), I am able to make my ideas happen, and I am working very hard on them. My ultimate goal is to let Deaf know more about music, and let them be more included in music. Lastly, I hope to see more of their Deaf music where they can express themselves, whether playing, or telling stories in the form of song-signing or writing.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

Commentary: Power In Our Hands

One of the video trailers published online.

‘In Our Hands’ traces the changes and growth of the Deaf Community in the UK from the early 1900s to the present day. The documentary looks less at what it means to be deaf and instead looks more at how social groups and movements have supported the community over the decades. The documentary is comprised of a collection of interviews interspersed  with footage uncovered from the British Deaf Association (BDA) archives.

The documentary traces the development of the BDA and the Deaf community in the UK from a close but disperse set of individuals who meet occasionally for sporting events through the them becoming a very structured and politicized group in the early 2000s. It looks at how the community has flourished and their pride and sense of identity has grown of the years, as well as their struggle their journey away from reliance on hearing individuals into becoming a self-governing association.

A key change in the community is their sense of self-pride, spurred by a boost in confidence and belief in their own identity and abilities. The documentary suggests that in the early part of the century deaf individuals were often poorly educated and were often reliant on hearing ‘missionaries’ for jobs and for instructions in their day to day lives. They were reluctant to sign in public for feel of ridicule and instead their social lives revolved around local Deaf clubs and associations.  These clubs arranged sporting events around the country and it’s clear that the competitors and their communities prided themselves on achieving high levels of competence in their chosen sport. These events served as a meeting place for people to socialise, broaden their networks and provided a platform for political ideas to spread and grow.

The documentary then goes on to show how various key individuals within the BDA started to help shift the mindset of the community by helping to showcase the achievements of individuals in the workplace, providing more educational support and by encouraging people to start believing that they are worthy of such rights and opportunities. These changes started a shift away away from the community relying-upon and accepting the instructions and beliefs of the hearing community and instead a focus on inspiring deaf individuals to move into leadership positions. This happened gradually with the first step being the existing ‘missionaries’ being replaced by leaders who were Children of Deaf Adults (CoFA) into BDA leadership positions (they were considered to understand the community better than external missionaries). This then led the way for deaf leadership.

Along the way the BDA encouraged film as a key medium by which groups and individuals could document their culture and language – something not possible in written form or via photographs. The BDA also championed and supported researching into signing and were part of the discovery that it is in fact a language which they then christened British Sign Language (BSL) and have been campaigning ever since for it to be recognized as an official language. The documentary challenged the audience to think about the importance of community support and the importance of having an understanding of the communities culture and history, and that this support and teaching come from within the Deaf community rather than an external reliance on the hearing.

Something that wasn’t touched upon within the documentary was the evolution of BSL itself, however the fact that it has evolved quite significantly within the last century was very apparent from the footage itself. The earliest footage suggested a very heavy reliance on finger spelling. Perhaps this may be because other signs weren’t as established, or perhaps because individuals had signs that they used among their own friends/family but which weren’t standardized across the whole community and hence spelling was the back-up. I do not know. As the footage rolled forward in years it was notable to see the proportion of spelling vs. gesturing changes significantly suggesting both a more standardized and comprehensive language system.

The documentary is educational, inspirational and stands with integrity: there is no spoken language during the show except for some of the old footage which had an original spoken translation accompanying it. I’d certainly recommend this documentary for anyone interested in Sign Language, Deaf Culture and also to anyone who’s interested in seeing social-change in action. 

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is a volunteer with ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

Selling Percussion Instruments

Managing this account @bizhearthotz on Carousell

After we have decided that YDGEN is officially disbanded, we couldn’t find a place where we could store these percussion instruments. So we made up our mind to sell them to help sustain ExtraOrdinary Horizons financially in a longer run.

I could say based on my subjective opinions; Singapore is different from other countries. It is not easy for Deaf to run a business. Not easy to manage or lead the band, especially when arts and music scene is small. Hmmm, it is strange to see that more emerging or accomplished (mainstreamed) artistes work closely with artistes with disabilities. This aligns well with the vision of inclusion in the arts. However, are the artistes with disabilities empowered enough to develop their practice on their own?

Looking back to the point when I joined the Singapore Idol Season 1 (2004), I still remember why I joined there. I had three intentions namely; to fulfil my childhood dream (to be the singer), to show the public about Deaf capabilities (meanwhile, dispelling misconceptions about Deaf people in Singapore), and to see where I was actually embarking on my music journey. From there, I continued with grit to obtain ABRSM Grades 6 & 8 in Percussion with Merit (within 10 months). With my earnings from four part-time jobs. Now, I am the member of the Purple Symphony. I really thank MP Denise Phua with my sincere heart for giving me this opportunity to experience playing with different musicians with or without disabilities.

Now, I worked with different people – Peter, Zihao, many… I have learnt many things from them. Good for my exploration though… This time, I do not think I can become one of the international Deaf performing artistes, like Ramesh Meyyappan. I do not mean to make such comparisons… Many years ago (before Singapore Idol Season 1), I tried applying for financial aid for the undergraduate program in music studies that I managed to get a place in UK, but to no avail. I had to give it up.

After watching the CNA’s special series entitled, “This is What I Hear”, I realised that every deaf individual has different backgrounds and privileges. Same but different… I know I have failed to understand the quality of sound when playing mallet percussion. But I continue to develop my own niche – #deaftalent arts. Since I am set on becoming one of Deaf social media influencers in Singapore, I continue sharing my works-in-progress (music, percussion, poetry & storytelling) that might include the Singapore culture.

Back to the topic, I hope you can support me, as well as ExtraOrdinary Horizons, please check my website out at http://www.eohorizons.com.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

YDGEN Officially Disbanded

We made this announcement here that the YMCA Deaf Generation (YDGEN) is officially disbanded of today.

We no longer enjoy the free studio usage provided by YMCA this year because of their budget cuts. For the past years since 2007, we had performed at various YMCA events for this exchange.

However, this does not stop me from practising the #deafmusic in mallet percussion & song-signing, and #deaftalent in theatrical arts, poetry & storytelling.

We will find ways out to continue the practice. If you have any suggestion, you can contact us by email.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

Purple Parade 2018 – THIS IS DEAF

SFDLE8057.JPGFor this year’s Purple Parade, ExtraOrdinary Horizons put up a choreographed dramatic dance performance, with a rendition of ‘This Is Me‘ from the movie “The Greatest Showman”, sung by Keala Settle and The Greatest Showman Ensemble.

The dance was choreographed by Donny Laurence, the Deaf performing artiste, with ideas and suggestions thrown in by the rest of us, former and current students from the sign language courses (across all the levels). He was mentored by Lily.

We rehearsed every Friday night, and despite our busy schedules and differing views, everyone was very dedicated and willing to put in our best efforts to put up a good show for the audience at The Purple Parade.

As shown in a dramatic introduction, the three Deaf students were being ostracized by the rest of the “normal” (Hearing) students. As the music progressed, the Deaf students eventually decided to stay true to themselves and ended up earning recognition from the rest.

The concept for the dance is that we want to showcase inclusive arts – the fact that Deaf can perform as well as the Hearing. Arts is a common language for us to express ourselves, and is a medium for us to reach out to others, sending a message that despite the loss of hearing, the Deaf can still find a way to live their lives as fully as possible.

As the chorus proclaims:

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me

Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

This song has been a huge hit ever since the movie’s release and has been used multiple times as an anthem by those who are rejected by society. When we rehearsed for the song, we decided not to be too strict on perfecting our steps, as we wanted to keep it as natural as possible.

Deaf was first priority. In my opinion, this performance did justice to the song and kept true to the meaning, that whether you and me are Deaf or not, we ought not to be afraid to show our true selves and live truly as we deserve.

(VIDEO LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98KRAf3_yIY)

 

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is a volunteer with ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.