Not hearing the music, not feeling the rhythm, not understanding the song lyrics – this how over 300 mln people around the world live with hearing impairments. 10% of them are children and teenagers. Quite recently, deafness was a barrier on the way of such casual entertainment as going to a concert of a favourite band or a party at a karaoke bar.
Karaoke for the Deaf
In London in 2003, “Deaf Idol” was launched in a similar format to TV talent shows but for people with hearing impairments. There, they were singing and dancing, impressing the public by their optimism and talents. Later, the project was closed down and the participants were driven to a “regular” show, which has always been tolerant to every person, regardless of their specific traits.
The idea behind this British show is that karaoke is available to anyone, even if singing is a challenging task. This message was reflected in dozens of contests and special parties around the world. For instance, every year, a Russian city of Chelyabinsk becomes the capital of the Russian sign-language karaoke. The participants are assessed in terms of how expressive their sign-language is and how precise it translates the idea of a song.
Not just for fun
In the US, a karaoke system has long ago become an integral part of teaching sign-languages at specialized facilities. This is an excellent way to master the sign language and boost it to a higher level. And what counts most is that karaoke enables people to loosen up and feel comfortable in an unusual environment.
Not so rarely, people with no hearing problems enrol for such schools. Through the sign language, they try to communicate the emotional content of a song, reveal the nuances, and mood – they become the mediators between the music and people with hearing problems. It goes without saying that it is critical for the deaf to step out of the “soundless bubble” and feel they are a part of the bigger world.
For examples, for Ashlie, 30, karaoke became a tool that helped her to overcome her complexes and meet new friends and single-minded people. At the age of two, she lost her hearing completely and had to learn how to understand the world without sounds. In 2006, Ashlie launched a YouTube channel for communication and karaoke; this step was a game-changer in her life – the young woman discovered she was not alone.
Another fantastic breakthrough for the hearing-impaired community was a 2015 Broadway musical “Spring Awakening”. The sign-language show tells about troubled teenagers, living in Germany in the late 19th century. The vivid nature of the show, dynamic choreography, and new interpretation of the everlasting generation-gap issue, performed by the deaf actors evoked rave reviews from both critics and audience.
We are used to seeing karaoke as good Saturday-night entertainment, but for those who are deprived of hearing music sounds, it means a lot more. When you see the joy on the faces of the people singing with the sign language, you realize that if karaoke didn’t exist yet, it would be well-worth creating it.