Community Spotlight: Deaf hip hop artist helps us feel the beat with BSL
We love it when people share their hearing loss stories with us on social media. Our community often provides comfort, encouragement, inspiration and support for others in similar situations. Recently we connected with one of our Instagram friends, Kevin Walker @signkidgram, who is a deaf hip hop artist.
This is his story:
Jill: Thanks for sharing your music video with us! What inspired you to make your music, and use British Sign Language (BSL) in your music videos?
Kevin: When I was young, my big brother was watching a Michael Jackson music video on TV, and I remember being so moved by his dancing. At that time the music video was not subtitled, so I was only able to see the beat through his movements. I would watch as my big brother tried to copy his dance style, like the moonwalk. It inspired me to make my own beats and rhymes for the music world. Music videos still aren’t very accessibly for deaf and hard of hearing people, and this is what I’m trying to accomplish at the moment.
Jill: Can you tell us a bit about your hearing loss?
Kevin: I lost my hearing when I was 3 years old from meningitis.
Jill: You’re wearing hearing aids now… how does your hearing technology help you experience music?
Kevin: A lot of hearing people ask me ‘How can you hear the music?’ My response is that I don’t hear full lyrics, but rather I feel the beat and vibration though a strong environment. I wear a Phonak hearing aid on left ear to help me to hear beats, but I can also turn the music up to feel vibrations using a WOWEE speaker, which I place on a table or on the floor.
— Signkid (@Signkidtwi) March 31, 2016
Jill: What are the biggest challenges you face as a deaf musician?
Kevin: If my equipment was not right the design it would be very hard to perform, because I need really high quality sound. I need to be able to “hear” the beats without lyrics by feeling the vibration. Also, with my hearing aids, car noise or loud environments can also be distracting when listening to music. In the future, I hope there will be some background noise canceling, ear plug wireless technology, so deaf people can hear the music better.
Jill: What kind of feedback have you received about your music?
Kevin: I mostly received positive from both the heading and deaf communities, but I’ve had a few negative responses from the deaf community that my signing is not BSL, because I show more visual BSL. But, this is just my style of BSL.
Jill: What are your dreams as a musician?
Kevin: My aim is to encourage deaf people from UK and around the world to be more involved in the music industry. I don’t believe it’s accessible enough at the moment. I plan on continuing to preform, and this summer I was invited to perform by deaf and hearing events. It’s going to be challenging because I’ll need to make sure I have the right equipment on the stage. I also will continue to talk about deaf culture and our issues and struggles in daily life. I am here to make good music and to spread the message that to change the world we must resolve these problems.
Jill: Thanks for sharing your story with us, Kevin!
You can connect further with Kevin through his website.