Troi Lee is a Deaf DJ who has been in the business for 25 years. He first started listening to music when he got his first Sony Walkman cassette player. He remembers putting the headphones on his hearing aids and switching to the loop setting.
“I was listening to Public Enemy – hip hop – and kept playing again over and over.,” he recalls. “That [is] when I first embraced music with hearing aids. Without them, I don’t think I [would] be [a] DJ!”
Lee started DJing with vinyl records. Now that laptops and DJ software have come along, it’s easier for him to mix his sets.
Read more: Listening to music with hearing aids
Founder Troi “DJ Chinaman” Lee began with a vision to give deaf, hearing, and disabled artists and performers a platform to display their love for music. DeafRave provides entertainment with music, sign song, deaf DJs, and visual performances. Their aim is to unite everyone through the love and passion for music. They promote Deaf/disabled identity and teach people about Deaf Culture.
DeafRave first came onto the scene in 2003 with a smash-hit, sell-out event. It was DeafRave’s first deaf party. Around 700 people attended; 200 of them were from abroad. Things were very different back then. DeafRave is versatile and more than capable of moving with the times. Lee and his friends were initially restricted to meeting once a month in the pub with other members of the Deaf community. The problem was that the pub closed at midnight. They kept being moved on to other pubs each month.
“I was a raver at the time going to hearing parties, and I would party until 7 or 8 am,” Lee says. “Those were in the glorious rave era. I kept asking the Deaf community to go partying after Deaf Pub, but they said, ‘No, it not for us as it hearing culture.’ From there, I knew I had to set one up myself in order for them to experience what an actual rave is. That first party was a game-changer.”
Lee launched DeafRave with a few Deaf DJs and a mini showcase of Deaf performers. DeafRave has continued its work in the music and raving industry ever since. Even COVID-19 didn’t hold them back for long. 2020 was the year of DeafRave’s first festival. Sure, it ended up having to be online, but it shows the sheer resilience and success of DeafRave.
Lee says the festival enabled him to work with Deaf talent from all over the world. DeafRave Festival 2021 had a minute of live and online streaming simultaneously. Lee says this was a very technical challenge, but they were successful. It’s all about adjusting and evolving with technology.
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DeafRave has a plethora of services, including organizing events and festivals and putting on event workshops. The workshops include basic sign language and deaf awareness. Other services include:
Lee and DeafRave have recently launched the first all-female deaf DJ workshop, which has gone viral. It also has at least one Deafblind participant. Lee calls this another milestone achievement, as DeafRave has broken down many barriers and made history over the years. He describes the DJ and VJ workshops as a way for beginners to get a taste of the industry. He plans to do more in the future.
“DeafRave is about creating a platform and giving opportunities for those Deaf talents to come and show what you can do,” Lee says.
“DeafRave is about creating a platform and giving opportunities for those Deaf talents to come and show what you can do.”
Here are Lee’s top singsong and sign language rappers: