The Little Musician in the Deaf
The performing group DeafBeat is an example of breaking through limitations. They are a group of people with hearing impairment who are able to come together with the interest in music and learn to play the percussion drums. Initially coached by Bernard Goh, founder and artistic director of Hands Percussion, DeafBeat has gone to perform in many events both in the local scene and the international scene. “They performed quite a number of shows overseas. They have been to the Brave Festival in Poland. They have been to Hong Kong, Cambodia and India.”
Even though they are able to perform on many stages locally and internationally, things have not always been easy. The disability itself had proven to be a difficult challenge to overcome as music requires a person to be able to follow a beat or rhythm that is most easily done when a person can listen to them. However, this did not discourage Bernard Goh as he believes this is not impossible. There is another way of ‘listening’ that the deaf are able to rely on which is touch; to be able to feel the vibrations of the sounds that music makes.
The current coach of the DeafBeat group, Muji Lee, recalls that the awareness in Malaysia towards people with disabilities in general is quite weak and that normally people would just show pity towards them. But after working with DeafBeat for many years, he believes that the public perception towards will begin to shift. He hopes that through the performances, people will be able to see that even though the way that they need to learn music may be different, it does not mean that they are not able to learn, perform and excel in music.
He also hopes that more people in the deaf community will be able to see and understand that even though they can’t hear sounds or music, there is a little musician deep inside of them that is waiting to come out. “The deaf community also need a lot of awareness towards the fact that actually they can do many things. Because even after 12 years, we still can’t get a lot of deaf people to join us because they still think that I can’t do drumming because I am a deaf person.”
It is through this perseverance and working around their disabilities and being able to perform shows like any other musicians that DeafBeat hope to bring a certain awareness to the public. They want to show that though people with disabilities lack something that a normal person has, it does not mean that they are not able to do the same thing that a person without disabilities can. “You see, when you’re using your capabilities to touch people, to make them believe. I think that it is something very beautiful”, said Bernard Goh.