Deaf rapper and producer Signkid is using his art to make the music world more accessible and inclusive.
Kevin Walker, aka Signkid, is a London-based writer, producer and sign song rapper who is deaf. As a musical artist, he has translated British Sign Language (BSL) and UK Sign Slang into a visual-based language for deaf and hard of hearing people, and hearing people who want to learn sign language. It is particularly suited for live hip-hop, rap and urban music performance.
He is passionate about making the world more inclusive and accessible, saying: “It’s very important to build a bridge between the deaf world and the hearing world to understand deaf people’s experiences in everyday life.” One of his initiatives has been setting up Viewable, a website sharing videos of BSL for slang words.
Arts Council England funding supported Kevin to create a musical short film called Silent World, which uses rap, BSL and UK Sign Slang, with Signkid as the central character and narrator. The film is about the world under attack by a virus discovered by a deaf person. It was inspired by the experiences of deaf people during the pandemic and was produced as part of the Culture in Quarantine series.
He says: “When I was younger there were no deaf artists who could have then inspired my work on TV. Kanye West was the main artist who inspired me because his work is innovative. Being deaf, I first start by writing. Secondly, I can't hear the words but I can feel the beat and instruments. Thirdly, I interpret the lyrics. It is hard work, more than you think, but I love it."
Kevin would now like to see British music festivals follow the lead of American ones and provide interpreters for deaf people in the crowd, as well as more widely available subtitles to help deaf people understand music and media output, especially now BSL is an official recognised language in the UK.
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