'Song-signing' helps audience stay on cue

Above: The audience takes the cue from the special needs participants in song-signing to NDP favourites Home and Count On Me, Singapore.
Above: The audience takes the cue from the special needs participants in song-signing to NDP favourites Home and Count On Me, Singapore.

Ms Neoh Yew Kim is deaf, but that did not stop the 22-year-old from leading the 55,000-strong crowd at the National Stadium in a medley of popular tunes yesterday.

Instead of belting out National Day Parade favourites such as Home and Count On Me, Singapore, the audience followed her cue in "song-signing" to the lyrics by using sign language.

The young woman kept pace with the rhythm and beat of the music by timing her hand gestures to match those of an interpreter who stood opposite her. She also wears a hearing aid and cochlear implant, enabling her to hear, to a certain extent.

"I enjoy music because it allows me to express myself and my emotions," said Ms Neoh, through a sign language interpreter. "Song-signing lets those who can't hear enter the world of music and allows the able-bodied to join in with us in that moment."

The sign language used for the songs was the Singapore Sign Language, an amalgam of various types of sign languages and local terms.Ms Neoh modified some gestures to make them more visual. Instead of adopting the usual sign for the word "run", she went with the motion of swinging her arms back and forth.

"To connect with people, it is not just about the hand signs but also the facial expressions and body language," said Ms Neoh, who does office support work in the banking sector, and volunteers with various organisations such as the Singapore Association for the Deaf.

MAKING MUSIC ACCESSIBLE TO ALL

Song-signing lets those who can't hear enter the world of music.

MS NEOH YEW KIM, 22, who is deaf and led the 55,000-strong crowd in a medley of popular tunes using sign language.

Her love affair with music started when she joined a percussion band in primary school. Sometimes, she hears music by feeling the vibration it produces.

She hopes to use music and sign language to bridge the gap between the deaf community and other people.

Ms Neoh, who also has an elder sister who is hard of hearing, said: "When people are more exposed to sign language, they are able to communicate with us instead of expecting us to understand them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2016, with the headline ''Song-signing' helps audience stay on cue'. Print Edition | Subscribe