Listening to music is one of most people's favourite pastimes, but while music might be considered a universal language, highly praised for its therapeutic benefits, there are still millions of deaf and hard of hearing people worldwide unable to enjoy music.
In a bid to include them in the music community, local rap artist and poet the Lazarusman has created a bespoke track using South African Sign Language (SASL).
MTN has partnered with the St Vincent School of the Deaf that supervised the music video to ensure all the signs are visible and understood.
The musician is thrilled to be a part of this project. “I'm very passionate about the work I do and this offered me the opportunity to reach an audience I never thought I could,” he said.
“I'm also a poet and we use this medium as a form of storytelling, to teach, to share and enlighten people, so it's important that it is accessible to everyone.”
To put the track together, the up-and-coming rapper, whose real name is Lazarus Mathebula, had to learn SASL for the creation of the track called DefBars.
The lyrics, which are all signed, can only be understood by those who know or are prepared to learn the basics of sign language.
“The track we used was made in a way that people without hearing could feel the rhythm of the track through the vibrations of the speaker.”
While the Lazarusman admits the process has been challenging, he was determined to put in the hours to deliver a tune that those who have hearing difficulties can enjoy.
“Writing the lyrics was the easiest part, but learning how to sign was challenging.
"I invested a lot of time rehearsing the moves until I was comfortable enough for the shoot.”
Although this genre is new to him, the musician said it's his love for music that kept him motivated.
“Words form the basis of how we communicate and that is why sign language is so important; and my niece speaks about the power of words and how you apply them correctly is so important.” He also wanted to prove to musicians around the world, as well as those with hearing challenges that sign language can be done with finesse and a positive attitude.
“I wanted to inspire others to reach out to the hard of hearing and deaf community. I really hope they like it and they get the message. I hope they find it as a genuine piece of work which helps the entire country acknowledge them and help them overcome their challenges in society.”
While this is the first track of its kind in SA, Lazarusman is hoping to create more tracks for the deaf community and he hopes this tune will inspire musicians to follow his example.
“I've heard of events that are catered solely for deaf people where the floor vibrates to the music and I would like to have something like that where I can play my music and sign my lyrics. It would be great if more artists would jump on board and collaborate on a song.”
Meanwhile, MTN said it spearheaded this campaign as about four million South Africans have hearing difficulties with an estimated 500000 and 600000 using SASL. “It has become more important than ever to acknowledge people living with hearing challenges and disabilities,” it said.
“Hard of hearing and deaf South Africans do not have the same access to most services that able-hearing South Africans do, and for this reason we wanted to package unconventional, although uniquely South African content, specifically for the deaf community.”