A pair of Portuguese sign language interpreters decided to move forward with a project to bring music to the deaf community, in an exercise where interpretation and choreography come together to give life to the lyrics of popular songs.
For the Youtube channel of the Coimbra MusicSign duo, there are already more than ten videos, where the Portuguese sign language interpreters Rui Oliveira and Rafaela Silva take Ed Sheeran, Ana Moura or Salvador Sobral lyrics to the deaf community.
It began as a joke: in 2015, the two Portuguese sign language interpreters at the School of Education of Coimbra (ESEC) decided to record a video in which they interpret “Atrevimento”, by Kataleya and Anselmo Ralph.
Receiving from the deaf community could not have been better, says Rafaela Silva, a professor at ESEC.
“The video was very shared on social networks and people asked for more, they wanted more music because the deaf also feels the music. What they do not have access to is the lyrics,” he says.
Instead of the formal posture of the performer, with a white background behind, in these videos Rui and Rafaela improve the work, with scenery, different plans, costumes, makeup and even choreography, almost in a kind of second take of the music video of the song, making it “more interesting and appealing” to the community.
“We have more freedom here, we can be more creative in production,” he says.
The two interpreters become almost dancers in the videos, where, with the expression of the face, but also of the body, they try to complement the sign language.
“We have the freedom to move in space and play with each other, even harmonize [gestures], in which he uses one hand and me the other, and we conjugate the gesture, it is much more creative and all reflects the emotion and the content of what is in the music “, emphasizes Rafaela.
In this way, a ballad may present calmer, slower gestures, while a summer ‘hit’ may lead to faster or fiercer movements.
“We try to pass the rhythm of the music through body expression and also in the rhythm as we do the gestures. When it is calmer, the gesture is a bit more amplified, it is increased in space or we prolong the movement. , the gesture can be shorter and much faster, “explains Rui Oliveira, considering that it is in hip-hop that they find more difficulties in achieving the interpretation.
In addition to the project thinking about the deaf, this is also a way to “sensitize the listening community to the existence of deaf people, sign language and the whole world,” Rafaela points out.
For the ESEC interpreter, when talking about culture – not only in music but also theatre – this is still very little access to the deaf community.
Despite some situations in Lisbon and Porto with plays with interpretation, the opportunities are “sporadic” for this community, he said.
In this sense, the duo, in addition to wanting to continue to do more videos in a duet, wants to embrace the challenge of taking the stage, in a concert, and making “a live presentation for the deaf community”.
“It would be very good to sensitize music professionals that this is also an audience, these people can also go and enjoy their shows and feel their music,” said Rafaela Silva.
Today, the National Portuguese Sign Language Day is celebrated, with ESEC hosting an event, starting at 2:00 p.m., to celebrate the date with the participation of students whit a degree in Portuguese Sign Language and a performance of MusicSign.