DeafBeat celebrates its 10th Anniversary with ‘Inner Voices’, a Drumming and Theatre performance piece that doesn’t just raise public awareness of the deaf community, but also welcomes the audience into the world of the differently abled, and see the world through their eyes.
Last night at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre was a powerful experience to behold. The percussion work of Inner Voices was splendidly composed by instructor Muji Lee, ensuring that the pieces did not only show the performers drumming skills but also convey an unforgettable story. The 75 minute play is told predominantly through the drumming, but it is interspersed with grating and touching symbolism. One of the more gripping moments was in the first act, when drummer Joseph Liew Boo Ann‘s instruments was taken away from him, one-by-one, while he keeps playing until there were no more instruments – yet he still plays with the silence of the air. Immediately from that scene, as an audience, you are told to experience the rest of the performance to empathize with the performance as much as possible from the lens of the hard-of-hearing – for they play music by only feeling the vibration through their bones.
From then on every instance of musical performance and choreography felt more breathtaking. Each of the performers brought their own stories into the mix too. There was a scene mostly involving the usage of chairs, where each of the performers are given a chance to tell their tales through sign language. It’s perfectly fine if you do not understand sign language however, as the choreography and the movements are visual enough to give an intrinsic comprehension of the stories. At points, you would even think of the performance as experimental, as non-traditional instruments like the dragging of chairs are used to add to the layer of soundscape. Up until you realize that to the performers, this can be music as it’s still vibration. Moments like that adds a whole new world of perspective for anyone watching.
DeafBeat is not new to the ball game. They are a collective of talented people of which most of them are born deaf, yet they already boast an amazing track record of performing nationally and internationally. Over the years, they have taken their music and art to places like Phnom Pneh for an Asian Festival of Inclusive Arts 2009, New Delhi for SAMBHAV, 2011 and more. Just last year they performed at Brave Festival 2016 in Wroclaw, Poland. They only drummed for the festival and it was much less theatrical than what Inner Voices gives to the audience. They are an ongoing project by the YMCA of Kuala Lumpur, and is part of the YMCA’s outreach to the deaf community. It was formed in Oct. 2007 and was first funded by CIMB Community Link. The group trained under the guidance of renowned Artistic Director, Bernard Goh, of Hands Percussion.
The drummers of DeafBeat have so far used their sense of sight, touch and feel to interpret pitch, tone, volume, duration and intensity of music. In Inner Voices, it’s all about the contrast between
the physical intensity and theatrical movements combined with the silence and gravitas of signing and self-expression. All of that is translated through each drummer’s personality and expression, drawn out to allow us hearing audiences to interpret what they already see and feel with complete honesty.
If theatre and performing arts is about bringing spectators to another world, Inner Voices does more than succeed. With the closing of the ASEAN Para Games, it is important to remember that the differently abled are more than just sources of inspiration, but individuals with stories only they can tell – that only their inner voices can do justice.
There are still two shows left today, 3 pm & 8.30 pm at Damansara Performing Arts Centre. Go to the DPAC website to purchase tickets. Don’t miss it!