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Watch: Sign language interpreters are bringing music to the hearing-impaired

They visualise the rhythms, lyrics, emotions and even the actual instruments for their audiences.


What if people with impaired hearing, could hear and experience music as we know it?

It’s well-known that even those who cannot hear can still appreciate music by feeling the vibrations, but some sign language interpreters in the United States are trying to make their musical experience as authentic as possible. These ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters visualise not only the lyrics of the songs, but also the rhythms, tones, instruments and emotions – indeed, they capture the entire feel of the songs.

“So what the interpreters have done for many years, is they’ve ignored the sounds, and solely focused on the English,” says Amber Galloway Gallego, a specialist in ASL music interpretation. She continues, “If we merely show the sign for music, then we are doing an injustice as an interpreter. So after listening to the beat and how their tonality is in all the instruments, then I break it down from English to ASL.”

Watch Gallego’s compelling ASL cover of Anaconda below.


Interpreters are a frequent sight at concerts and music festivals in the US these days, with the intention of making concerts accessible to fans with impaired hearing. Some of the seasoned music interpreters, like Gallego, even interpret rap and beatboxing, while keeping in pace with the actual rappers – yes, she raps at the same speed even in sign language.


The interpreters have to practise every song for weeks or months ahead of the show. “The reason we go to musical events is to be a part of this experience and forget about the rest of the world and be there in that moment,” says Gallego, “And so many people, deaf people, are not allowed that experience. Because we as hearing people choose to say no.”

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