Experiencing music is a universal human right and should not be regulated by the ears’ hearing ability. DPAN (Deaf Professional Artists Network) Founder and hip-hop artist, Sean Forbes, explains that he was surrounded by music from a young age and that, “music is the only thing [he] ever wanted.” He’s also said, in a world where video and multimedia surround us, “it’s time that we make all of this content fully accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing community.”
Not Impossible Labs (NI) CEO and Founder, Mick Ebeling, feels that, "Music is not about hearing or non-hearing, it's about inclusion.” Ebeling has a background as a film producer and describes himself as a storyteller, hacker and maker. He believes in using technology for the sake of humanity and in making the impossible, possible.
Since being founded by Ebeling in 2009, NI has created technology-based solutions for individuals that allowed them to communicate, move, and experience sound in new and life-changing ways. These include The Eyewriter, which enables individuals with ALS to communicate with their eyes, Project Daniel, which provided a 3D printed prosthetic for an injured boy in Sudan and Music Not Impossible (MNI) provides a vibratory translation of music directly to the users’ body. MNI consists of a vest, ankle bands, wrist bands, software, and an access point for wireless communication. It conveys vibration along eight points on the user’s body and can be customized to vibrate differently in response to the song’s instruments and/or intensity. MNI is a central link in the evolving cooperation between Ebeling of NI and Forbes of DPAN.
Forbes founded DPAN in 2006 and then DPAN.TV in 2016, which produces a wide range of free programs serving the deaf and hard of hearing community, including video on demand, live streams, original series, American Sign Language (ASL) music videos, and rogue, live translations of events everyone should have equal access to, such as the 2016 Presidential Debates. DPAN can be watched on any internet-connected device, uses ASL and closed captions and also provides audio so that hearing individuals are welcomed.
The partnership between DPAN and NI is natural and powerful; it’s founded on a shared passion for creating innovative and accessible solutions, with a focus on underserved communities. In early 2017, DPAN teamed up with Not Impossible and gifted interpreter Amber Galloway-Gallego to present a live stream of Lady Gaga’s 2017 Super Bowl LI halftime show in ASL.
This project manifested in two main parts; first, DPAN and Galloway-Gallego provided live interpreting of the halftime show, streaming on the DPAN website and second, a party was thrown in Los Angeles for members of the deaf and hard of hearing community incorporating the halftime stream and the use of MNI. The production team for the streaming initiative and party was headed by members of the deaf and hard of hearing community.
The interpretation of Lady Gaga’s halftime performance was a perfect fit because one of MNI’s earliest launches, in October 2016, was at the Bud Light x Lady Gaga Dive Bar Tour. Also, this is Galloway-Gallego’s third time interpreting Lady Gaga’s music, and she told Not Impossible that it’s an honor to interpret the words of this amazing, energetic and “epic performer.”
Galloway-Gallego said she experiences honor and joy interpreting music for the deaf community because “for many years, deaf people have been systematically taught that music is not for them; that it’s not a part of their culture,” and they have to “constantly fight for access.” Galloway-Gallego also explained that interpreting music is particularly special for her because, “music brings us all together in a different way; we can be from all different backgrounds, all different nationalities and all different religions but yet we can share a space and enjoy something together as one.”
The Lady Gaga halftime ASL translation and MNI party embodied Galloway-Gallego, DPAN and NI’s mission to go above and beyond to deliver music and multimedia to anyone and everyone. Hopefully, this unique collaboration is the start of a long creative partnership between DPAN and MNI, which will continue to disrupt the status quo and boost the accessibility and quality of musical experiences for the deaf and hard of hearing community.