“Frequencies I’ve Never Felt Before”: How Deaf DJs Are Revolutionizing the Club Experience – Features
The number of budding deaf DJs is growing and a big platform supporting them in the UK is Deaf Rave. Organization founder Troi Lee, AKA DJ Chinaman, has transformed the lives of many Deaf and disabled artists by providing a space where they can embrace the world of music and performance.
Troi developed a passion for DJing, organizing events and all things crazy when he was a teenager. His first introduction to this world came when he hosted his own house party. After jamming his cousin’s bass box, he saw over 200 people show up for the meeting. “The house was packed to the max and the bass was bouncing off the walls, shaking the place,” he said. However, even after that success, the Deaf Rave concept didn’t come to mind until about a year later. On a trip to Morocco with his father, Troi gazed at mountain landscapes wondering what was next for him. This moment of reflection for Troi made him reflect on the success of his night and was the first glimpse of Deaf Rave.
The first Deaf Rave party was held in 2003 and 700 tickets were sold in two months. 200 of those who attended the rave were from countries like Australia, Japan, America and all over Europe. Looking back on his first official event, Troi says, “100% of my audience hugged all night long. People who say, “I haven’t seen you in 30 years, I haven’t seen you in 20 years.” It was a completely different take on the party because it was just love and deaf culture energy. That same night, Troi presented a showcase of rave music by deaf DJs and deaf artists in sign language. He adds: “It was the best thing ever and it went like wildfire. It put my name on the map.
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It’s been a 19 year journey for Troi and since that first party the Deaf Rave community has grown. Creating the very first DJ workshop for deaf people and organizing their own festival, the scene shows forever that it is capable of anything. Her mission for this year is to provide a bigger platform for female DJs by organizing workshops: “I never imagined my wildest dreams, being able to do this kind of workshop, then a deafblind lady to come break it. She’s just an absolutely amazing student. And she loves it. He added, “To give men and women the opportunity to do something really positive and show off their wonderful talent, whether it’s visual performances, musical performances or their skills, I’m very happy to promote them.”
However, not all of Troi’s delusional experiences went as planned. “We went to Leicester Square to one of the commercial nightclubs. When we were in line, we all signed because I was the only one who could speak. I realized we had been waiting there for about 20 minutes but there was no one else in the queue except us. So I go to frontline security to find out what’s going on and he says, ‘you’re all deaf, you’re not coming in.’ I was like, ‘No, we’re deaf, but we want to party and drink.’ But they wouldn’t let us in and it was the first time I was discriminated against.
Juggling between being a DJ Chinaman and a DJ mentor, Troi offered his advice on the best technology for those in the deaf community who want to get into it. He recommended “pioneering rekordbox as it’s the music industry standard” and explained, “The reason behind this is that the waveforms are colored so you can see when the beats and bass are coming. and the mids and treble.It is very difficult for us to hear the high frequencies.The vibrating backpack only picks up the bass and does not pick up the treble,but with the recording box software you can see exactly what that is happening.
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Troi also spoke about the BSL Sign Language Bill – which aims to provide better provisions and protection for British Sign Language – saying: “I think it’s time now, you know, this should be recognized. I think that’s absolutely shameful. I think our community is going through so many struggles and pressures. It’s not easy for us and I think it’s an ever-lasting battle.
More and more needs to be done to shine a light on the BSL language and to help people in the deaf and disabled community to engage in music. The folks at BSL Act Now are pushing their bill forward, Deaf Rave’s Troi has proven that anything is possible, and campaigns to support disabled live performers are on the rise.
Becky Buckle is Mixmag’s digital intern, follow her on Twitter