Signmark: I love being different

Has been read
Deaf rapper Signmark will be in Athens in June, 19.



Even though Marko Vuoriheimo (aka Signmark) was born deaf, he has released two albums with Warner, has participated in Eurovision Song Contest 2009 (winning second place) and has been awarded with the «Outstanding Young Person of the World» award. On the occasion of his appearance with Greek artist K.BHTA at Mpenaki Museum on June, 19 we contacted him and he told us about the rules he broke and the path he followed to become Signmark.

MG: What was your first interaction with music? What inspired you to be a part of the music society?

S: When I was a teenaged boy I watched MTV and decided to become and artist. Imagining a career in music was too much for his signing Deaf friends and teachers, they laughed and said, maybe a deaf kid should aim somewhere reachable and try rather picture him self as a carpenter. I didn’t give up on my dream and about 20 years later I became the first Deaf ever to sign a record deal with a major label Warner Music Finland.

MG: A song consists both of lyrics and music. You do write the lyrics but how do you perceive the rhythm?

S: Everyone is born with rhythm. You hear your mother’s heart beat as a first sound before even coming into this world and after that you can always feel your own rhythm. I was doing a lot of sports at younger age and the rhythm of movement in sports (running, playing hockey) and rhythm of music is the same. It’s trying to get in sync with your self and others.

Hip-hop is my music style, because it has a clean bass-line and strong vibrations that help me as a deaf artist to feel the music in my body (fingers, toes, chest, stomach) and through that adapt to the rhythm as I sign my lyrics.)

Hip-hop culture has a tradition to combine visual arts, music and social critique. I want to tell my message in a way it can empower a whole community a minority that has gone a long time without a voice. Hip-hop and rap have empowered other minorities before and was born in NYC. I found out that music is a powerful tool to deliver the message to everybody. Music is more than what you can hear.

Also when I was watching MTV as a kid I saw rappers use their hands a lot. I thought this goes together with my style, with Sign Language. I also love hip-hop cultures strong emphasis on visual, dance, movement, etc. graffiti, gestures, style, the relaxed clothes and laid back attitude. But the most important thing is rhythm. The clear cut beat that I can feel in my bones. My most important senses are my vision and sense of feel.

MG: Record deal with Warner, two albums, tours around the world, Outstanding Young Person of the World Prize. Would you say that not being able to hear is not eventually a disability?

S: No, I’ve never felt myself as being disabled. My identity is not disabled, I don’t feel I’m somehow lacking or inadequate or incomplete. Like you said, I feel great to be me. I love being different and standing out it has given me the advantage and won the awards others can only dream about.

There’s the thing with society. I see myself as I see myself. But others outside of me also define who I am and how I’m seen. When I’m with deaf people, we sign, we communicate we live our everyday lives totally happy and normal, but when I meet a hearing person who cannot sign with and he might have some fear against me being different, we have a problem. Lots of times in the society I have situations where I need to meet hearing persons who don’t know anything about my world, my life or my language and they make decisions for me; teachers, doctors, parliament representatives etc.

 So when I meet the “majority society” I become disabled for we don’t have a way to communicate and usually I’m being labeled as dysfunctional by the society in some way for I cannot access the same services. But I don’t have a special Deaf seat on the buss, I cannot compete at the Paralympics, I don’t have a person helping me to get through my day. How am I disabled then?

MG: The title of your second album is "Breaking the Rules". After all, you are a great example of a rule breaker. What rules did you have to break to become Singmark?

S: Lots of attitude and prejudice mostly. People like conformity. I just see thing form my perspective, which seems to be against most of the rules and norms that are considered  “normal”.
I’ve broken down walls of putting together Deaf persons and music. The rule of Sign Language music not being defined as art. I think of it as challenging the status Q. Bringing new creative and innovative ways in seeing how the world could be.

MG: How was your experience in Eurovision Song contest in 2009?

S: It was a lot of fun to do it for the first time. We didn't have any record company or anyone supporting us, just our own crew, a big dream and our fans of course. We had to learn everything our selves. But it was all new and exciting. Of course for me it felt amazing to leave so many top-selling hearing super star artists behind me. I couldn’t believe we were making history every week! I got through from the first round by wining the all time favorite Finnish male singer “Jari Sillanpää”. Everyone was super surprised and there was a huge headline in the papers.

It was really close we made it. We only lost with like 3 percents. I’m not very good in coming second. I hate loosing! (:  I was really disappointed, but it felt good that they had a really big marketing team and ten years of experience behind then. Also it was great that so many people said to me after the competition that they would have liked me to represent Finland, that I represent that kind of Finland that they would like to "export" to Europe. I was something new and it felt good to see that so many attitudes have changed.

MG: What's the next step? Any future plans for new album? Any new thoughts - ideas of offering music to deaf people?

S: My music is for everyone! Not just for the Deaf audience. Our shows are always bi-lingual and accessible for hearing and Deaf. I sign and hip-hop artist Brandon is my voice for the hearing crowd. The sounds and voice is obviously a very crucial part of music, but to me as a visual person I need also more visual stimulation to support the audio. So I chose a VJ to our band.

Two albums (and full DVDs with all songs signed) released. I want to keep at it, keep telling my stories and having now opened the channel to express my self. I’m working on more song, now individually so I have more time to concentrate on the videos as well. We’ll see how fast we can do it now. Can’t tell yet. Europe is great, Ive been touring here a lot. The US as a market feels very intriguing to me. We had such a good receipt there last year. I really want to tour the USA and see where that country stands on diversity issues, it seems like they are a head of us a lot. Eg. Finland has lot of prejudice attitudes toward people being different, the USA seems more open. We have many shows coming up there towards the end of the year. I’m very very ecited!

MG: What to expect in your show in Athens? How will we "See the Music"?

S: Come and see how a small deaf boy with a silly dream everyone laughed at became a big international superstar. After the show you don’t have to wonder how does this work or how can in even be possible. You have to experience it! I’lI promise you go home with a smile.

Before you come you could learn to sing a chorus line of one of my songs “against the wall”. There’s a teaching video on Youtube. Searc for Signmark and Against The Wall teaching. You’ll find out it’s fun to sign with me at the show. Coming to see my show will be the best way to brake all your prejudice you have toward deaf or people being different. I’ll see you there!

MG: Thank you very much for your time Marko! See you in Athens in a few days.

By
Keywords
Posts for you
×

×
×
×
e-mail
Username
First name
Last name
Nickname
A few words
×
Current password
New password
Verify new password
×
e-mail
Username
Password
Verify password
First name
Last name
Nickname
A few words