Why a Song?
A child who happens to have a third chromosome 21, trisomy 21, is just like any other child. A fellow human being. My son, Keith, is no different from any child. He tells me off in no uncertain terms when I have been unfair, when I am full of myself, when I dominate, when I am not able to see things afresh. He forgives me every time when I behave like a lesser human being, and goes on to dance, cuddle, cheer me up and raise me up to be a better human being. He loves to read picture books, sing in sounds and signs, tinkers at the piano and electone, drums like he was born to drum, swims, and goes to gym class and does a flipflop around the high bar. But at 4, it is still a struggle for his body to allow him to say, “Mummy”, with clarity.
For sure, his physiology is different. Significantly different, but that shouldn’t stop us from getting to know Keith and hearing what he has to say. We have learnt to communicate in total communication to allow him to have a voice. We communicate with Keith through gesture, facial expressions, mime, signs, pictures, photos, symbols, text, words, sounds, dance, numbers, musical instruments, hugs, touch, food, daily activities, sports, and all the elements of Earth. And song – Keith loves to sing. And I’ve noticed, many a times, he is singing his favourite “Skinnamarink” and those unfamiliar don’t even know he’s sung a beautiful rendition, primarily in signs and facial expressions. He would typically sway to his song, fully enjoying his own performance.
A song, by our typical definition of a voicesong, is very significantly challenging for an individual with Down syndrome, which is why I have chosen this as a medium for this community art project. To face the challenge head-on, so to speak! I plan to record Keith singing “One Voice” by Barry Manilow, word for word.
Also, of all the traditional art forms, singing is something I absolutely love but have not yet integrated with my other forms of expression. I couldn’t be a poet if I couldn’t be seamless between my words and my song. So, it becomes truly exciting having to challenge myself on a medium that I am most terrified about.
This project is really more about the awakening to the unheard song, the total communication song, for it only takes us to hear it once, and then our ears will truly hear and our eyes will truly see. And every day, our lives will be filled with songs, from within and without. And like Keith, we will learn to sway our bodies, to the songs of the world, even if no one had spoken a word.
September 24, 2011