After my first time at Deafrave, (Deaf Rave 2019) I could not wait to go again. After years of reading and writing about the Deaf community, that was the first time I had seen it face to face.
Deafrave’s New Year’s Eve party was at the Colours Bar in Hoxton. Little did I know that Deafrave can literally save lives.
DJ Ceri Karma explained how Deafrave saved him:
“I have mental health problems, the Deafrave saved me because I tried to end my life three times. I didn’t know about Deafrave. My sister gave me a Deafrave ticket, I said ‘What’s that?’ I went to it in the summer of 2005, I saw Troi Lee, I met Deaf DJ, and I realised I can do it. Then I started straight away in 2006 new year Deafrave.”
He went through his plan for the evening:
“We’ll count to ten tonight, Happy New Year, I’ll play one minute past 12 till 1am. First we’ll have uplifting pop and dance music then it’ll be Hip-Hop, Reggae, R&B all nice and mixed. I have a break and then it’s 2-3am in the club lounge and it’s really fast uplifting drum and bass, house. I’ve been doing it for 14 years, I know the right music for the Deaf people, I’m just working on my DJ set. Hearing people like to have less bass and for Deaf people they can’t feel it if the bass is too low and our bass is up really high pitched.”
Despite my nervousness of being the only non signer, I was able to communicate with a few and to my astonishment I bumped into a Deaf person I had met years before on the other side of London. I also met a professor of Deaf Studies.
One man in a robin jumper taught me the sign for robin while I also learned the sign for cocktail (miming shaking a cocktail mixer) and got corrected on how to sign ‘nice’. I was rubbing my lips with a thumb when you should rub the chin.
As time went by I found myself trying to overcome my aversion to eye contact and started unconsciously exaggerating my facial expressions. Possibly this was me trying to compensate for my lack of Sign.
The organiser of Deafrave, Troi Lee (DJ Chinaman) was delighted with the venue:
“I must say, this is the first time in my life that I’ve actually been offered a New Year’s Eve party, that’s absolutely fabulous, so a big thank you to Colours at Hoxton for giving me this wonderful opportunity.
I didn’t have a barrier this time. But, nevertheless, saying that, I did have to struggle over the years, so maybe my campaign and my elevation of Deaf culture and Deaf music slowly broke down those barriers.”
I asked him what changes they had made to the venue:
“There are two things that have been very important to update.
First is the disabled lift at Colours Hoxton. Colours have made an effort to try and make this a disabled access venue and I just couldn’t believe that the disabled wheelchair user has arrived and the lift is working and now she’s ready to rock and roll and party hard for New Year’s Eve London. Enough love to them people there, my love to the disabled people.
The other one is the music technology Subpacs. https://subpac.com/ We’ll be using them tonight as performance in DJs and maybe one or two of the performers wish to use it so we want to change the perspective that Deaf people can use the technology and actually perform and use these Subpacs so it had made wonders and you know it doesn’t mean that if you’re completely Deaf and can’t perform. It’s changing, it’s changing.”
Ceri was also delighted with Subpacs:
“We need Subpacs, I was born Deaf. I started using them a few years ago and it made a massive difference. It pushed my professionalism way up, I can feel the beat more. I can mix it better, now I’ve done a new level, I set up a SoundCloud, I send mixes all round the world, and lots of people text me “Wow, you smash up again!” I’m trying to build up a fanbase of 10,000 people, that’s my dream. They know I’m Deaf, they see SoundCloud DJ Karma, just click it and enjoy the music. Four sets I done before Christmas. The reason why I want to show the hearing DJs some of whom don’t believe you can be a Deaf DJ. Some DJs are catching on to what I’m doing.”
Long Van Minh (MC Geezer) was also pleased at the adaptations the bar staff made:
“They know a bit of Sign Language so when the Deaf people ask for a drink, they will be able to communicate very easily and also, we spoke to the bouncers so they learn how to communicate with the Deaf people so there should be no problems at all. The bouncers are hearing but they’re working with two guys who are Deaf that know about bouncers so they can watch and if there are any problems they’ll work together to deal with the problems, I presume there won’t be any problems at all, but if there is then it’s very effective for dealing with miscommunication.
Tonight is going to be crazy, we’ve got people coming from international, we’ve got Portuguese, Polish, they’re all coming over to party with us for New Year’s Eve, it’s going to be really awesome, we’ve got people coming left, right and centre.”
Finally I asked Troi (who was rushed off his feet but still managed to find time for an interview) what Deafrave means to him:
“It’s a unity thing we do for our community, that’s why I do it.”
After hearing how nervous I was as the only non-signer, Troi said:
“Wait till 12, you’ll be floating on a sea of hands.”