Scrolling through my Instagram feed, I stumbled upon the constellation frame of Vartalap (depicted in the Indian Sign Language) by sheer chance. Intrigued, I looked up their video on YouTube. I think what really caught my attention was the fact that as someone who engages with music on a daily basis, I had never pondered over how its aural form might have the potential to alienate an entire community.
The Joshua Project informs that there are “about 2.3 million people in India with moderate to complete hearing loss.” I wondered how music, which is largely perceived as inclusive, had for a larger part not been accessible to roughly 2 million people in India.
Music has the ability to inform cultural and societal changes, and IncInk Records is attempting to do just that. Performed by Spitfire and produced by Rakhis and Nuka, Vartalap from Spitfire’s EP Pathshala is India’s first music video translated into the Indian Sign Language (ISL). Made in collaboration with AccioMango Pvt. Ltd., the video was translated into ISL by Dr Alim Chandani and Hardeep Singh and performed by ISL signer Hardeep Singh. The video gives the idea of ‘art for a cause’ a whole new meaning. By aligning with people with hearing difficulties, it opens up doors of communication that have previously not existed. Literally translated, ‘vartalap’ means ‘conversation’ and the ISL video does exactly that by opening up the avenue for discussing accessibility through music.
Vartalap is the first in a series of ISL videos released. They have released Shwapon and Mehfil-E-hiphop since. Accessibility and inclusivity are at the heart of Incink Records and all their songs will now have an ISL video accompanying them. To mark the International Week of the Deaf from 21 September to 27 September, they introduced #DeafJams to the community to share their creativity through art, poetry, music amongst other forms.
IncInk co-founder Navzar Eranee says of the project, “The community does not have access to the most fundamental sense of experience which is sound. For me, it is the binding medium of the human race. There is no differential, only experience. To be denied this was never something we could settle for. This is a start, a step in a direction to connect the dots and then eventually build a constellation of possibilities. ISL and visual communication is a beautiful string in the direction of this connection. This will lead to technology and innovation. Eventually, we must build a beautiful bridge that would unite humanity as one in opportunity and experience.”
While educating themselves more on the subject, IncInk Records has also been encouraging their followers to sign the petition by National Association of the Deaf (NAD) India to make the Indian Sign Language (ISL) the 23rd official language.
You can sign the petition, here.
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