Deaf, loud and proud
"I'm losing my hearing more and more."
That took me by surprise.
The first time I had a chat with social entrepreneur Lily Goh, I found out she had a profound-severe degree of deafness.
She'd been deaf since she was two, and she's getting worse, the 33-year-old told me through a mixture of notepad scribbling, sign language and speaking, in my first proper conversation with a deaf person.
What surprised me more than the idea that deaf people could get more deaf, was that Lily has no self-pity, no bitterness. Instead, I saw a determination to help others who are deaf.
The Singaporean talked about raising awareness about deaf culture. She spoke about helping deaf children in Cambodia by introducing them to music, giving them access to something that gives her great joy.
Did I mention Lily and her deaf friends, who call themselves ExtraOrdinary Horizons, play some serious percussion?
That surprised me too: deaf people making music.
I was to be surprised many more times in the weeks of getting to know some of the members of the group, hanging out and filming their practice sessions and performances.
Regular but extraordinary
They're regular people, with familiar pleasures like travelling, playing football or basketball, baking, reading and spending time with friends. In getting to know them, speaking through my broken sign language and just being in their presence, I soaked up their energy. They are so vibrant, so full of joy.
But they also have fears and frustrations, and these, too, are not uncommon: conflict within families, arguments with friends, break-ups, difficulties at school or work.
They aspire to be actors and performing artists, good at their jobs and awesome friends.
Truth be told, I was fully expecting ordinary — even out-of-sync — drumming at the first music practice I attended. So much for being open-minded.
What I saw was extraordinary precision, coordination and tenacity.
Most of all, they blew me away with their deep love of and commitment to music.
So inspiring were they that indie band Black Forest not only wrote them a song, but teamed up with them in a music video too. I'm pretty sure it will blow you away.
ExtraOrdinary Horizons crowd-funded on Indiegogo so they could take their music to deaf children in Cambodia. Thank you for helping them.
You can also learn more about deaf culture or take up a sign language course with the group. Find out how!
Thanks to Sky Ong, Renny Goh, Edric Hwang, Lalith Vummiti and August Lum for their involvement in producing 'We're Gonna Sing Tonight'. Buy their song here.
Music by Black Forest and EO Horizons