Yesterday, we covered an amazing young woman who interpreted Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself” in American Sign Language (ASL), and pretty much had an awesome time doing so. Today, we’ll show you another interpreter who’s taking ASL onstage onstage and giving it some zing.
Meet Amber Galloway Gallego. She’s an ASL interpreter who specializes in music and performs in concerts. She’s bringing ASL to pop, rock, and particularly, rap music — and is down to giving it the grit, the swagger, and the raunchiness couched in its lyrics to their hearing-impaired audience. She’s stood alongside the likes of Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Lady Gaga, and Rage Against The Machine, interpreting the lyrics and seeing a number of the audience members sign along. She’s in high demand for a number of music festivals including Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits.
What she does is something really special, something really cool. And best of all? She enjoys the heck out of what she does, and it’s her job.
She first learned to sign at a young age when her father dated a woman who had a deaf son. He had taught her her first few words in ASL. Later on, she had a babysitter whose two children were also hearing-impaired, and helped her widen her signing vocabulary, More opportunities to learn and help through ASL came to her throughout High School and college at St. Phillip’s College in San Antonio, where she came to hang out quite often with the deaf community.
One evening at a party, Sir Mix-a-lot’s ‘Baby Got Back” came on the radio, and she got up to interpret it just for fun.
“I was doing it with all the movements and the rhythm,” she shares, “and I was dancing and signing, and one of my deaf friends said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m interpreting music.’ She said, ‘I’ve never seen music like that before.’ ”
She continues, “For years, deaf people would tell me, ‘Music’s a hearing thing. We don’t get it.’ ” But Galloway Gallego begged to differ. “I said, ‘Have you seen music? You can see music.’ ”
Later on, when she attended a Wallflowers concert, she noticed that there was an ASL interpreter off the side of the side of the stage — however, through the movements, the person was merely reciting the lyrics with their hands, and the few hearing-impaired audience members were talking amongst themselves to one side. “No one was paying attention to the concert. It was disheartening to me because some of the songs are so great, you know? I thought: Maybe I can change something somehow so that deaf people love music.”
She got serious and took a course in ASL interpretation, and from there, the rest is history.
Interpreting a song not only means performing it for Gallego, but also taking the time to fully prepare for it and understand its nuances. Jo Rose Bedenfield, a deaf performer and music lover, shares what’s wonderful about Amber’s craft: “Amber is one of the very few interpreters that I actually appreciate” because “she takes the time to get familiar with the music and has that mentality of a visual artist…. That is why deaf audiences love her – because she actually gives us the full-on experience of what the artists are actually expressing through their music.”
Gallego also teaches her craft at Lamar University, under the Department for Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. She teaches her students to interpret music with the same methods and level of expression she would, because there’s just not enough music interpreters to go around.
She deeply feels that music is has a unique energy all to itself, and is one of the best ways to connect to people, hearing-impaired or otherwise. “You have this fan base, the people in the crowd, and that energy is overflowing to the artist,” she said. “But at the same time, the artist is giving this energy back. [Through interpreting,] I’m also a part of that energy that’s flowing through the artists to our deaf fans. They’re feeling that energy.”
Don’t take our word for it; feel her energy for yourself.
Her cover for Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” is a viral sensation on Tumblr. It’s slightly NSFW, if certain gestures offend you, but we promise it’s a whole lot of fun and creativity if you can take the dirty language in stride.
Gallego’s gestures for Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” are as rapid-fire as the rapper’s lyrics.
For something more emancipating and moving, might we suggest her cover for Hozier’s “Take Me To Church”?
Finally, have some of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” for some upbeat, bubbly, palate-cleansing fun:
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