Singapore’s first festival for artistes with disabilities to be held next March

Programme Director for the Disability and Child Welfare Project Team of the Nippon Foundation, Eriko Takahashi (left), speaks about the True Colours Festival for Artistes with Disabilities on April 18, 2017.

SINGAPORE – Danial Bawthan was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of 4. It did not matter. Now 23, he is an a cappella beatbox performer and hip hop music producer, composing and producing his own music.

He is also preparing his debut EP album, which will be launched at the first festival for artistes with disabilities to be held in Singapore, from March 22 to 25 next year.

Called True Colours Festival for Artistes with Disabilities, it is presented by the Nippon Foundation and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).

The festival, which has been held in several other Asean countries since its conceptualisation in 2006, features performers with various disabilities such as visual impairment and hearing loss. During the four-day festival, there will be an indoor concert experience, free outdoor performances and interactive activities, and a day long professional conference on arts and disabilities.

“I don’t like being put in a different box, and with music there’s no such thing as disabled music. Music has no boundaries, and now I have a goal,” said Bawthan.

“I want to be a proving point to the next generation of disabled in society, to show them that I chose to follow my dreams and so can they,” he added.

That is what the festival’s organisers are hoping it can achieve.

“Those with disabilities will be inspired by the festival’s artistes to push beyond perceived notions of their limitations and feel good about themselves,” said Dr Indrajit Banerjee, director of the knowledge societies division of Unesco in the communication and information sector.

“Singapore is a world class venue, and we want to send across the message that this is a world class event,” said Mr Andrew Liew, chairman of Very Special Arts (VSA), the local charity organisation appointed as the producer of this event.

VSA hopes that this event will draw crowds of 15,000 audiences and more from all over the world, especially the Asia Pacific community.

“It sounds clichèd, but this event is for everyone. We want people to come, interact and leave with a change in them, even if they see it or not,” he added.

A number of local and international artistes with disabilities will be showcasing their artistic talents at the event next year. This line up includes Bawthan, and Caliph Buskers from Malaysia, a group of five visually impaired musicians.

With the momentum generated by next year’s festival, The Nippon Foundation and Unesco both hope to raise awareness in preparation of the International Festival of Disabled Artistes to be held in Japan in 2020.

Mr Shuichi Ohno, former executive director of The Nippon Foundation, believes that “the Singapore festival is important in helping to set the stage for a global event that showcases a person’s ability, determination and courage, and timed to coincide with the Tokyo Paralympics 2020.”

By: Winnie Tan

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