Rock Star ASL Interpreter…Again!


Realtime translation in any capacity is extremely difficult. Though many linguistically inclined men and women translate volumes of work with an artistic precision, few of them, less than 15% by some estimates, are physically able to translate realtime events. The brain, no matter how powerful, struggles to flip one language to another accurately on such a short timeline. One instance that comes to mind is an Italian-to-English interpreter on a major news organization who for whatever reason went completely silent during the Amanda Knox verdict in 2011, making the viewership search madly online for the meaning of “non colpevolezza.”

Imagine translating a rap concert live, trying to interpret quickly “spat” lyrics for an audience of 10,000 people or more. Imagine hearing the words of rappers who use slang, improvise, and fail to elocute. Now imagine doing this all in sign language, and killing it! The newest celeb in the ASL interpretation circuit is a woman named Holly who earned some serious internet cred at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festical in Manchester, Tennessee last week. Holly provided the ASL interpretation for acts such as Wu Tang Clan and R. Kelly, but is getting her due credit for the manner in which she did it, which was positively stunning. Holly raps with Wu Tang, dances, and seems to be having the time of her life, despite the oppressive heat and demanding task with which she was charged. Holly perhaps did not hit every word of the fast-paced performace, but certainly remained true to the flavor of the work. Her performance even made Stereogum’s list of the top-9 things seen at Bonnaroo, beating out, most notably, elements of Sir Paul McCartney’s performace!

The performance is reminicent of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ASL interpreter, Lydia Callis, during Hurricane Sandy, who received fame for her animated interpretation of the mayor’s speech. The visibility of ASL interpreters brings a spotlight to the need for accessibility everywhere, be it concerts, television, and the web, a mission to which VITAC has been dedicated for 27 years.

The best way to experience Holly is to see the video.

BE ADVISED: If you know the Wu Tang tag line, you know that there is some gutter language in this video.

by Carlin Twedt