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Bass Beats Unite Shanghai's Deaf and Hearing Clubbers

Bass Beats Unite Shanghai’s Deaf and Hearing Clubbers
Shanghai’s ‘BassBath’ organisers are looking to build bridges between the city’s deaf and hearing communities with its club nights /AFP

Crowds grooved to bass-heavy electronic music at a weekend party in Shanghai that brought together deaf and hearing clubbers, with staff taking food and drink orders through sign language.

It was the second “BassBath” club night organized by a culture-bridging group working in the Chinese metropolis.

“This event is intended to break down the barrier between deaf and hearing people through play and body language,” said Alice Hu, BassBath co-organizer and a visual artist who is deaf.
Two patrons communicate via sign language at a deaf-friendly party in Shanghai /AFP

BassBath “allows deaf people to understand hearing people’s culture, and also allows hearing people to understand deaf people’s culture, leading to mutual integration,” Hu said.

Deaf communities around the world have increasingly built such spaces for nightlife and other cultural events. However, nightlife and entertainment events for deaf partyers are still rare in China despite recent efforts to improve inclusivity in education and everyday life.

Animated art and music videos featuring sign language artists such as Finland’s Signmark were projected onto graffiti-strewn walls at Saturday’s party.
DJs select songs with bass beats deep enough to be felt as vibrations /AFP

Posters scattered across the venue showed visitors the Chinese sign language versions of words such as “dream” and “dance,” while deaf professional dancers showcased their “popping” and breakdance moves.

DJs played tracks selected for their catchy rhythms and bass beats deep enough to be felt as vibrations.

BassBath’s Hu led the crowd in a game where players changed their dance moves according to signed words.

For 34-year-old Xiaozhou, the party was his first opportunity to go out dancing. “I hope I can have some exchanges with friends and have fun together, feel happier together,” Xiaozhou said.
Deaf artist and BassBath organiser Alice Hu (L) and colleague Ding Jiayue prepare for their latest Shanghai club night /AFP

At 68, Hu Jingqi was among the oldest revelers. She stood at the center of a circle of dancers, moving her hands to the music while clubbers decades younger towered over her in their flashy streetwear.

Hu Jingqi also attended BassBath’s debut party in May. “It was really crazy, the whole atmosphere was really great and it was really bustling,” she said of her first experience clubbing.

“I really liked the activity, to the point that I forgot some of the physical discomforts I have in my body,” she added.

For hearing clubber Alice Liu, who is learning sign language, the event was a window into the deaf community’s rich culture, which is usually relegated to the sidelines of mainstream society.

Liu said she learned of the event through a sign language class taught by BassBath’s Alice Hu.
Hearing clubgoers say the BassBath nights in Shanghai open a window into the deaf community’s rich culture /AFP

“In the past, I believed in some stereotypes, like I felt (deaf people) would only appear in certain fixed places, or that they were unwilling to interact with other people,” Liu said.

“I had heard that there were some very talented deaf dancers, but I didn’t understand how they could dance.”

Jia-yue Ding, another of BassBath’s organizers, said society was “very centered on ableism.” But actually, if you step just a little bit outside of that mindset, everyone is the same, and everyone can be friends and play together,” Ding said.

“There are very few opportunities for deaf and hearing people to make deep connections, so we hope that an event like this will help people to see each other in the moment and understand each other,” she added.

Source: AFP