New Coalition Amplifies Disability Culture in the Music Industry

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For singer, songwriter and producer Lachi, the acronym was everything.

She helped start the organization that would become RAMPD – Recording Artists and Music Professionals with Disabilities – in July 2021, but that’s a few months early, after hosting a panel for the Recording Academy on disability inclusion. , which she found the name.

“After that broadcast, musicians with disabilities were coming out of the woodwork and following me on Instagram, DMing me saying, ‘What are we gonna do? Will you lead this charge? What is the next? “Lachi said in an interview. “Everyone was energized. And that’s where the spark came, from the acronym.

RAMPD, which Lachi co-founded with singer-songwriter and violinist Gaelynn Lea, alongside a dozen founding members, works to amplify disability culture and champion accessibility in the music industry. One of its main goals, rightly so, is to make accessibility ramps visible on TV during awards shows to help normalize disability in the entertainment industry.

Kicking off the coalition will be a virtual event at 5 p.m. Friday, with opening and closing remarks live from the Grammy Museum Experience at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ (the Grammy Awards, originally scheduled for Jan. , have been pushed back to April 3.) Adrian Anantawan, classical violinist; Eliza Hull, indie rock singer-songwriter; and Molly Joyce, organist and composer, will perform, alongside other musicians with disabilities, and applications for professional membership for the group will be open.

“Our professional members have awards, have toured, worked with big names, are big names themselves,” said Lachi, who is based in New York. “And we’re not here to make people feel hot and gushing. We are not here to get handouts. We are here to get gigs. We are here to perform, we are here to get paid.

In October, RAMPD partnered with the inaugural Wavy Awards for an event celebrating women, LGBTQ artists, non-binary musicians, artists of color, artists who identify as having a disability, and their allies. The organization advised the show on American Sign Language interpretation, captioning, audio description, and ensuring the inclusion of people with disabilities on camera and behind the scenes.

However, perhaps Lachi’s favorite part was promoting the use of what she calls “self-description”, widely known as visual description, which is added in audio form to television programs. and movies to help visually impaired people and people who are blind, like her. .

“My name is Lachi, she/her, black girl, cornrows,” she said as an example. “So that’s what I do. And that’s all it is.

She highlighted how racism, sexism and homophobia compound the discrimination faced by people with disabilities. “It’s paramount that people recognize that disability has color, disability has gender, disability has sexual preference, and disability is not a straight, white, Central American man,” he said. she declared.

Lea, who was born with osteogenesis imperfecta and is based in Minnesota, stressed that she wouldn’t make the same music – which won NPR Music’s Tiny Desk competition in 2016 – if it weren’t for her experience of life.

“Disability is not ‘despite that, they did this,'” she said in an interview. “It’s more like, ‘Because of their identity as a disabled artist, you appreciate this art in this form.'”

She added, “Disability culture and the movement that we’re starting, I think, is really up there in terms of cultural shifts with all the other diversity movements that we’re talking about.”

Through the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council in Duluth, Minnesota, Lea received the Arts Ecosystem Grant, which will allow RAMPD to create a membership database of professional artists with disabilities – some something that did not exist until now. RAMPD also recently secured a fiscal sponsor, Accessible Festivals, a non-profit organization that will help manage RAMPD’s grants and donations, and enable the group to grow beyond Lachi and Lea.

“We want to see more leaders emerge from this and people recognize them in the community, because sometimes I feel like I’m being asked to do so many events, and that’s partly because I I feel like people don’t know anyone else to ask,” Lea said. “It’s something we need to fix.”

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