A bridge between 2 worlds: BC duo create music for people of all identities, abilities
“We both know the love we have is real. We’re working hard to get where we need to be.”
The chorus of the new song by Amy Braun and Ian Griffiths So it’s easy reflects the duo’s sense of triumph by turning their traumas of ableism and racism into music.
Braun, the child of a deaf mother and a hearing father, and Griffiths, who was born to a Chinese mother from Hong Kong and a British father, formed Half/Asian with Amy la CODA in 2019 – a two-person group in Nelson, BC with the goal of starting conversations about inclusion and diversity. CODA means “child of deaf adults”.
“People feel more comfortable asking me because I’m mixed,” Griffiths told guest host Alya Ramadan on CBC. South Dawn. “They can’t ask certain questions of a deaf person, but they feel comfortable talking to that in-between person.”
“It’s this middle ground where we are in this unique position where we can act as a bridge.”
The couple toured across British Columbia and Alberta after pandemic restrictions were relaxed last year. On stage, Griffiths sang the songs in English, while Braun danced and performed the lyrics in sign language.
WATCH | Demi/Asian with Amy’s interview the CODA on sunrise north in August 2021
“Reconnecting with the language that shaped my life”
Braun learned Pidgin Sign English (PSE) – a combination of American Sign Language (ASL) vocabulary and English grammar – as her mother’s first language. As a teenager, she was hired by the school district to interpret for her mother, an assistant teacher at a high school in Olds, Alberta.
Similar to the situation depicted in the Oscar-winning film CODAthere wasn’t much understanding from her classmates and the local community about her family in the ’90s, Braun says.
As an adult, she says she hadn’t seen a deaf person in the audience in her seven years working in the music industry – until she started performing in the language. signs as part of the duo.
She says it’s a healing experience to be able to perform in her native language, especially after losing her skills working in a profession that isn’t entirely welcoming to the deaf community.
“It’s really a recovery of the language, and I’m reconnecting to the language that has shaped my life and made me who I am,” Braun said.
Denounce anti-Asian racism
Griffiths says it’s been a “cathartic” experience to speak out against anti-Asian racism through her songs. In Chinese, Japanesewhich he wrote in March 2020, for example, documents the incidents he experienced over the past decade as a half-Chinese man in British Columbia and Alberta.
Through conversations with his mother at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Griffiths says he finally had time to reflect on the privilege he lived with as a white transient, as well as the discrimination he he and his mother suffered as Asians.
“People automatically assume my dad is Canadian because he has the right skin color, while people assume my mom, who is a college professor, is not.
“There is racism that happens to me randomly on the street, and seeps into my subconscious and therefore into my music,” Griffiths said.
WATCH | Half/Asian and Amy the CODA perform Chinese, Japanese
Praises from the family and the public
Braun and Griffiths say their mothers are proud of their accomplishments and have received a warm reception from the public in the past.
“I had a deaf person who came to a show and she was so excited, because for the first time in her life, she had lyrics stuck in her head, and because she never understood the lyrics with just regular music acts where there’s no sign language involved,” Braun said.
She also has something new to offer the hearing public: from this month she will also perform with her voice, in addition to performing in sign language, after several months of vocal training.
Half/Asian with Amy the CODA was scheduled for seven music festivals in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario throughout the summer, including the Ignite the arts festival in Penticton, BC this weekend.
11:17Half Asian with Amy the CODA creates songs in English and sign language