Songs in Sign: 4 Must See ASL Music Video Interpretations

by Michelle on July 12, 2011

in Online Resources

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Signing to songs has become a booming trend in the hearing world. Students who are learning ASL like to apply their new learnings to one of the hearing communities favorite things, music. I myself love signing to songs and try to figure out how to sign a phrase in ASL. It challenges me to think how would I sign, “party like a rockstar” or “I try to do handstands for you”. If I were to sign these songs in Signed English then it would be easy but I don’t want to sign in Signed English. I want to sign in ASL which is meaning based.

It is now becoming a trend in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing worlds because for one the Deaf enjoy music as well and also to show what true ASL looks like. Keith Wann and Wink do a video that makes fun of people who are trying to sign to songs but aren’t really good at it. Unfortunately it’s not captioned but you’ll get the idea.

So why did I decide to post about ASL songs? Because when done right, they are amazing! Watching these videos make you strive to be better. I would LOVE to be on their signing levels. These videos are great motivation to want to learn and to always try to improve. I hope you enjoy these selections and if you have any favorites to share please do so in the comments!

Jason Listman: Firework by Katy Perry

This first video that I have chosen is done by a Deaf professor, Jason Listman who teaches at Rochester Institute of Technology. His mission is to “show the world how American Sign Language songs should be” You can “like” him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and subscribe to him on Youtube.

First, I cannot say enough good things about this video and all of his others. He is truly talented and I encourage you to watch his other videos. While watching this video I can’t help but get goosebumps! Whether you know sign language or not you can picture that match igniting and the beautiful fireworks show that he puts on with just his hands and facial expressions. Amazing! The only change I would make to this video is the blur of his hands. It’s a nice effect but it is hard to see his exact handshapes or movements when he is signing. People who know ASL knows what he is signing but people who don’t may want to learn the signs but cannot see them clearly. I can’t wait until he does more videos!

Keith Wann: Honky Tonk Badonkadonk by Trace Adkins

This next video which I think is hilarious, is done by a CODA (Child Of Deaf Adults). Keith Wann is a comedian, a very funny one I might add too. He tours around the country and talks about his life experiences growing up with Deaf parents. He does these videos about once a month and I chose my favorite one. You can “Like” him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and subscribe to him on YouTube. He also does an ASL radio show every Wednesday night where they try to bridge the gap between the hearing and Deaf cultures/worlds.

I love this video. I think it’s so funny and really well done. Anyone who has taken my class knows that ASL is 95% meaning and the rest vocabulary. Notice how you never see him spell out honky tonk badonkadonk. He shows the meaning by making that woman curvalicious and you can just picture it so easily. I also love his facial expressions. You could pause the video every second and you would not see the same facial expression. People don’t realize how important facial expressions can be! The one change I would make to this video is the shirt that he is wearing. It is very distracting. The first time I saw this video I was looking at his shirt trying to figure out what it says and what it means. For those who have seen his act get it but many don’t.

Keith Wann does a large variety of songs and I encourage you to check them out!

Kelly, kmklined: Where is the Love by Black Eyed Peas

When I set out to do this blog post I found this woman. Her name is Kelly and I don’t know her last name or much about her. (Kelly if you’re reading this please feel free to get in touch and let me know, I’ll be happy to add in the info) I could only find her on YouTube so you can subscribe to her on there. But I do know that I love her signing style. She is hearing and has such a love for the language and the Deaf community. She has many videos and I enjoyed all of them! What I loved about this video is towards the end of the song starting at 3:40 and you hear them say, “sing with me y’all” she does three signs in that circular motion signing EQUAL then TOGETHER and CONNECTED. She then shows how those ideas of togetherness is breaking. She really grasped that concept and showed it in a way that I wouldn’t have thought to do.

If I had to change one thing is that it was a little too bouncy for me. I know she was going with the beat of the music but at times I felt my eyes a little tired from watching. Other than that I just really enjoy watching her sign!

Rosa Lee Timm and Russell Harvard: The Time by Black Eyed Peas

I had the privilege of seeing The Rosa Lee Show live at my school University of New Hampshire at Manchester and she was great! She has accomplished so much in her life such as starting her own one woman show performing in front of thousands. She also is the co-founder of KISSFIST Magazine. Rosa Lee is Deaf and a great actor. You can find out more about her on her website You can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her on YouTube.

Russel Harvard who is the male in this video is a Deaf actor. He was in the film “There Will be Blood,” the television series CSI:NY and more recently portrayed deaf UFC fighter Matt Hamill in the independently filmed “Hamill.” You can learn more about Russel on his website or subscribe to him on YouTube. He is very talented and please watch his other videos!

This is such a fun and energetic song you can’t help but dance around in your seat. I really like how this song is so visually pleasing to the eye I mean that’s what it should be right? ASL users are very visual people so these songs need to be enjoyable to watch. Sometimes the lighting isn’t the greatest and also I’m a little disappointed that they didn’t sign one of the best parts?! “Dirty Bit” But really how would you interpret that? What does it even mean? Other than that the video is great! Rosa Lee likes to do a variety of genres so go check them out!

Please feel free to share any videos that you really enjoy. Have questions or just want to post a comment don’t hesitate! I really enjoyed doing this post and I hope you enjoyed it as well.

About the Author:

Michelle has been learning ASL for 11+ years. She went to Bristol Community College and graduated with her Associates in Deaf Studies. She then moved to NH and enrolled in the Sign Language Interpreting Program at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester and graduated with her Bachelors in Communications. You can follow Michelle on Twitter.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Neil July 12, 2011 at 5:20 pm

I like em all but a couple nit picks, on Jason’s the early fading transitions make the signs harder to read..as the video goes on though there is far less of the fading so small thing.

Annnnd, I was a teeeeny bit disappointed that there was no attempt to interpret the “dirty bit” part of The Time. It’s a pivotal part of the song for me :] Props to Russ when he just busts out @ 3:05, it’s pretty hard to interpret, dance and make it look perfectly natural.

Nice post Shelly I’m impressed.

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Michelle July 12, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Thanks Neilio for your support! It means so much to me!

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Ami July 29, 2011 at 3:58 am

I stumbled on to this post while researching for an interpreting final. I had never heard of Jason Listman before, but I immediately subscribed to him. Thank you!! Great post by the way :) I am kind of surprised that you didn’t include ewitteborg. He’s a MUST watch!

Reply

Michelle August 4, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Hi Ami,

We are so glad you enjoyed the post. I have never heard of ewitteborg. I just watched a bunch of his videos and you’re right he’s great!
Thanks again!

Reply

Sam Rush February 15, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Maybe this one isn’t as artful as the one’s you’ve chosen, but it’s pretty great. I hope you enjoy it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qw2bJe_A7I
I have genetic progressive hearing loss and am also a musician. I was so glad to find this post. I will still miss Hearing music, but it is great to see this different art form.
Great job.
Best,
Sam

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