Close up … with Signmark at the 8th UNESCO Youth Forum
Signmark (a.k.a Marko Vuoriheimo) is the first deaf artist in the world to get a record deal with an international music label. Born deaf into a world where music is for the hearing, Signmark pursued his childhood dream, and in 2006, released the world's first sign language hip-hop DVD. His mission is to change attitudes towards the deaf and highlight the rights of disabled and minority groups through his music, and he has performed across the world, including an unforgettable concert in Paris at the 8th UNESCO Youth Forum.
We caught up with him to ask him a few questions.
You’ve realized your dreams through music, but it must have taken a lot of strength and perseverance to get where you are now. What advice would you have for a young person who feels overwhelmed by the difficulties they face in following their own dreams?
It's all about your attitude. Whatever you want, if you really want it, just work hard! And don't waste your time on those people who don’t believe your dream. I’ve got friends who really believe in me and understand what I want. Without them I wouldn’t be here now. If you fail or make a mistake – don't get upset! Instead think, "Perfect, I’ve failed!", because the more mistakes you make, the stronger it makes you!
You have performed in over 30 countries and your music has touched people, deaf and hearing, all over the world. What are some of your favourite moments, when you have felt that you are really making a difference to the lives of other deaf youths?
My favourite moments are when I see both deaf and hearing people coming to see my show. Multiculturalism is my favourite thing. People need to come over and see. Then maybe they will get a "wow" experience during the show; as I said in one of my songs, "actions speak louder than words".
Also I love the feeling when young people tell me "I will be better than you!" That’s perfect, because if they’ve got motivation, they’ve got the key to making their dreams come true. That's why I’m doing this work.
Music is a powerful tool for uniting people and sending a message. What made you want to go into the music business in the first place?
I didn't plan to go into the music business; it was just a hobby. But when I wrote my first song, I knew that I wanted be an international artist. That's why my stage name is in English: Signmark, even though I wrote my first songs in Finnish. When my first album was ready and not a single record label took it, I didn't give up. I decided to borrow money from my family and make my own album! Then I started learning about the music business.
Your concert at UNESCO will be a symbol of hope to many. What messages do you wish to give to young people when you perform?
Anything is possible. If I, as a deaf person, have made impossible things become possible, why can’t you do same? We have new songs to show you all in UNESCO. It’s going to be hot!