Signmark (a.k.a. Marko Vuoriheimo) was born deaf into a world where music is for the hearing. He pursued his childhood dream and became the first deaf artiste in the world to get a record deal and is today, the world’s best known deaf rapper and a global champion for the promotion of sign language.
Signmark’s career in music started with translating Christmas carols to sign language so the whole family could sing together. After watching music videos on MTV, Signmark decided that one day his own videos would be on TV too. He fell for hip-hop and rap music, both because of the beat and the possibility to talk about important issues through the music. His dreams about the music business were too much for some of his friends who said that it’s the most ridiculous dream a deaf person can have and that music is only for the hearing.
Signmark ignored those who doubted him and kept pursuing his childhood dream. With the help from friends and a large group of volunteers, Signmark released the world’s first sign language hip-hop DVD in 2006. At the release party MTV-News was filming in front row. Signmark’s second album ”Breaking the Rules” was released by Warner Music and Signmark became the first deaf artiste in the world to get a record deal with an international music label. Signmark was introduced to the mainstream audience and media when he was asked to join the national Eurovision Song Contest. The Finnish people gave their massive support to Signmark who came second in the national contest.
Signmark has performed all around the world, in more than 1,000 concerts in 33 countries such as Ethiopia, Iceland, Spain, Japan, Hong Kong, Brazil and USA. TV documentaries about him have been produced in Germany, Norway and Hungary among other places. The live shows are always bilingual. The songs thus far have been performed with International Sign Language and spoken English. Signmark’s unique and original work has not been unnoticed; several contemporary cultural organizations have praised him. For example, he won The Outstanding Young Person of the World 2009 prize.
Signmark released his third album Silent Shout in 2014. It contained six songs in international signing and four in Chinese Sign Language, in response to fans from China who couldn’t travel to watch him perform. The album and a video to every song are currently available on iTunes. Signmark is the first rap artist ever to have performed at the United Nations headquarters in New York, and has performed for audiences of up to 15,000 during his career.
Signmark spreads his message over strong beats where hard, low frequencies and bass play a crucial part in his performance. These elements help him adapt to the rhythm as he proves that music is more than what you can hear! Also hip-hop culture has the tradition of stretching boundaries of art, culture, politics, and society. Rap goes beyond music, lyrics, culture and languages and has helped the signing community to find their own voice. With his music and positive approach Signmark wants to change attitudes towards the Deaf. Signmark feels that society should not treat the Deaf as handicapped people, but as a linguistic minority with their own culture, community, history and heritage. Appreciating diversity is exceedingly important in today’s increasingly multicultural world.