Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Detroit musician spreads music to the deaf with music video company

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Sean Forbes was born into a family of musicians. According to Detroit Make it Here, a Web site powered by Crain's Detroit Business and Detroit Renaissance, Forbes' stepmother is a pianist, his brothers play saxophone and bass and his father and uncle lead the Detroit country rock band The Forbes Brothers.

The odds are likely that Sean would also have some musical genes, and he does -- the 27-year-old Farmington Hills resident plays drums and bass. But there is one thing that differentiates him from the rest of his family -- he's been deaf since he was a toddler.

This combination put Sean Forbes into a unique position. As a deaf person who loves and makes music, he understood that other like him probably had the same appreciation for music that he did. Maybe we couldn't hear voices singing, but he could feel the music of instruments vibrating. And we wanted to try to translate the power of lyrics in a way that deaf people could understand.

Detroit Make it Here, Aug. 25: In 2005, a cinematographer friend filmed Forbes performing American Sign Language to two Eminem hits: "Lose Yourself" and "Cleaning out my Closet."

"When people watch it, they really get the message of the song," he said. "So, I decided that I really wanted to show music visually through sign language."

Forbes posted his videos on YouTube, where they immediately became popular, and Joel Martin, a music publisher in Ferndale, eventually signed on to help Forbes start his own music video company, D-PAN (Deaf Performing Artists Network).

Now, the company signs deaf performance artists from around the country to star in the videos, which are compiled into DVD volumes and sold in stores and online.

Here's a popular clip from YouTube using the song "Waiting on the World to Change" by Joh Mayer.

Forbes continues to make his own original music, and also makes music videos of them that go into the compilations.

In May, Fox 2 Detroit did a profile of Forbes and how he creates his own music.