Amber Galloway Gallego on Jimmy Kimmel performing with Wiz Khalifa
AFTER sharing the stage with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa, Amber Galloway Gallego has gained a cult following as one of the world’s best rappers.
What makes this so bizarre is the fact she has never spoken a single word during her shows, rather she is a sign language interpreter who specialises in music performance.
The 36-year-old has been on a quest to make music performances accessible to the hearing-impaired after a number of chance encounters with deaf people inspired her career path.
“When I was 5, my dad started seeing a woman who had a deaf son,” she told Priceonomics.
“He was a boy scout and he taught me my first sign ever.”
Not long after, her babysitter gave birth to two deaf children and Ms Gallego learnt sign language as they did.
Then in high school, Ms Gallego was in a crippling car accident and was left bedridden in hospital for a number of months.
It was here she shared a room with a girl who, purely out of coincidence, was also deaf.
“She was a 24 year-old who had been hit by a car she didn’t hear coming, and had been crippled for life,” she said.
“Nobody would talk to her, so I started signing with her. We became good friends.”
After spending so much time around the hearing-impaired, Ms Gallego decided to attend an interpreter training program and study American Sign Language at community college.
During her studies, she was invited to a performance from the San Antonio Deaf Dance Company and it was here she got her first exposure to deaf people enjoying music.
“They had these choreographed hip hop dances, with sign language incorporated and they were right on beat, fully immersed in the song, feeling the instrumentation,” she said.
“For the first time, I realised that deaf people could enjoy music with the right nurturement.
“The hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I realised there was something to this.”
Inspired by the performance, Gallego began searching for an opportunity to make auditory performances more relevant to the deaf community.
Her chance came when she got to sign on stage during a Destiny’s Child performance at the local rodeo.
“I just got up there and did my thing and people were like, ‘Wow, we’ve never had a connection to the music before, but now we do’,” she said.
Her performance was met with such a positive response that she scored a permanent gig performing at the rodeo for the next four years.
Today, Ms Gallego performs alongside some of the world’s biggest bands at music festivals across America.
However, the performances are no easy feat because she is rarely given a set list before the show, meaning she must learn how to sign the whole catalogue of any band’s music.
This may seem like a lot of work for the $A650 fee she receives, but Ms Gallego said she is fine with the pay because it’s a labour of love.
“Sometimes, when I look out and see deaf people moving, and signing, and jamming out in the audience, I can’t hold back the tears.” she said.
“There’s a raw understanding of language and music that’s happening.”
Despite rocking out with some of the biggest names in the music industry, Ms Gallego just has one performance she would love to do above all else.
“I’d love to sign with Jay-Z, that would be a dream,” she said.