When Bono said, “Music can change the world because it can change people,” he could have been talking about the True Colors Festival (TCF) and its message of inspiration and inclusion. TCF is an international performing arts festival that puts the spotlight on differently-abled artists. Since its inception in 2006, the festival has showcased the extraordinary talents of singers, dancers and musicians who just happen to have a disability through concerts, documentaries, film festivals, music videos, workshops, and musicals. All with the aim to change the world by changing perceptions.
In 2018, I was lucky enough to be sitting in the audience of the True Colors Concert which took place at Singapore Indoor Stadium, co-presented by UNESCO and the Nippon Foundation. It was an event that brought me to tears as one artist after another blew me away with their talent and tenacity.
I wasn’t the only one reacting like this. I saw many in the audience, and speaking with some of them after the show, the tears were from complex emotions, questions and realizations that surfaced as they watched: That could have been me, my sibling, my own child. Would I have had the courage to let my child follow their passion in spite of all the extra challenges? What am I complaining about, in the face of such grit and determination to excel? Who cares about the disability when the talent is so real and defining? How shallow are we, that we judge people based on their ‘packaging’? And many more.
From the powerful vocals of France Got Talent alumnus Alienette Coldfire’s to the adrenaline rush of Ill-Abilities tightly choreographed street dance, from the power of Singapore’s Wheelsmith rapping, to the balletic poetry of dancers Ma Li and Zhai Xiaowei, both missing a limb but transcending the stage as though flying, I was truly in awe of the talent on display.
Singaporean audiences tend to be rather quiet, but the hollering of the crowd, and the buzz of the stadium was testament to how much the concert touched us all. It certainly changed my own perception of people with a disability and since then has changed the way I think about diversity and inclusion.
The energy, electricity, and enthusiasm of the audience – which included Singapore President Halimah Yacob – was more moving than any concert I had seen before or since. I must admit I had not expected the calibre of the performances to be so high, to the point that I almost forgot the artists were disabled at all and was able to focus purely on their talent.
Taking the festival to new heights, this year’s concert will be headlined by global superstar Katy Perry, who jumped at the chance to put a spotlight on these amazing artists.
“Music has the power to be the great connector and equalizer across all differences. And I’m excited for us to use our voices to celebrate diversity and inclusion. What moved me to join True Colors Festival was the spirit and uniqueness of the festival’s message and the opportunity to share the stage with all of these diverse artists,” said Katy Perry.
“I’m excited to be back in Tokyo to perform at this inspiring event and with the concert livestreamed all across the world, everybody can come together and celebrate.”
This year promises to be bigger and better than ever, with a powerhouse line-up of almost 100 musicians, singers, and dancers from 12 countries, with music genres ranging from classical to pop, dance to rap, hip hop to rock, in a multimedia extravaganza that also features vignettes of the artists in their everyday lives.
In addition to Katy Perry, audiences will be entertained and inspired by performances from the likes of bionic popstar Viktoria Modesta; Grammy-nominated vocalist/guitarist Raul Midon; The Voice Italy runner-up Frederico Martello; Australian crooner Tony Dee; Alvin Law who plays drums with his feet; and Singaporean rapper Wheelsmith.
Originally scheduled to take place alongside the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the concert has been delayed several times due to Covid, but as they say, the show must go on and it will now be held at Tokyo Garden Theatre on 19 and 20 November 2022.
For the first time, it will also be live streamed globally, so that people can watch it from the comfort of their homes, no matter where they are. As part of a commitment to being accessible, TCF will also feature a suite of accessibility features including Japanese and International Sign, real-time subtitles, audio description, and personnel on standby at the venue for all guests in need of assistance.
Executive Producer Audrey Perera says, “True Colors Festival uses the arts to showcase artists with disabilities so they will be seen as performers first and foremost. We know that music and the arts have the power to break down barriers between people and we promise that everyone who sees the concert will be changed forever. It is about respecting our unique differences and allowing people to show their true colors in all their brilliant glory.”
Sometimes referred to as the Paralympics of the Performing Arts, TCF is all about showcasing some of the finest performers in the world, many of whom have overcome enormous challenges to achieve their dreams. It is a celebration of diversity and inclusion and embraces the One World, One Family motto through the arts.
Executive Director of The Nippon Foundation and Senior Executive Producer of the concert, Ichiro Kabasawa, said: “You will be surprised, you will laugh and cry, but at the end you will be able to go home with a full heart.”
What I have learned from my involvement in True Colors is that we are all the same underneath our different shells and we all deserve to be recognized and respected. True Colors shows us that anything is possible, and I can’t wait to see what 2022 delivers. I will certainly have my tissues on hand this time.
True Colors Festival The Concert takes place on Saturday 19 November at 6pm Japan Standard Time and Sunday 20 November at 5pm Japan Standard Time. To learn more and to join the livestream, go to: truecolorsfestival.com/program/the-concert/livestream/
by Selena Oh, TCF volunteer
TCC LIVESTREAM LINKS
SAT 19 NOV
ENGLISH CHANNEL: https://youtu.be/STzdy6QQwvo
JAPANESE CHANNEL: https://youtu.be/DlHH2sHk4zI
SUN 20 NOV
ENGLISH CHANNEL: https://youtu.be/5A3BcnsaAyQ
JAPANESE CHANNEL: https://youtu.be/CZlSdIaIbFs
Katy Perry messages: