Holly Maniatty's 'dope' sign language

Holly, bottom right corner, throws down at Bonnaroo (TheCehughes3/Youtube)


Sign language interpreter Holly Maniatty specializes in hip-hop translation for music festival audiences.

Jian spoke to her about her craft, which Method Man has described as "dope," and why she refuses to censor the rougher parts of rap.

The full interview will be posted on this page later today. For now, you can watch Holly throwing down at the recent Bonnaroo festival in Manchester, Tennessee

Scroll to the bottom of the post for a partial transcript of the interview


Highlights from the interview

After our show aired Friday, Q community member Megan Walker pointed out that the radio format isn't very inclusive of deaf folks. Unfortunately, we do not have a full transcript of the show; however, we did circle back to highlight three of Holly's most interesting replies.

Thank you for the suggestion, Megan. 

Jian Ghomeshi: You've been working at this for over a decade, interpreting for a range of artists from Marilyn Manson to Melissa Etheridge. Are there special challenges when it comes to interpreting rappers? 

Holly Maniatty: Definitely. Rappers usually tend to speak very quickly. That tends to be a skill that's very valued in their genre or their community. I also find as I dissect lyrics, getting ready for concerts, some of these rappers really use metaphor very productively in the bars of their songs. So it's a unique challenge when they're presenting that double entendre to give it in sign language, but at the same time also leave that opportunity for the deaf patron just like a hearing listener to kinda go, "Oh that's what they said! Oh that's cool." So there are definite challenges there. 

JG: It's sort of clear you would know the music...you know some of the turns of phrase. What kind of preparation do you for a performance like this? 

HM: Specifically for Wu Tang 50 it was probably about 50 hours of work for the 90 minutes that they performed. So that 50 hours usually starts from researching past set lists of shows that they've played in the last six to eight months and building a list of potential plays. And researching where the performers come from, where they're born and raised... 

JG: Why does that research help you? 

HM:There are different dialects of American Sign Language based on the region the speaker is from. For example Killer Mike is from Atlanta and the way that he would sign "brotha" is totally different from the way someone from New York City who is deaf would sign "brotha".

So in order to give the most authentic and realistic experience for the deaf patrons, my choice as an interpreter is to use as many local or dialectual signs from where the performer is from.

Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.