N.S. singer ‘making a connection’ with audio described music video, accessible show

November 24, 2021
N.S. singer 'making a connection' with audio described music video, accessible show

Hit play on Christina Martin’s latest music video and you’ll hear an unfamiliar voice.

Instead of the Nova Scotia singer’s vocals, an audio description begins for those who are visually impaired, describing Martin’s wavy blond hair, black dress and a shadowy setting in a historic house before the music kicks in.

The move is one way Martin is working to bring accessibility into her music, website and live shows, including one planned for Saturday afternoon at the Presbyterian Church of Saint David in Halifax.

A still from Martin’s audio described music video, Stay with Me. (Christina Martin/YouTube)

“I didn’t know that anybody would care, and people do care. People have listened to that version who would not have otherwise,” Martin told CBC Radio’s Mainstreet on Tuesday about the audio described version of her Stay with Me video.

“For me, I’m reaching new audience with the art, making a connection, which is, I think, a goal for a lot of artists.”

Mainstreet NS14:20How this Halifax artist is making performances and music videos more accessible

The Saint David’s show will be wheelchair accessible and feature ASL interpreters and live audio description of what the stage and surroundings look like. Guided assistance to seats will be available for those with visual impairments or anyone who needs help. 

It will be a “relaxed” performance, Martin said, meaning that it won’t be too bright, dark, or loud to ensure there’s no sensory overload. People can walk around during the performance if they’re not comfortable sitting still for an hour.

Having worked with people with disabilities, Martin said she knew how difficult it can be to go out to events or get into older buildings. But it wasn’t top of mind for her own shows until some fans let her know they had showed up to a concert, only to realize they couldn’t get inside.

“That was really upsetting for me, I can only imagine for them,” Martin said.

In her drive to learn more, Martin said she received a provincial grant that allowed her to work with New Brunswick-based consulting company Sensory Friendly Solutions.

Martin collaborated with artist and disability advocate Kat Germain, who voiced the audio commentary for the Stay With Me video. Milena Khazanavicius, who is blind, gave Germain feedback on the commentary and will host the Saint David’s show alongside Martin and her guide dog, Louis.

Khazanavicius says if other artists want to follow in Martin’s footsteps, they should reach out to disability advocates or organizations that support people with various disabilities and needs. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Khazanavicius said besides Stay with Me, she’s never come across another music video with audio description. It made a huge difference, since she was imagining something “utterly different” than what was filmed.

At Saturday’s show, she and Martin plan to talk about accessibility in music and barriers left to break down.

“It’s something that I really cherish because when I go out, I don’t want that barrier on the street, and I sure don’t want a barrier when I’m at a place where I’m supposed to relax and unwind,” said Khazanavicius.

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