Across China: Students with visual impairment pursue rock'n'roll dreams
HEFEI, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- With sunglasses on and drumsticks in his hand, Li Ming, 16, burst into action, bobbing his head to the rocking beat.
On stage, he is accompanied by five other band members. They all wear sunglasses -- not just to appear cool -- they are a team of students and teachers with visual impairments in the city of Wuhu, eastern China's Anhui Province.
The band, comprised of 18 students and teachers ranging in age from 9 to 34 in the Wuhu School for the Blind, is named Dark Eyes, after a well-known verse from a Chinese poem.
"'I was given dark eyes by night, yet I use them to search for light,'" said Chu Haolan, the electric guitarist and founder of the band. "Our name is taken from this verse we all love."
Except for lead singer Zhou Zhenzhong, all of the band members have varying levels of visual impairment, and most are students.
Founded in 2016, the band has been invited to perform at a local Spring Festival Gala to be aired live on television in two months.
"Blind people, just like everyone else, can play and enjoy music," said Chu, who is proficient in more than 10 musical instruments and teaches at the school.
After attending a rock concert in 2015, Chu came up with the idea to set up a band at his school. He recruited members, bought instruments and teaches music to the students.
Practicing music requires more effort for the visually impaired. Chu breaks the music scores into different parts for different instrument and teaches each part to his team members, who memorize the notes for their respective instrument.
“It's like removing the screws and then putting them back together again,” Chu explained.
Orchestrating a piece of music can take the band at least two months and hundreds of rehearsals. So far, the band knows 10 songs.
"Nothing can stop our yearning for music, and it’s music that has helped us find ourselves," said 28-year-old Zhu Hongwei, a guitarist in the band.
Some band members were born with visual impairments, but Zhu became blind due to optic atrophy after graduating from university, and later chose to study in the school.
Zhu suffered from depression for a long time, and his demeanor was different from the way he looks now, according to his bandmates.
Now Zhu finds joy in music. Apart from playing the guitar, he also sings. “Sometimes I find an empty classroom to record my songs and upload them online, even if I don’t get many high ratings,” Zhu said with a smile.
After each rehearsal, Li, the drummer, carefully puts the drumsticks in his bag and carries them around.
"I feel relieved only if the drumsticks are in a safe place that I know," Li said, "Because like basketball, music is something I love and I'll never give it up."
The band has inspired many students in the school and received support from local institutions.
"I can imagine how cool they look," said Chen Qiongqiong, a 16-year-old blind student in the school, “I am also learning guitar in my spare time; hopefully I can join the band one day.”
The local federation for people with disabilities provides all the musical instruments for the band and offers many music courses in the school.
"We hope blind students can lay a foundation for lifelong well-being here," said Xi Weijing, head of the school, "We hope the power of music can accompany them throughout the journey of life."