It’s impressive enough to keep up with a Wu-Tang Clan set by rapping along, but their sign language interpreter took it to the next level at their Bonnaroo performance on Friday. The ASL translator named Holly has gotten recognition for other performances at the music festival in Tennessee including accompanying R. Kelly and getting called onto the stage by the group Matt & Kim.
Holly Maniatty may stand at the bottom of the stage when she signs along with the stars, but her enthusiasm and skill have made her the star of the show. The ASL interpreter sits down with NowThis and talks about her internet fame and upcoming concerts.
When you spend hundreds of hours preparing to translate a rap concert into American Sign Language, as Holly Maniatty of Falmouth does, these are things you think about.
At least, she does.
“Well, if a grandmother was chillin’, doing nothing, it would probably be this,” said Maniatty, holding her hands up fairly daintily, a pleasant grin on her face.
“But if it’s a member of (rap group) Wu-Tang Clan chillin’, it would be like this,” she said with an intense expression in her eyes and her hands held higher.
Maniatty, 33, interprets 30 to 40 live music concerts a year. It’s a passionate sideline to her main job as an ASL translator for a company that helps hearing-impaired people make phone calls.
Her speed and skill interpreting rap gained her worldwide Internet fame earlier this month when videos of her signing lyrics rapped by Wu-Tang Clan at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee went viral.
Clips of her signing at break-neck speed appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC and on “Chelsea Lately” on the E! cable network.
In the videos, Maniatty’s hands, head and body move so fluidly, and so rapidly, that she looks like she’s dancing to the rap beats. But she makes it clear that while she loves rap music, she is definitely not dancing.
“Everything I do is very strategic, to convey the emotion, the beat,” said Maniatty, sitting outside a cafe last week near her South Portland office. “If the beat is ‘boom, chica boom,’ I might move one way, but then it might change and the moves are different. There was one line (at Bonnaroo) where they talked about getting pulled ‘waaaay over,’ so I leaned back to emphasize that.”
Maniatty’s passion for her profession has made her a sought-after ASL interpreter nationwide and earned praise from entertainers, audience members and her peers.
“One thing that makes Holly stand out among the group is her ability to keep calm and think quick,” said ASL interpreter Jenn Abbott of Long Island, N.Y., who signed alongside Maniatty at Bonnaroo. “She has such an amazing grasp and understanding of American Sign Language that the craziest of rap freestyles cause this switch to flip, and she’s so on point, it’s amazing.”