Ruben Sewkumar, aka ‘MotionR’, talks about being inspired to take up rapping and how music has helped him with his stammer.
I have had my stammer for as long as I can remember. I am 17 now and having a stammer does come with challenges on an everyday basis. For most people, ordering food, talking out in public and making jokes are all normal things to do. But with a stammer all of those things are difficult.
Let me take you back three years ago to McDonald’s, where I was ordering an egg Mcmuffin. I just couldn’t finish the last part of the word and was struggling to get the sound out. The cashier looked at me, laughed and said, “Next please.” At that point my confidence and self-esteem sank and I didn’t try again. My high school life wasn’t easy either. I was picked on frequently and was somewhat of an outcast because of my stammer. I didn't really talk to anyone and no-one really understood my condition. I hardly had a social life until year 10 or 11, when I met a small group of people, whom to this day I’m still friends with.
I started rapping at the age of 11 or 12 after listening to Eminem. He inspired me to start writing myself and remains my biggest influence. I never took writing seriously back then and just wrote when I wanted to. But I found out that I could rap and not stammer at all, which was amazing; it not only helped me express how I felt, but it gave me confidence and I have been rapping ever since. I don't know what it is about music, but it helps me. It is hard to break out in the music scene when no-one wants to give you a chance, but I write and rap to get my feelings out and to express myself. I bought myself a microphone and I record, mix and produce my own songs all in my bedroom on my computer. I’m not sure where the name ‘MotionR’ came from - I just wanted my initial in it!
With regards to the creative process behind my music, I write whatever comes into my head. I always carry my notepad with me wherever I go, or I just type lyric ideas onto the ‘notes’ section on my mobile phone so that I don’t forget them. All of my songs have a meaning and a message behind them. Some of my songs are based on my stammer, songs such as ‘Dear Destiny’ and ‘Famous’. Here’s part of a verse from ‘2 Aspects Of Life’:
“Take a second, close your eyes. Just imagine living life not uttering and people not understanding that you’re ssssssstuttering! I’ve grown up with this disorder but who would have thought I could get my words out on a tape recorder? See, rap has helped me and I feel obliged to give something back.”
The response I am getting from my friends and peers at college and others around me for my music is pretty positive; everyone is supporting me. I haven’t performed live yet but there are chances to do so at college and I will be taking them (with a bit of confidence, ha ha!). I would love to perform and spread the message that even with a speech disorder you can get past it; you can make something of yourself and follow your dreams.
“I would love to perform and spread the message that even with a speech disorder you can get past it; you can make something of yourself and follow your dreams.”
In 2012 I joined a speech therapy course at The Michael Palin Centre in London, where I was taught different techniques for controlling my stammer. One was called ‘the freeze’ and helped to overcome a block: when you stammered, you had to stop and try again. Another technique called voluntary stammering, where you would choose to stammer, helped a lot too.
I was doing well with my speech after the course; I was going out, ordering food and taking leaps that I never knew I could take. Recently, though, it has reverted back to the way it was before the speech therapy, and has got to a point where I ask my friends at college to order my food for me. It’s pathetic and patronising, I know; I should be able to order my own food! Some days I’m fluent but on other days talking is a nightmare. College has been amazing, though. I have just done three presentations and they all went well. All my classmates are supportive and I couldn’t ask for a better place to study and have a social life.
No-one really understands what it’s like not to be able to say what you want, or how it makes you feel. They can only imagine. People may laugh and say things, but we’re all the same at the end of the day. Music, and rap in general, has really helped me deal with my stammer and I don't honestly know what I would do without it.
Listen to ‘Dear Destiny’ by MotionR: http://bit.ly/1jaCdW9. (Please note that several of his other songs have explicit lyrics). Follow MotionR on Twitter: @Motionrmusic.
From Speaking Out Spring 2014, p.10