True Colours is one of the few concerts in the world that provide a centre-stage platform for artists with disabilities. Held in Singapore for the first time 23 – 25 March, the event featured the biggest acts by artists with disabilities from across the Asia Pacific, Brazil, Canada, and Scotland.

Setting the festival’s tone of exuberance and diversity was the opening act jointly presented by Japanese dance collaboration BOTANxDAZZLE. Seven performers, dressed in modern yukata and oil-paper umbrellas, danced to hip-hop electronica. The statement was clear: Disability arts is not a fringe genre; it has the right to be at the center of the mainstream.

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Balancing the East Asian act was a song by Tony Dee, the Australian singer who was the face of the Rio 2016 Paralympic music video, “We’re the Superhumans”. Tony Dee crooned a heartrending What a Wonderful World, then delighting audiences with a rendition of jazz favourite Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.

The next act truly blew the audience away: Philippines’ Aliènette Coldfire. Born blind, Coldfire became an Internet sensation in 2014 when a video of her singing Mariah Carey’s “I’ll Be There” went viral. She later shot to fame and inspired people all over the world in 2016 when she won 3rd place in France’s Got Talent with her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables’. Rounding out her stage outing was the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There”.

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One of the highlights of the evening was China’s ballet duo Ma Li and Zhai Xiaowei. They both have traumatic pasts: Ma was a promising ballerina who lost her right arm in a 1996 car accident, while Zhai lost his left leg when he was four years old after he fell off a tractor and had to have his leg amputated. The pair learned dance from scratch, practicing their routine up to 12 hours a day, until they got it right. On stage that evening, the couple danced the Hand In Hand, a piece personally devised by Ma. Zhai’s walking crutch was an extension of his arm, and the dance expressed anguish and love through faultless technique.

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Canadian violinist Adrian Anantawan was next to mesmerize the audience with a performance of Bach’s Partita for solo violin. Another artiste with a story of overcoming their disability to pursue his passion, Anantawan was born without the use of his right hand, and learned to play the violin when he was nine, using a prosthesis that enables him to grip the violin bow.