This article was originally published on online magazine Disability Horizons. who I regularly write for as a freelance journalist.
Sparsh Shah is a 15-year-old rapper, singer, songwriter and inspirational speaker from New Jersey, USA. He was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, more commonly known as Brittle Bone Disease. He has broken more than 130 bones over the years, but has an unbreakable spirit. He wants to become the next Eminem and perform to one billion people. Our writer, Emma Purcell, got the chance to interview Sparsh to find out more about his musical dreams and what it’s like living with brittle bones.
Sparsh first grabbed the attention of the public when he recorded a video covering the Eminem song Not Afraid, which has had more than 65 million views online (scroll down to watch the video). It was even noticed by Eminem’s record label, who tweeted about Sparsh after it went viral.
Since then, Sparsh has starred in his own documentary Brittle Bone Rapper, as part of a series by the YouTube channel Real Stories. The documentary followed Sparsh’s journey as he underwent a life-changing spinal-fusion operation, a month before embarking on an adventure in LA to attend the Rare Champions of Hope awards ceremony.
So far the documentary has gained more than 61 thousand views on YouTube. In June it was displayed at the Regal Hadley Theatre Stadium by the New Jersey Indian & International Film Festival 2018.
Sparsh has also given numerous motivational talks, inspiring millions of people to turn impossible into ‘I’m possible’. At the beginning of this year, he appeared on the UK TV show Big Shots Little Shots, presented by Dawn French.
Most recently Sprash has released his first album cover as a tribute to Eminem. Called Purhythm, a style of music he invented, the proceeds from its sale will go toward his music college fund.
Read on to find out more about Sparsh in his own words, and watch the documentary at the bottom of the page.
What is it like living with Brittle Bone Disease?
In one word – unpredictable. We never know when I’m going to break a bone. But in another word, it is also a blessing. Without my condition, I wouldn’t have done all of the amazing things I have within music.
It’s also given me a strong belief in God. I believe that when God closes one door, he always opens another. For me, when the door on my ability to walk and run was closed, then one to music was opened.
You perform in the style of ‘Purhythm’. Can you tell us more about that and explain what it is?
Purhythm is a fusion of two words: pure and rhythm. I was born in a family with traditional values and I want to inspire a generation of clean rap for all ages. So, my rap is pure and clean, but I am still all about the rhythm.
What kind of topics do you rap about in your songs?
I have written more than 30 songs on various topic – love, inspirational, holiday, and even educational songs.
Most of the songs that I write come from my deep personal experiences and they tell the stories of my life. I also really love gospel style, as well as rap.
What was is it like reaching 125 million views collectively across all your social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram?
It is an amazing achievement, but it is also a reminder that my work is not even close to done yet.
One of my biggest dreams is to sing in front of at least one billion people. There are seven billion people on this earth, so I want to be able to say I have performed in front of a high proportion of the population.
When put like that, 125 million is not a lot. I have a long way to go and need to keep pushing.
How did you feel when Eminem’s record label, Shady Records, tweeted you after your Eminem cover video went viral?
I very much appreciated being recognised by such a high-profile music label, and one of my idols Eminem, too. The tweet said that my cover was inspiring, which was amazing.
In turn, it inspired me to release five more of Eminem’s songs in Purhythm style – totally clean, totally uplifting.
Do you hope to perform with Eminem one day?
I definitely think that I will get an opportunity to perform with Eminem one day and hope to collaborate with him in the near future, too. I would love to write and compose a song with him that we both could perform on stage together.
What was it like starring in your own documentary?
It was really exciting and incredibly humbling – they chose to feature me out of so many other people across the world. It also gives me a great outlet to share my message and story to everyone globally.
You were given a Rare Champions of Hope award, which you travelled to LA to collect. What was the award for and how did you feel about winning it?
Hundreds of individuals and organisations worldwide were nominated by their peers to receive the Rare Champion of Hope award. It recognises people for their notable efforts in rare disease advocacy, science, collaborative sciences, and medical care and treatment.
From the extraordinary list of nominees, panellists selected the recipients to be honoured as Rare Champions of Hope. I was given that award for my advocacy work, for which I am incredibly proud and humble.
How did you find travelling to LA following your spinal surgery?
It was a very difficult trip to LA as it followed immediately after the biggest surgery of my life – a spinal fusion. I am still recovering from it and working hard to strengthen my back with both aqua and physical therapy.
What do your friends and family think of your achievements and your trip to LA?
My friends and family thought that it was a great achievement to receive the Rare Champion of Hope Award. They have always been my pillars, supporting me to keep going, and appreciated the work I have done.
I like to say; “your best friends are those who lift you high during your lowest moments, and even higher during your highest ones.”
What would you say to other disabled people or people with chronic illnesses dreaming of becoming a music performer?
In my view, disability doesn’t matter in the context of your dreams, unless you make it matter. I often tell people that I do not view my condition as a disability. I have ‘dissed’ my “diss-ability”, so it’s not a disability anymore – it’s an ability!
As long as we can view our conditions not as barriers, but building blocks that we can climb to reach our goals, nothing is without our reach. If you can believe it, you can achieve it.
You can watch the documentary about Sparsh Shah below, and find him on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
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