WHITE ROCK — She may not remember what she had for breakfast, but if you asked her to sing a golden oldie, she wouldn’t miss a beat.
For years she has been suffering from severe short- and long-term memory loss after getting an inflammation of the brain.
She is involved in the Semiahmoo House Society acquired brain injury (ABI) services program, which is based in Newton, though she cannot remember how long she’s been part of it.
“Jane” cannot recall how long her memory has been affected.
“I think it was encephalitis,” she said. “My body is in good shape, I can do things, but the music hasn’t left me.”
Jane was among close to 30 Semiahmoo House clients with brain injuries who joined Surrey-based musician Ranj Singh in a recording session at White Rock’s Blue Frog Studios on Oct. 4.
Singh has been playing music for individuals with brain injuries for the past 10 months.
When he first played for them, they spared him little attention. He thought it may be a waste of his time, but the participants gradually warmed up to him.
“We’ve become friends,” Singh said.
After getting to know the individuals, Singh says he was overwhelmed with the stories they had to share. He felt it appropriate to write a song, but using their stories to form the message.
“I asked them for their thoughts and feelings and what life was like before and after their injuries,” Singh said. “They openly shared their stories, I jotted down their notes and we came up with a song.”
The song, called “I’m Still Me,” gives listeners a glimpse of the stories Singh has heard.
“Their own friends and family have shut them out, lost interest in being in contact with them ever since the disability. It’s tough to hear that, it hurts to hear that. I wasn’t expecting any of this,” Singh said.
(Story continues below video of the recording session)
During the live recording, Jane was sitting on the stage to the right of Singh. Her legs were folded and she was bouncing in her chair, swaying side-to-side with a smile on her face.
Even though Jane was singing every word, she forgot that there’s a verse about her – a verse she helped write.
“I may not remember but I won’t forget. Memories are somewhere in my head,” Singh sang with Jane mouthing every word.
“I may not know the words to this song, but I’ll smile and pretend to sing along. I’ll grace you with my smile and sing along.”
Singh said that every time he plays with Jane in the room, she’s always sitting in the back, smiling.
“When you meet her, you can talk to her, associate with her, hug her. Then you leave the room five minutes and come back and she won’t remember anything,” Singh said. “For some reason she remembers all of these songs.”
Singh noted that it’s not just Jane’s story that’s inspirational. Every individual in the studio that day has overcome significant challenges and has an incredible story to tell.
Another verse is in reference to a man who injured himself after driving drunk: “Because I lived my life in a faster lane, now I’m walking in the slower lane.”
The common theme for the song, Singh said, is that before and after their injuries, all the patients are still the same inside.
The live recording was organized by Sylvia Hoeree, Semiahmoo House Society’s acquired brain injury services program co-ordinator, and Blue Frog Studios. The studio filmed the recording and released it online at Youtube.com/bluefrogstudios.
“The recording was incredible,” Hoeree told the Now. “It was a very special day for all of us involved. The most important part of the whole story is that (Singh’s song) has had much more of an impact than we ever imagined. We have had an amazing response thus far, and not just from people that have been affected by brain injury. The amount of people who are often misunderstood due to an illness, or are living with a disability, is endless, so you can only imagine how many people could relate to such a powerful message as ‘I’m Still Me.’ The words in the song have a influential message, I am sure you agree.”
Singh recently finished recording his third album, “The Man Cold.” Preview clips of the 12 songs, which include seven originals and five covers of “Hallelujah,” “Purple Rain,” “Chasing Cars,” “Fix You” and “Amazing Grace,” can be heard on his website, Ranjsingh.com.
with file from Tom Zillich