AT&T created the first ever 5G-connected football helmet that cements a groundbreaking moment in sports history for the Deaf and hard of hearing community. The 5G-football helmet will allow coaches to send plays to athletes who are hard-of-hearing through a visual display in their visor rather than through audio.
With the initiative, AT&T joined forces with 26-year-old Atlanta-native and up and coming UnitedMasters artist, Amira Unplugged, to record a rendition of the 1964 classic, “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel.
The song was produced by Samuel Barnes of the multi-platinum, Grammy winning Trackmasters, along with choir arrangements led by WRLDFMS Tony Williams of the Sunday Service Choir.
Growing up with limited resources as a partially deaf child, Amira’s voice tells a story within itself, showcasing how powerful the product is and the ways the helmet is being used to create greater opportunities for an often-overlooked community.
Amira said the collaboration came to be after her coordinator at UnitedMasters, Zach Slater, told her about the 5G football helmets and what it means for deaf and hard of hearing athletes.
“He [Slater] is incredible and has been instrumental in working with me and brands. He told me AT&T was creating these helmets to help deaf and hard of hearing football players and wanted to score the film they were creating with ‘The Sound of Silence’ by Simon and Garfunkel, which tricked me out because that’s my grandmother’s favorite song,” she said.
Also, Amira said she was already working on a rendition of the song for her grandmother with her sister before being aware of the opportunity.
“Being hard of hearing myself, this just felt like a perfect storm, and I wanted to put my all into it,” she said.
The collaboration and song, Amira said, means the world to her and she cried a few times when she saw the film before, she recorded the song for it.
“Starting with the players and the opportunity that is being presented, I’ve teared up. I remember being a kid and dreaming of what I’d be when I got older and just thinking I want to do this, but it’s something that might be a challenge for me as a hard of hearing person,” she said. “To know that someone was thinking in an innovative way to push things forward for other people was really incredible to me.”
Amira, a Muslim artist, describes her sound as “genre-bending”.
“That’s how I describe myself. They both come from more of an R&B and hip-hop realm and so kind of sinking into that and really going in more of a gospel hip hop, soul kind of direction, I think really bridged a lot of gaps, which is what I’m all about. So that made me even more passionate about it,” she said.
During the recording process, Amira said she felt a little nervous but overall excited, especially since she was stepping outside of her traditional sound.
“That made it more interesting and made every choice more intentional because you want to understand what’s appropriate for the kind of music you’re singing right now and I will say that Tony was very encouraging,” she said. “My dad was right there with me and he’s very supportive. He’s been my manager, my vocal coach, everything, so it was special to be in the booth and studio that I could have never dreamed of being in at this point in my career, sharing music that I know my family will love.”
Her favorite part about recording the song, Amira said, was understanding the lyrics on a deeper level.
“The part that I picked when I was recording, like even my demo, was the ‘the people talking without speaking, people hearing, without listening’ lyrics, that made me cry. It resonated with me because that’s what you do when you do sign [language] or when you lip read, you’re still communicating, it’s just in a different way,” she said.
Amira Unplugged: Singer, Songwriter, Rapper, Innovator
When asked what inspires her as a singer, songwriter, and rapper, Amira said she grew up in a musical household where her mom and dad would go upstairs and listen to music from everywhere.
“Every day my mom, she’s a painter, would listen to Erykah Badu and the music stayed with me. Even when they found out that I was hard of hearing, they didn’t want to take me out of my classes and things like that,” she said. “Music was the way that I was able to communicate with folks, so I took violin because you can feel the vibrations when you’re playing it, and I was playing the clarinet for the same reason.”
As an artist, Amira said, she is inspired to drive things forward for communities like the deaf community, Muslim community, and anyone who feels on the outside by taking the love of music and love of people and infusing passion in every project.
Some of Amira’s musical influences are Earth, Wind, Fire, Michael Jackson, and AC/DC.
“When I was a kid, I memorized their entire concert every day. My sister and I would watch that tape during summer and we knew the moves and everything. I really am inspired by artists who move their genre or move music in general forward like Erykah Badu, Prince, and Tears for Fears, people who were kind of fearless in their creation,” she said.
As an Atlanta-native, Amira said she pulls inspiration from the city.
“I’m currently working on a demo for a song that’s kind of a blend of hip-hop, country, and a little bit of like D.C. flavor and the rapping is very OutKast inspired. I love to put in the sounds of an HBCU band because when I was growing up, you would ride through the streets and hear the rehearsals going on, so I’m a die hard for my city no matter where I may go, and I carry a different part of the culture on my back.”
Amira also gives advice to anyone who may feel like an outcast.
“I think that if everybody, like what I’m trying to do in my community building, makes people who feel like an outcast find other folks and come together to create a larger community,” she said. “You don’t have to be Black, Muslim, or a woman. Hearing a pair of anything to feel like you belong in the kind of unplugged space that I’m making. Truly understand from your own experience how someone else even different from you could be feeling and join them in community.”
Amira also tells the Atlanta Voice she is currently working on a lot of projects for the upcoming year.
“I’m really focusing the rest of this year on making sure that this project is successful and getting people aware of the work AT&T is doing, but in my own time, I’m working on some crazy music I’m excited for as an independent artist still getting her name out there. My visuals make people really understand my point of view and the kind of musical world I’m trying to create,” she said.
Although Amira has had a passion for singing and creating all her life, she started singing full-time about two and a half years ago when the pandemic happened to cheer people up.
“I decided I didn’t want to go to law school, especially online, so I decided to lean in to sing to cheer people up during a dark time in the world. It took off quickly, like at an alarming rate and I ended up being called to get on American Idol, an MTV show, and all these other things, it was wild,” she said.
Amira also encourages anyone who is an up-and-coming artist to celebrate themselves and the progress they have made.
“It is a journey, right? Everyone goes on TikTok or Instagram and they see someone who it seems like they blew up virtually overnight, but that’s not the case right now. I’m at a stage where I think it’s the tipping point where something can really move forward, but it takes a lot of work every single day,” she said. “I essentially was in university again. I was studying all the time, and I still am and trying to understand how to navigate this business.”
Amira said although it may not seem like you’re moving forward at an accelerated rate doesn’t mean you’re going to fail.
“I made a video for my followers earlier, who are a lot of independent artists, and share some wins from this week because we don’t really sit down and celebrate ourselves and celebrate like the progress that we have made,” she said.
Furthermore, Amira said she wants to give a special shoutout to Gallaudet University, to AT&T as creators, and to UnitedMasters and Translation.
“They all came together to intentionally pull people in from the community and make something happen that could change the face of sports, change the face of opportunities for deaf and hard hearing people and I really appreciate that,” she said.
To listen to the song, visit https://unitedmasters.com/m/thesoundofsilence. It’s available on all streaming platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal.
To keep up with Amira and her journey, type “Amira Unplugged” on all platforms.