It's Parkinson's, Playaz... Sharon Kha Raps for Awareness
Sharon Kha, 66, documents her diagnosis with raps that educate and entertain.
April 20, 2010— -- Think of the term "hip-hop star," and 66-year-old Sharon Kha is probably not the first person who would come to mind.
When she dons her sideways baseball cap and hangs an oversized plastic clock on a chain around her neck ... well, she still doesn't look entirely the part.
But Kha, a former vice president at the University of Arizona who in 2003 was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, has hit the YouTube music scene in an unusual way -- by rapping about her condition.
"Now, I know it seems incongruous that an old white woman would want to be a rap musician," she says in one of her YouTube appearances. "But I have attitude."
She then launches into her performance, much to the delight of the audience, many of whom also have Parkinson's -- a condition that leads to tremors and other involuntary movements.
"Well once you are a 'Parky' it's hard to relate.
People meet you on the street and they say you look great.
Well you're drooling,
And you're shuffling,
There's a tremor in your hand.
What part of great don't they understand?
The crowd chants along on cue. For a while, everyone enjoys making light of the condition which, according to the American Parkinson Disease Association, affects more than 1.5 million Americans.
Among these patients, Kha is a phenomenon -- a woman with Parkinson's who addresses the everyday challenges that the condition poses in lyrics intended both to entertain and raise awareness.
For Kha, the idea came to her while she was on a cruise she decided to take after she received her diagnosis. The onboard entertainment included comedians and rappers. As Kha watched, she said, she found herself trying to analyze what it was that made these acts compelling and humorous.
"It was being able to make fun of your frailties," Kha said she realized. She added that Parkinson's comes with its fair share of frailties.
During her walk the next morning, she began piecing together some rhymes that incorporated scientific terminology. The raps that she composed included mention of the four main symptoms of Parkinson's, available treatments and a call for more funding for research.