Posted by Mark Johnson, 11 months ago
The Playing For Change Band's 2012 "Back to Our Roots" Tour hits the road this summer throughout Europe and Brazil. Grandpa Elliott has his passport ready and harmonicas in his pockets. One thing I know for sure is that wherever Grandpa Elliott goes, the roots follow. I've known Grandpa for many years and he is the King of Conviction. Whenever and wherever he performs he gives it everything he has, and brings so much soul and emotion to every note and every word. The PFC Band feeds off of his spirit, and together with the audience we create a better world, a place where we are going to make it as a human race. Sometimes the music is all we need to be set free. Grandpa may be a blind man, but he sees the light.
For example, check out this live video of "A Change Is Gonna Come" from Folsom, CA. When I watch and listen to this performance I have no doubt that a change is coming and that with music we will all persevere.
There is so much diversity and talent in this band, and together on the stage they create music that breaks down walls and builds bridges. Don't miss a chance to see Grandpa and the band live this summer and celebrate the "Back to Our Roots" Tour with your PFC Family!!
Posted by Francois Viguie, 1 year ago
Everything started with a photograph. In August 2006, the PFC crew touched down in Cape Town, South Africa, while recording the first chapter of the "Songs Around the World". PFC co-founder, Mark Johnson, had something in mind: he wanted to meet with a musician called Pokie Klaas. For years he had a photo on his wall, showing musicians in the township of Gugulethu playing together. The photo mentioned Pokie Klaas's name and we decided to find out if those musicians were still there. During our first day in Cape Town, we met some street musicians and asked them, "Do you know Pokie Klaas?" One of them answered, "Yes of course, Pokie is my friend." 24 hours later, we were heading to the township of Gugulethu, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Cape Town, to meet with Pokie.
The afternoon spent in Pokie's backyard recording him and his friends was one of the most incredible days in our lives, where we could see how music has the power to bring joy into the most desperate situations. After a few minutes of music in the backyard, everything had changed: people were now dancing and smiling, demonstrating the healing power of music. (Click here to watch a video we recorded that day.) Two years later, the first music school of the Playing For Change Foundation was built in this same backyard and today, the school is playing a significant role in bringing positive change to this area that the rest of the world seems to have forgotten.
I really have no words to describe my feelings six years after this unforgettable day; to see some of the kids playing music with such passion at the school and wanting to become professional musicians, to see our teachers and Pokie himself making a difference for their community through this music school.One of the most special days at the school during the last days of my recent visit was the workshop we organized on Congolese music, featuring Jason Tamba and Mermans Mosengo from the Playing For Change Band. The idea was to introduce Congolese music to the students of Gugs' (this is how you say Gugulethu if you want to be cool!) and teach them some basics of this beautiful and powerful music. After five minutes, the "fire" was already in the house and Mermans and Jason were directing the students to play a Congolese tune on different instruments: drumset, bass, guitar, saxophones and even got our kids to sing in Lingala.After this moment of joy and jamming, Mermans and Jason sat on a chair and started to tell their story; how they left the Congo for South Africa more than ten years ago because of the war, and started to play a couple of acoustic songs to the captivated young audience.
The Ntonga Music School needs your support to grow and demonstrate that music can be the tool of a positive social change for underprivileged communities.
Playing for Change Foundation website
Join Ntonga Music school on Facebook
More photos of Ntonga Music School on Flickr
PFC Band tonight at the Napa Valley Opera House. A long way from Grandpa's corner of Toulouse and Royal in New Orleans. Bringing the soul and the fire everywhere we go!!
Posted by Francois Viguie, 2 years ago
September 11th, Accra airport, Ghana: My flight from Bamako, Mali, just landed in Accra. I'm supposed to meet with Abdul Rahman, director of the school, who is coming to pick me up. I've never met him before but he'll be wearing a Playing For Change t-shirt so I can recognize him. After a brief glimpse at the people waiting in the arrival area of the airport, I see Abdul Rahman. He is smiling and says, "Welcome to Ghana," during our very first hug. We have to jump on a propeller airplane to reach Tamale, where the school is located. The flight is going to be quick and safe.
Tamale looks like a very spread out city, with thousands of little houses covered with sheet-metal roofs. Ghana has the most dynamic economy in Africa, and Tamale has grown very fast over the few last years. The Bizung Music School opens every afternoon between Monday and Friday. Most of the kids are between 8 and 15 years old and attend classes in traditional music, dance, chant and keyboard. I can't wait to meet everybody at the school! The goal of this trip is to maintain a close relationship between the Playing For Change Foundation and the people on the ground, but also to document the progress that has been made at the school since its opening last year.
If the students appear a little shy in front of the camera on the very first days, little by little they seem to forget that I'm filming and start to play the game. I also want to screen some videos for the kids; I'm editing a video on the road for them so they can see themselves on a big screen, but I also have a video message from the kids at the music school in Kirina to the kids in Tamale that I filmed while I was in Mali. The students from Mali are introducing their school to the kids in Tamale and ask them some questions through the video: "What language do you speak?” “What kind of music or instruments do you play ?”
Here is a link to this video message. There are only 850km (around 528 miles) between Kirina and Tamale; that's why we hope that one day we'll be able to create a cultural and musical exchange between the two schools. Kirina and Tamale have a lot in common and a lot to share, too.
This week in Tamale was absolutely beautiful. It has been very emotional to see the passion of our teachers at work and how talented and eager the students are to learn at the school. As words are not enough to share this experience and demonstrate the positive change currently happening in Tamale through this music school, here is a short video that will introduce you to the Bizung School of Music and Dance. You'll see and hear the school’s teachers and students playing and singing during the classes and also giving witness to the impact of this music school on their lives.
If you haven't heard about Playing For Change Day, you need to check this link. The first annual Playing For Change Day is taking place September 17th, and is going to be celebrated by thousands of people all over the world. Musicians are taking to the streets and stages in their communities to raise funds and awareness for Playing For Change Foundation, a non-profit organization that is bringing music education programs to children around the world.
There are many ways you can participate in Playing For Change Day! Musicians, you can create an event in your community, or transform an existing gig you have on September 17th into a PFC Day event. If you are not a musician, you can still host a Playing For Change Day event-- many yoga studios are holding "Yoga For Change" events at their studios; a couple whose wedding is on PFC Day is donating to the cause in lieu of buying party favors for their guests; one young woman is even hula hooping for change! How creative can you get? Log in to playingforchangeday.org and show us!
If hosting an event is not in the cards for you this year, you can still support Playing For Change Day by spreading the word and by attending other folks' events. There are currently more than 75 events to choose from in dozens of countries. Get out there and have fun! Enjoy the music and the community energy of the world coming together to support music education.
Play a Song. Change the World.