Playing For Change in Colombia

colomb pre

We landed in Colombia about 11 days ago to create a new song involving musicians from different parts of the country. The idea of a song around Colombia came from our friend Fernando Vila who works for the non-profit foundation Americas Business Council (ABC), in order to unite the different cultures of Colombia trough music. The project was a double challenge for us: South America was still a land that we never explored, and we had to create a song around Colombia in less than ten days!

We started our journey in Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast. We couldn’t have imagined a better place to start. The song we picked is a well-known Colombian tune called “La Tierra del Olvido” by Carlos Vives. The idea was to create an organic version of the song based on the union of different traditional instruments, rhythms and cultures. We started the process recording percussions, gaitas (traditional Colombian flutes), an accordion, and a guitar. After just one day of intense recordings we all had the strange sensation of feeling as if we had been in Cartagena for a week already.

Our second day in Colombia, we went to Palenque de San Basilio, a village two hours from Cartagena founded by fugitive slaves about three hundred years ago, a unique corner of Africa in South America. The people from Palenque knew how to preserve their roots and their music trough the years. There is also an undeniable and curious Cuban spirit in the music they play. Meeting the people from Palenque was a dream come true for all of us, an unbelievable human and musical experience. In 2005, UNESCO proclaimed Palenque “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”. In Palenque we recorded two bands at the same time: “Las Alegres Ambulancias” and “Sexteto Tabalá”. They laid down a perfect groove to the track and sang the song all together. Four generations of the Batata’s family where playing at the same time. That was just magic! I’ll never forget that handsome little kid playing the “tambora” (traditional bass drum) perfectly with his father, while his mother and grandmother were singing the song.

After only two days in Colombia we already had more than 20 musicians on our version of “La Tierra del olvido”! Then we flew to Bogota to record a symphonic orchestra that consisted of 37 kids. Totó la Momposina then played a version of her song “Los sabores del Porro” and added her spirit to our song around Colombia. Every day was a new experiment of connection and fusion between different musical styles, cultures and situations. Beyond the recording of the new song, trough the amazing work and the love of the people we met there, we had the chance to extend the PFC family in South America. On April 7th, a video of this song around Colombia will be presented in Medellí­n during the World Economic forum on Latin America to represent the healing power of music. We hope the example of different cultures connected and united together trough music will contribute to convey human values into the world of those that governs us, in order to help change this world for a better place for everybody.

Dreams of Kirina


When we think about the role of dreams in our lives, they serve as both the places we go when we shut our eyes as well as the hopes and aspirations we hold for the future of our loved ones and ourselves. Playing For Change began as a dream to create something that could be full of positivity and inspiration for the human race. We have found that music is the greatest tool on earth for us to achieve our dreams of a better world for everyone. The village of Kirina, Mali is the heart and soul of this dream and a place with music at its core.

It is an ancient village with about 1,000 people, all of whom are descendents of musicians, many of them over 75 generations of musicians. They have no electricity, but enough soul to brighten all of us as we share this journey together. It is also the home of the newest Playing For Change Music School. When they heard the Playing For Change crew was coming to visit them to discuss the idea for the new school, they told us they had dreamed we would come, and they are prepared to be a part of the next chapter of our life’™s journey, and thus have titled the new school “The Playing For Life” Music school.

Last week we traveled with the Playing For Change team to Kirina with our brother and soul mate, Baaba Maal. He is a legendary singer in West Africa, and even he was humbled by the opportunity to visit the people of Kirina and meet the elders. He told us that he learned about Kirina growing up in school, but did not realize that it was a real place that still maintains their ancient traditions and culture. We traveled with 4 cars full of musicians and the Playing For Change Foundation crew and were greeted with open arms and songs from the villagers. We gave gifts to the elders and were granted permission for Baaba and friends to perform music for the village chief under the mango tree. I swear, if ever humanity has shined a light, it was on this day!! Baaba performed for all the people in Kirina and was joined by our friend and percussion master, Mohamadou Diabate. The elders from the village had donated land for us to build our new music school, and this day was an opportunity to celebrate the great future we all share together.

I ask everyone who believes in a better world for tomorrow to join us today to build our next great music and art school in the village of Kirina, Mali. Together, it is a dream that we can make come true, and we will always know that there is a place where music and inspiration are passed on from generation to generation for the betterment of all of humanity –“ Playing For Life!!!