Recording with the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars

Hello Everyone, here is my latest update from the road with the PFC crew.


Everyday is a blessing with Playing For Change; we travel the world and meet different people offering us all greater insight into humanity and the power of music. Today was another great day of filming and recording with the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars during their North American tour. We met the band in Chicago and spent a beautiful day together.


We are close to finishing our new Songs Around the World album (currently untitled) and I really want to share the experiences with all of you as this is your global family!! Today I learned, “One day you are suffering in this world and the next day you are healing other people’s pain through music.” I first heard about this band when I saw a movie about their lives titled “Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars.” This group of musicians represent one of the great human triumphs of our time. They struggled through death, famine and genocide and yet moved forward with love in their hearts and melodies in their minds. They are not only searching for a better world, but are also creating one!!!

Thanks to the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars, this is our ever growing PFC family and together we will connect the world through music.

One Love, Mark

Recording at Shiba Rikyu

We just got back from a fantastic day of recording in Shiba Rikyu, a lush oasis in the middle of Tokyo’s urban sprawl. As we wended our way along the pristine paths of this beautifully maintained garden, we sometimes forgot that we were in fact still in downtown Tokyo. However the surrounding sky scrapers peeking down through the trees (and the elevated train that dodged between them) reminded us of where in fact we were.

The musician we worked with began the session with an upbeat traditional song. Then he demonstrated his versatiliity by improvising along the pentatonic scale in the keys of our new Songs Around the World. He added a unique sound to each track we recorded, and by the end of the day we were all very pleased with how the session had gone.

We are nearing the end of our stay here in Japan. We will not be recording tomorrow, instead we will be participating in a couple of amazing cultural experiences. Our crew has been invited to Togoshi Shrine to celebrate their Matsuri, an annual harvest festival. Before heading to Togoshi, we will be going to an exhibition that we feel will be very profound. It is called “Dialogue in the Dark,” and offers small groups of people the opportunity to spend an afternoon in complete darkness. Visitors are led through a building by a staff of guides that are all blind. The crew are all very excited about this amazing opportunity. I know I often take my sight for granted, and I hope to gain a deeper understanding of how I can relate to the world more consciously without the use of my eyes.

Love From Japan!

Hello and Konichiwa to everyone! Today was our second major shooting day in Japan, and I feel compelled to thank all of the Japanese people for treating the Playing For Change crew with so much love and respect. The greatest lessons on our journey are usually what we can learn from other cultures. Today I realized that we are constantly surrounded by such positivity everywhere we go. PFC has been to approximately 30 countries and each trip we gain deeper insight into the power of music to open doors and climb over walls. Each recording and every song around the world are collective statements that we are going to make it as a human race as long as we remember the importance of respect. I know very little Japanese but I can easily understand the smiles and laughter surrounding us.


I can’™t wait to share all the music and love we are experiencing with all of you because this is your global family and we are a movement of people everywhere who see the future is what we make it. We will continue to travel and personalize this project with every country we can until the world embraces love and inspiration from the inside out. One song and one smile at a time. Thanks to Japan and thanks to everyone who supports us on our journey, we LOVE you all. Arigato!


Thank You,



P.S. I need to mention my immense joy for the birth of my little nephew,
Will Johnson;“ son of Greg and Erin Johnson, I love you more than the blood that runs through my veins!! One Love.

Tokyo Rain

We awoke this morning to the gentle sound of rain splashing against our window. At first we were optimistic that it would blow over, but a look at the weather forecast told us that the day had something else in store. As the morning wore on the rain grew stronger, and by 10 o’clock we decided that we would have to cancel the musician we had lined up to record. It was disappointing to everyone, but we made the best of it.


Our guide met us at our hotel and we spent the day out and about in Tokyo, getting a sense of the city (and also taking advantage of the opportunity to film everywhere we could). We took the subway to Shibuya and then to mid-city, but the rain’s intensity kept increasing! We discussed it over lunch and determined that given the weather, the best use of our time would be to head back to the hotel and work on some of the material that we had already recorded.


The weather tomorrow calls for clouds and a chance of rain. We are crossing our fingers that that chance remains low, and are planning to be on location by 10AM. I’m packing an umbrella, just in case though…


Peace and Love from Tokyo!

Our First Day of Recording in Japan

We just got back to our hotel after an amazing day of filming. We started the day in Happoen Garden, a lush oasis amidst the urban sprawl of downtown Tokyo. We could not have asked for a more picturesque location to record in than here, amidst the buzz of cicadas, the whisper of the wind through the trees, and the occasional splash of coy from the pond. We almost forgot that we were still in Tokyo– but nearby skyscrapers occasionally poked their heads through gaps in foliage, reminding us where we were… It was incredibly hot work, but the staff of Happoen Garden were kind and accommodating, even going so far as to supply us with towels soaked in ice water to help combat the sweltering heat.


In the middle of the afternoon we changed locations, trading the natural beauty of Happoen Garden for a view of Tokyo Bay, with the city’s majestic skyline rising behind it. We arrived at dusk and filmed into the night, trading natural light for the city’s warm tungsten glow. As the sky continued to darken, the bay slowly filled with brightly lit boats enjoying a Summer evening’s cruise. At long last we completed our recording for the day, and returned to our hotel to rest up and prepare for what is yet to come.


It is fantastic being able to add Japanese musicians to our new Songs Around the World, and we can’t wait to get back to work again tomorrow! And speaking of tomorrow, please stay tuned as we will be launching a new episode in the next 24 hours!


Peace and Love from Tokyo!

Connections Made

Over the course of the past four years the Playing For Change crew has had the privilege of meeting amazing people all over the world. During our travels we have explained PFC’s principles, values, and mission to many people in many languages.


Today we had the opportunity to speak with several groups of people who share PFC’s goal of connecting the world through music. Our morning began with an interview at InterFM with an amazing radio host, Peter Barakan. On his show Mark explained how Playing For Change began, what we are all about, and where we are going. Following the interview, we returned to our hotel where we spoke with a group of journalists from Sotokoto, a socially conscious magazine based in Tokyo. Later in the evening our hosts here in Japan officially welcomed us with a beautiful reception dinner. We screened some of our new Songs Around the World (that we will be adding Japanese musicians to this week!) and again shared PFC’s principles and values, hopes and dreams. All these conversations were made possible by the assistance of amazingly talented translators.


Life is a creative teacher. Over the course of the day something resonated for me in a way that it had not previously– at least not consciously. Hearing Mark’s words translated into Japanese– his pausing between thoughts to allow for the translator to speak; the light of comprehension sparking to life in his listeners’ eyes; the conversation resuming; the pattern repeating again and again– after so many years of participating in this global movement, I was overwhelmed by its power in a way that I had not been since the first time I watched Stand By Me. The experience occurred to me as a poignant reminder of humanity’s desire for connection. And that just as translators make it possible for us to communicate here in Japan, so too can music help unite us all if we choose to listen.


Tomorrow is our first day of recording, and the whole crew is very excited to get under way. I look forward to continuing to share our experiences with the Playing For Change Family all around the world, and encourage you to spread the love and stay engaged.


Oyasumi nasai from Tokyo!

A Day of Location Scouting

Today was our first full day in Japan, and what a great day it was. We are being hosted by a wonderful group of people here in Tokyo that we have been in communication with for many months, and together we have been working very hard to ensure the success of this trip. Today it was fantastic for everyone finally to meet eachother in person. Over the course of many long distance conversations we have been discusing where would be best to film, not to mention all of the production logistics necessary to execute the shoots. This morning we met up with our Japan-based team, hopped in a bus and had the opportunity to scout half a dozen of the locations that we have been discussing together.


It was a long hot day, but it could not have gone better. We visited beautiful gardens and ancient shrines– an amazing juxtaposition against the glass and steel backdrop of modern Tokyo. This city is a beautiful blend of the old and the new, and I know that this unique vibration will resonate powerfully in the music that we find. Everyone’s hard work these past weeks is beginning to pay off, and the whole crew feels great knowing that we have assembled a collection of beautiful locations for our musicians to perform in.


We have another day of preparation ahead of us tomorrow, and then are scheduled to begin filming on Tuesday. Please stay tuned for more updates, photos, and videos yet to come…


Peace and Love from Tokyo!

Welcome to Japan!

After an eleven-hour flight from Los Angeles, the PFC crew has arrived in Tokyo, and we couldn’t be more excited! Narita airport is pretty far outside the city– it will take our bus about an hour and a half to reach Tokyo– but we are in no hurry. The sun has finally set (having departed LA during the day and flown west for so long, we’ve had nearly 24 hours of straight daylight!) and we’re all enjoying the view as the hilly country side passes by. It’s hot and humid, but the evening air streaming in through the bus’s open windows feels wonderful, and is a welcome change from the recirculated air of our flight.

As we continue to drive the landscape is slowly becoming more urban. The road is getting wider, and we are finding ourselves surrounded by more and more cars. Highways merge and cloverleaf off. An elevated train joins the chase. We drive across a beautiful suspension bridge, and suddenly we are in the midst of a massive urban sprawl. What began as a vanguard of brightly lit outlying buildings has now swallowed us, and we are surrounded by cityscape.

Our bus is now slowly wending its way through densely flowing traffic toward our hotel. I am looking forward to a good night’s sleep and an early start tomorrow. We are all excited to get to work on a week of amazing music here in Japan. And we can’t wait to share the experience with you, so stay tuned!

Peace and Love from Tokyo!

Next Stop: Japan!

I am excited to announce that the Playing For Change crew will be leaving for Japan this weekend! We have been hard at work this past year creating new Songs Around the World, and we are very excited to have the opportunity to add Japanese musicains to these tracks. Japan has a unique and beautiful culture, and we know that we are all in for a real treat. And we are looking forward to sharing this experience with the Playing For Change Family!

Make sure to keep checking the website, facebook, twitter, and flickr, as we’ll be posting updates daily! We have already lined up some amazing musicians for our time in Japan, but we are always on the lookout for more. If you know of any musicians living in Tokyo that you would like to introduce us to, mail us at [email protected], and tell us all about them! Playing For Change is a musical movement built by the world, and we always love to hear from you.

Peace and Love from Los Angeles!