Zakir Hussain performing in the Song Around The World, “King Clavé”
The pre-eminent classical tabla virtuoso of our time, Zakir Hussain, is appreciated both in the field of percussion and in the music world at large as an international phenomenon and one of the world’s most esteemed and influential musicians. The foremost disciple of his father, the legendary Ustad Allarakha, Zakir was a child prodigy who began his professional career at the age of twelve, accompanying India’s greatest classical musicians and dancers and touring internationally with great success by the age of eighteen.
The tabla is the percussion instrument most commonly used in north Indian classical music. The instrument consists of two drums, called bayan (left) and dayan (right) as per the hand they are most commonly played with. The drums consist of a layer of goatskin stretched over a metal or clay vessel.
Zakir Hussain is considered an architect of the contemporary world music movement, collaborating with artists such as Mickey Hart, Belá Fleck, Charles Lloyd, Eric Harland and many more contemporary artists.
As a composer and educator, Zakir has scored for numerous films, major events and productions around India, Europe and the United States. He has also conducted many workshops at Princeton University and Stanford University and received two honorary doctorates from Berklee College of Music and Indira Kala Sangit.
Zakir Hussain named Percussionist of the Year by the 68th DownBeat Critics Poll
What is Hindustani (North Indian) Classical Music?
Hindustani Classical Music, also known as North Indian Classical Music (NICM) is an Indian musical tradition born of the Vedic scriptures from over 6,000 years ago, these scriptures then developed into chants and musical notes, rhythms and variations.
This genre is usually associated with nature and the natural phenomena of seasons, which creates “ragas” or musical moods, and “taals” or cycles. The complexity of this genre is why most of the performances are improvised within the structure of notes and mathematics, creating a spontaneous melody and providing us with a unique moment in every performance.
Why does Indian music sound so different from western music?
A raga or raag (: rāga; also raaga or ragam; literally “coloring, tingeing, dyeing”]) is a melodic framework for improvisation akin to a melodic mode in Indian classical music. The rāga is a unique and central feature of the classical Indian music tradition, and as a result has no direct translation to concepts in classical European music. Each rāga is an array of melodic structures with musical motifs, considered in the Indian tradition to have the ability to “colour the mind” and affect the emotions of the audience.
Don’t miss the master of tabla, Zakir Hussain December 15th, 2021 at Peace Through Music: A Global Event For The Environment.
Follow Zakir Hussain on social media for more updates!
PLAYING FOR CHANGE AND THE UNITED NATIONS ANNOUNCE “PEACE THROUGH MUSIC: A GLOBAL EVENT FOR THE ENVIRONMENT”
FEATURING PERFORMANCES BY BAABA MAAL, BEN HARPER, BLACK PUMAS, GIOVANNI HIDALGO, JACK JOHNSON, JAKE SHIMABUKURO, KEB’ MO’, LINIKER, MICKEY HART, PAULA FUGA, RHIANNON GIDDENS, RODRIGO Y GABRIELA, ROSANNE CASH, SARA BAREILLES, SIKIRU ADEPOJU, SLASH, STEPHEN PERKINS (JANE’S ADDICTION), TAJ MAHAL, THE LUMINEERS, THE POCKET QUEEN, TONY KANAL (NO DOUBT), YUSUF / CAT STEVENS, ZAKIR HUSSAIN …. AND MORE TO BE ANNOUNCED
SPECIAL APPEARANCES BY ROBBIE ROBERTSON, SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH, AND UNFPA’S DR. NATALIA KANEM
Los Angeles, CA — November 9, 2021 — Today, Playing For Change and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) announce Peace Through Music: A Global Event for the Environment,set forDecember 15th. The event will feature more than 200 artists from more than 35 countries, including Black Pumas, Jack Johnson, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Sara Bareilles, Slash, and The Lumineers, together with world leaders and influencers, to join the fight for Planet Earth. The event will be broadcast on December 15th at 6 p.m. PST / 9 p.m. EST (2 a.m. GMT December 16th) on the Playing For Change YouTube channel.
The online event and fundraiser is produced by Playing For Change in partnership with UNFPA, and seeks to unite the world in taking action for a sustainable future and advance progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The harmful effects of human activity on the environment are impacting populations and their ecosystems around the globe, threatening to set back development efforts by decades. Those with the fewest resources and opportunities will be most susceptible, particularly the most vulnerable populations.
Through the universal language of music and the art of storytelling, Peace Through Music: A Global Event for The Environment will raise global awareness and call for real action for environmental sustainability. It will embody the unity and common purpose that beats in the heart of humanity for the protection of our only home: our planet.
Artist performances, Songs Around The World and special documentaries will also capture the beauty and fragility of the environment during the hour-long event.
This year’s event follows the resounding success of 2020’s Peace Through Music: A Global Event for Social Justice, which featured more than 200 musicians — including Aloe Blacc, Annie Lennox, Becky G, Brandi Carlile, Carlos and Cindy Blackman Santana, Gary Clark Jr. and Ringo Star — from more than 40 countries and received 4+ million views, raising more than $1 million for charity partners.
“During this important time in human history, we are honored to continue our partnership with the United Nations for our 2021 Peace Through Music global event for the environment. Through music, we eliminate boundaries, hierarchy, and status. Through stories and ideas, we learn from our Indigenous ancestors how to listen to the rhythm of our planet,” says Mark Johnson, Playing For Change Co-Founder.
“Climate change multiplies existing inequalities and vulnerabilities, disrupts access to life-saving health services and limits people’s ability to exercise their fundamental rights and choices. We know we must work together to achieve real change, and music has the power to unite, energize and inspire us as we confront these challenges together and work towards a better future,” says Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director UNFPA.
“Corning Gorilla Glass is excited to partner with Playing For Change again this year to support their mission of bringing music and unity to the world. We believe that it is essential that we support initiatives that are bigger than all of us and make our environment, our lives better. And, we are thrilled that devices featuring our Gorilla Glass technology are playing a small, yet critical role in this event driving collaboration and connection,”says Scott Forester, Division Vice President, Business Director, Corning® Gorilla® Glass.
For more information about Peace Through Music: A Global Event for the Environment, please visit playingforchange.com.
ABOUT PLAYING FOR CHANGE
Playing For Change (PFC) is a Certified B Corp (Social Purpose Corporation) and multimedia company created to inspire and connect the world through music, born from the shared belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. PFC spreads their positive message for humanity to millions of people through inspiring multicultural music videos, a live global touring band and a 501c3 foundation supporting music education around the world.
ABOUT UNITED NATIONS POPULATION FUND
UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive agency, is one of the organizers of the event. UNFPA’s mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.
ABOUT CORNING® GORILLA® GLASS
Since its launch in 2007, Corning® Gorilla® Glass has been designed into more than 8 billion devices by more than 45 major brands. Throughout the company’s Mobile Consumer Electronics Market-Access Platform, Corning continues its legacy of innovation with market-leading cover glasses, as well as glass and optics for semiconductor products, that enhance performance, deliver new connectivity features, enable new designs, and support immersive user experiences with augmented reality and 3D sensing.
Great talent comes from everywhere, that’s why we are happy to announce a new blog series featuring emerging artists around the globe! Musicians Spotlight gives deeper insight into the lives of some of the most outstanding musicians from around the world.
Discover how music can change lives and unite the world through the stories of these artists!
A tenacious promoter of contemporary Peruvian and Latin American music, Miryam Quiñones has visited more than 22 countries, sharing her music with a strong foundation on the beauty of poetry and the power of words.
How did you discover Playing For Change?
I remember someone posted a video on Facebook like 3 or 4 years ago, it was the year 2017 or 2018 where I participated in PFC Day and I wished to take part because I thought the idea of connecting the world through music sounded beautiful, the idea of celebrating a day where everyone around the world joined in some way through art, music or any other artistic expression, there is also the fact that by doing these activities we help a good and necessary cause, so I got thrilled with the idea.
The spirit that I’ve found on Playing For Change’s proposal is to join and create a universal chain between people and music from every country, color, and language.
How did your passion for music start?
Music has always been part of my home because there was a guitar laying on the corner of our living room that belonged to my father. He played it like a hobby so music became natural for us.
When I was a kid they told me my voice was pretty tuned but we never thought that music would become my way of life because my parents had different plans for me and my brothers, they thought about a more traditional way of living like getting a degree and working in a company or something like that.
Turns out that when I was about to finish high school I discovered Silvio Rodríguez’s songs when my brother was playing his song “Ojalá”. It was at that moment that his music got me hooked! I say it as a joke but it’s true that he got me into the way of creating art with music because that was like a wake-up call for me, it was a new discovery and something so different from what I used to listen to on the radio, or the disks that my brothers used to play, it was like poetry that you could sing and the message was deep and full of reflection, it was like a special type of chant.
After that I went to college to study communications and for my good luck, there was a workshop group for Latin American music where I discovered a lot of singer songwriters that I didn’t know existed. It started as a hobby but soon started to become more necessary for me because I was a really shy girl and I realized that the songs helped me to express myself, they told stories I wanted to share with others but couldn’t express and I felt like that person who lived in another place, in another time, thinks the same way I do, that’s why I started to sing those songs.
It was kind of complicated because of my family’s expectations, they didn’t want me to be an artist but we managed to make a deal where my parents told me to finish my studies, and only then I could make my way through music. I guess they thought it was just a phase but it never passed, so I got my bachelor’s degree as they wanted and I started to dedicate myself to music, beginning a new life, a new career, and new places.
What instruments do you play and which one’s your favorite?
I play the guitar. I’m not an expert guitar player because I think singing is what I’m very good at but I can sing and play without trouble and I can do a full concert by myself, however, I do prefer to sing with more musicians. I also play a few percussion instruments like “cajón Peruano” or the ukulele which I just started playing.
As a musician, what do you think is the most challenging thing about writing and composing a song?
To be an artist (no matter where you are) it’s already complicated, of course, it’s more complicated in some places than in others. Being a “trovador” it’s a lot more challenging because this proposal is not commercial at all, you don’t just reach a lot of people and fill stadiums like Silvio Rodriguez, we move on a smaller circle with fewer people and some of us don’t have the resources to hire someone so we have to do it ourselves. I do that job myself and the career I picked really helped with spreading my work. Sometimes I have to go out looking fresh and rested but something comes up right before I get on stage and I have to take care of that myself.
There’s also a lot of new artists around the world that we haven’t heard of because they haven’t been able to become that popular amongst people, sometimes the public asks me who the author of the song is and I’m happy to share that because it helps to spread the work of my colleagues, that’s why I thought “Musicians Spotlight” was an amazing idea because it helps musicians spread their music around the world and reach more people.
What’s the best experience you’ve had playing on stage?
Definitely one of the best experiences I’ve had was when Silvio Rodriguez invited me to perform at his concert in Lima, Peru. He hasn’t been to Peru in more than 20 years and when my friends and I found out he was going to perform again we immediately got tickets, then suddenly I got an email where he invited me to take part in his concert so of course I accepted! That is what marked my career because at that moment I thought: ”I think I’m heading the right way, this is for me.”
Later I’ve had other amazing guests like Vicente Feliú, we recorded a very special album called Con El Alma en Vilo along with other guests: Jorge Fandermole, Alberto Rojo, Augusto Blanca, and Teresa Parodi. I also have a very emblematic single with Silvio Rodriguez called “El Necio” and of course all of this is very hard work but I feel the reward is worth it in the end.
Do you consider music as a way to connect people? How so?
The magic within this type of music and proposals is that it transcends time and space, it’s a very human feeling and it doesn’t matter whether the song has been composed 50 years ago at the time of Cuban revolution or yesterday, it’s emotion that touches the roots of a person’s life no matter where they are, it helps us understand that each of us has problems, happiness, dreams, hopes and illusions, we fall in and out of love and is that kind of connection that helps people, that is the reason why this music is so powerful, because of the beauty of the message itself. A friend of mine used to say that the ethic and aesthetics of a song have to come together to form a beautiful song and offer sincerity in its words, so you can believe what the artist is saying.
Tell us about your future projects:
I am planning to collaborate with some Peruvian singer songwriters to perform a few local songs, fortunately, I’ve been granted the Bicentennial Seal which is an initiative to support projects that promote Peruvian Independence as a historic event, so recently I made a tribute to the Peruvian Song in the “Museo de América” here in Madrid. I also won the Ibermusicas 2020 contest which led me to make a tour around Argentina. I’m also currently working on musicalized poetry and recently offered two virtual concerts in the Gran Teatro Nacional (in tribute to Chabuca Granda) and the Británico Cultural (contemporary Peruvian songbook).
Want to listen to more of Miryam’s work? Check out her social media:
At the end of May, we chatted with our friend AJ Fountain from folk jam band A Brother’s Fountain who was embarking on a road trip across the Southwest USA with his bandmates in their 1979 RV, performing pop concerts along the way. Read “Music That Fills You Up | Part 1” here. The trip took them across New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah with the mission of reconnecting with each other and spreading the power of music. This trip, called the “Fill Me Up Tour,” was a success and we recently caught up with AJ to learn about the band’s experience…
Walk us through a typical day on the road during your “Fill Me up Tour?”
No two days were the same out on the road as we were often waking up somewhere new. One thing that was really impactful was every day we would start with a morning “devotion”, where someone would lead us into an intentional discussion followed by solo quiet time, and then we would come back and all chat about our experience. It was really powerful to press into intentionality with each other and our friends on the road who joined us. After our morning time we would generally make a plan for the day, where we needed to get to, any gas station shows we would be doing, who’s driving, etc., and then go get after it.
What was your favorite place you visited and why? It’s really hard to say one spot considering the amount of beautiful Southwest America we experienced so I’ll name a few. Flagstaff welcomed us in with open arms, and the high elevation made it a welcome respite from the desert heat. We loved Southeast Utah as well. We got to play a show at a steakhouse in a tiny town called Mexican Hat with a population of 14. Considering about 7 people were there watching us, that’s half the town that showed up! Moab never ceases to take our breath away with the beautiful pink and orange rocks and meandering Colorado River running through it. Northern New Mexico was also a dream, filled with mountains, rushing rivers and friendly people.
What were some of the things you learned that fills people up?
We were able to meet lots of great people along our journey and ask them what filled them up in life. There were some really great answers. People mentioned meeting new people, jamming out and making music, travelling, pressing into relationships, camping and seeing new places. A whole lot of things we couldn’t do during Covid lockdowns. For example we met one guy at a gas station outside of Las Vegas who was 20 years old, quit his retail job in Arkansas and was roadtripping north to Montana to start a new life. He was also a musician and graced us with the most beautiful couple of songs in a gas station parking lot. His answer was fitting in that he was filled up by the freedom to start fresh in life, exploring new and wild places and the ability to keep playing his music.
How were you filled up on this tour?
We were able to participate throughout our tour in a number of things that fill us up in life. We got the opportunity to do things we love like rafting down the Colorado River for four days, going on a 5 day backpacking trip in Zion National Park, and witnessing loads of epic desert vistas camping along the way. We were also filled up by the jams, meeting new people, exploring new places, and pressing into our own friendships. What we found that was interesting is that we can often be filled up the most when we put ourselves in challenging situations.
Were there any challenges that you faced along your journey? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?
O yes, there were plenty of those, as any good adventure should have. We were challenged by the sheer magnitude of 4000 miles of driving in an old 1979 RV throughout a desert with no AC and a loud hot engine constantly humming by our feet. We were also challenged by the concept of playing music for little to no people at gas stations, forcing us to examine if we could get as excited about playing our music without the fans present as we did when they were there. We were also challenged by the daunting task of filming the whole thing. Any time something important was happening we had to be the one’s to get the cameras rolling and in focus as there was no film crew there to assist us. Lastly, living in an RV for a month with a group of guys can be a lot of “life on life” as we say, and very little alone time, so we had to work through relational challenges throughout the journey. Any one of those tasks is a tall order, but doing all of them at the same time was definitely exhausting and pushed us to overcome together in tremendous ways.
One of your hopes for this trip was to grow closer to your best friend’s and bandmates. Was this accomplished and if so, in what ways?
Waking up and going to sleep together every day there was a lot of time in between to press into our friendship in various ways. Whether it was sharing some of the hardest belly laughs at silly situations, or problem solving logistics and relational friction every day. But we’re proud of the way we did it, staying humble, quick to forgive, and always willing to have a laugh. The morning’s intentional times allowed us to talk about what was going on in ‘real life’ back at home and off the road, and we ended up getting very vulnerable with each other, it was incredible. The times we spent together out there were beyond special and we’ll hold them in our hearts the rest of our lives.
What was the greatest highlight of the trip? What did you learn?
I think the greatest highlight of the trip for me was the connections formed with people. Connecting with the friends and family who joined us for various legs, and also the complete strangers who we met along the way who quickly also became like friends and family. We learned that it pays to ask people how they’re truly doing and listen. We learned how to give and take, living on top of each other for so long. Lastly, we learned how to turn on our flashers and wave people around who were interested or able in going faster than we were.
Is there anyone or anything that truly made this trip a success in your eyes?
This trip was a success because of a lot of different people and factors. Without our individual and brand sponsors we couldn’t have pulled this trip off, so a thousand thank you’s to them. I would say the amount of hours we put into planning how this trip could be legendary ahead of departure has to be mentioned as well, without that intentional forethought the trip just wouldn’t have been as epic. Of course having the best friends and bandmates anyone could ever ask for has to be mentioned as a reason for some of the success. Last but not least we have to thank God for the safety, depth and provision he provided throughout the journey.
When will you be releasing the documentary about this trip and where can people watch it?
The release of the Fill Me Up Tour films will likely be in 2022. We’re planning to release them as a series of episodes with a fun vlog style incorporated. You can stay updated on the release by following along on our Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or website.
What’s next for A Brother’s Fountain?
Right now we are working hard to release our third album which we are beyond stoked about. We are also finishing up our Only Music // South Africa film in the next few months so look out for that on the horizon. Of course we’ll get back out somewhere around the world for our next Only Music tour and plan to make it as saucy and spicy as all our last one’s.
Where would you like to see A Brother’s Fountain go on their next adventure? Be sure to follow them on their social media pages to stay updated on this amazing band and see how you can join us all in connecting the world through music. One love!
Music, like history, on its own, is vast and full of surprising stories with unexpected turns and endings. It’s those unplanned and iconic moments that brought us some of the most important figures in music history.
Inspired by a report from the BBC in October 1984, activist and composer Bob Geldof, along with his partner, musician Midge Ure, created a charity Christmas single together named “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” featuring Phil Collins, U2, and Duran Duran along with many other artists with the objective of raising awareness of the Ethiopian famine crisis during the 1980’s which claimed the life of an estimated 1 million people.
However, this collaboration was just the beginning. It wasn’t until the morning of July 13, 1985, that one of the biggest events in the history of rock music would take place. Over two billion people around the world would turn on their TVs to see the live broadcast of Live Aid—a 16 hour musical event held in London and Philadelphia that brought together some of the greatest musicians from the 80’s and raised funds to provide food, medicine, and other vital items for the crisis becoming one of the biggest and most successful charity events in the world.
With a lineup featuring more than 75 artists, including Elton John, Madonna, Carlos Santana, David Bowie, U2, and Eric Clapton, there’s no doubt that many of the viewers hold one specific moment of the show in their hearts, the moment where the legendary icon and frontman of Queen, Freddie Mercury, got on the stage along with Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor for a memorable 20 minute performance.
The quiet noises from the audience were suddenly awakened when Mercury started to play the first notes of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and the stadium filled with singing voices and hands up in the air following the rhythm of “Radio Gaga.” But not only was Queen’s music legacy what made this performance one of the most memorable moments of Live Aid, Mercury’s charisma and creativity were also a living signature in each of Queen’s concerts and this time was no different. Without asking and with a single gesture, Mercury started to vocalize, followed by a perfectly synchronized audience, their voices following the artist’s gestures with an almost perfect pitch.
Without a doubt, Live Aid has proven that music can inspire people to act for a greater cause, reaching every single person in the world and creating a bond between all of us, an unbreakable bond that grows stronger when our hearts come together through the power of music.
Feel the spirit within these songs performed at Live Aid in the style of Playing For Change:
All You Need is Love (The Beatles) | Playing For Change
Imagine (John Lennon) | Playing For Change
Also, check out this playlist with the best rock jams from PFC:
The Weight | Featuring Ringo Starr and Robbie Robertson | Playing For Change
Listen to the Music feat. Tom Johnston (The Doobie Brothers) | Playing For Change
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door | Afro Fiesta w/Twanguero & I-Taweh | Playing For Change
Higher Ground 2020 (Stevie Wonder) | Playing For Change
The River | Citizen Cope | Playing For Change
Barre | Songhoy Blues | Playing For Change
The Times They Are A-Changin’ | Brandi Carlile w/Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) | Playing For Change
Black Water | The Doobie Brothers w/PFC Band Live in Los Angeles | Playing For Change
On July 1st, Jamaican strategist and organizer Andrea Davis founded “International Reggae Day™” with the purpose of celebrating the best of Jamaica’s musical creativity, uniting the reggae community around the world in one day.
Reggae Day was inspired by Winnie Mandela’s speech in Kingston, Jamaica in 1992 in which she admired the genre’s capacity to encourage, inspire and unite people.
Ever since its origins, reggae has been a huge influence in Jamaica’s cultural and musical roots mixing African and European instruments like guitar, bongo, and banjo, creating the foundations for the genre and inspiring others to follow the philosophy of Rastafari culture, giving birth to iconic figures like Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, Toots & The Maytals, among others.
We invite you to celebrate this day with this special playlist from our PFC musicians:
Mr. Bobby | Afro Fiesta featuring I-Taweh | Playing For Change | Live Outside
This month we reconnected with AJ Fountain from the Colorado based folk jam band A Brother’s Fountain to talk about the next installment of their Only Music series — a collection of experiments involving the power of music. We last spoke to AJ and the band in 2019 when they went on a musical expedition to South Africa with no money, food, or outside support whatsoever. All they had were their instruments, the clothes on their back, and an unbreakable spirit and determination to put the power of music to the test. They even stopped by the Playing For Change Foundation’s Imvula Music Program in Gugulethu along the way. Check out more about that trip here.
The Fill Me Up Tour
This next installment of the band’s Only music series is called the “Fill Me Up Tour” which will take the band on a road trip into the Southwest USA from May 7th until June 5th, 2021.
What fills you up? This is a question we asked ourselves after a long and lonely road that COVID-19 put us all through. Now, the world is opening back up, and we want to be filled back up, and know there are many who could also use a pick-me-up. This road trip will be filled with all of our favorite people (insert: best friends, strangers), activities (insert: climbing, rafting, backpacking, camping, busking), and some good old fashioned spontaneity (insert: costumes, random acts of kindness, pranks).
-AJ Fountain, A Brother’s Fountain
What’s the purpose of the “Fill Me Up Tour?”
The concept was based on the premise of us wanting to explore our friendship in an intentional way and in the 1979 RV we had bought. We didn’t really want to pursue this trip in the traditional tour sense, with gigs lined up, so we had the crazy idea to play a pop up show every time we would need to get gas for our rig we affectionately call Ole’ Boy Georgie. All along the way asking ourselves and others what actually fills us up in life? And furthermore, are we actually filled up right now, because we found a lot of us are a little off with the Covid epidemic happening across the world.
How did you come up with that name?
It was the perfect mix of what we actually had to do, loads of fill ups on our 28 foot gas guzzler, and what we wanted to ask ourselves and others, what fills us up in life?
Why did you all decide to take this tour across the Southwest USA?
The Southwest USA was the perfect spot for us on this trip because we are at least vaguely acquainted with some of the areas after having lived in Colorado for 10+ years and taking voyages to explore the surrounding states. We knew a bit of the epicness of places like Zion, Taos, the Grand Canyon, and Flagstaff, and were eager to explore more.
Where in the Southwest USA will you be traveling?
The trip is mostly outdoor recreation based as this is what we love. We’re hitting New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. So cities like Taos, Santa Fe, Flagstaff, and Moab. Basing our destinations largely around the most accessible places for our rig, and great places to camp, hike, backpack, raft and climb.
How will you decide where to stop to participate in activities and/or perform a pop-up concert?
We have an approximate itinerary that details all of the stops we’d like to hit and how many miles we need to go on each day, but we are definitely looking to stay open to opportunities to busk on the streets, play in local establishments, or jam with other musicians, in addition to our pop up concert at every gas station stop. Also trying to leave ample time for stops to see various vistas and roadside attractions.
What instruments will you be bringing?
We have our Ovation guitar and bass which are durable and awesome. A djembe, briefcase kick drum, and whatever instrument the different bandmates bring as they come for different portions, which will include a banjo, mandolin, saxophone and cello. We will do one battery powered amp for the bass, but the rest acoustic at the gas station concerts.
What do you hope to take away from this tour?
I’d like to stay open to what all could be learned from the journey, but foundationally I’d like to grow closer with my best friends and bandmates, play music for people pumping their gas and try to brighten their day a bit, and explore the beautiful landscapes and nature we are blessed with in Southwest USA.
PFC Communications Director and Producer J. Marie Jones caught up with Rocky after his visit to learn a bit about his trip:
J. Marie: What inspired you to visit the students at the Bizung School?
Rocky: I have always wanted to visit the Playing For Change Bizung School in Tamale because I am also from the northern part of Ghana. My collaborations with Playing For Change made it something that I needed to eventually do. I had travelled to my native village of Bunbon while on my way back the opportunity came for me to meet up with Alidu Muhammed and visit the school while doing press in Tamale for my new EP “Voice of Bunbon, Vol. 1”
J. Marie: Did you perform for and/or with the students? If so, what songs?
Rocky: I got the opportunity to listen to the student showcase some of their original compositions which are based on indigenous local styles. I then collaborated in a jam session with the students which was wonderful.
J. Marie: Please describe your experience at the school?
Rocky: I was very impressed by the dedication of the students. I had the rare opportunity of having a deep conversation with them about the trials of choosing music as a life path especially in such a musically conservative environment. I also shared with them my own personal stories and how I overcame similar situations with the sheer force of my determination, dedication and love of music.
J. Marie: What was the highlight of your visit at the school?
Rocky: The highlight of my visit to Bizung School was when I jumped on percussion and started jamming with all of the students who were playing xylophones along with Alidu Muhammed on percussion. We created a beautiful piece together.
J. Marie: Why is it important to share music with the younger generations?
Rocky: Music is an important tool to create generational connection. Music also allows the transference and sharing of ideas. Ultimately, music serves as a tool to inspire all of us to be better at what we do.
All of us here at Playing For Change and our partners at the Playing For Change Foundation want to send a big THANK YOU to Rocky and his manager Cary for making this possible. The community at the Bizung School will cherish this day for years to come! To find out how you can support music schools and programs such as the Bizung School, please visit playingforchange.org.
Luke Winslow-King and Roberto Luti are reuniting for a special online event on April 10th that will feature special guests from around the world. The show, titled “United,” will celebrate Luke and Roberto’s return to the stage after the musical dry spell that was 2020.
In speaking about the online event, Luke says, “Roberto Luti and I are finally back playing live music again and are super excited to present this one-time, livestream event.” He continues, “Roberto and I are coming back to the stage with renewed appreciation, tons of new music, and feel privileged to partake in the live music experience with you once again. Very few people are able to attend our limited capacity tour here in Spain; and with the shows sold out, we thought it would be best to bring the show to you live and direct!”
This event will be a high definition, multi-camera broadcast brought to you in partnership with Playing For Change. Luke and Roberto are determined to deliver a high-energy performance celebrating the coming renaissance of live music culture. The show will air on April 10th at 9pm CET/3pm EST; and will include performances from special guests, who will be announced in the coming weeks – bringing their talents from across the globe.
Luke Winslow-King is a New Orleans-based guitarist, singer, producer, and songwriter. His work is an eclectic mix that combines Mississippi delta blues, folk music, traditional jazz, and roots rock & roll. His alchemical songs blend contemporary ideas with styles from bygone eras producing a sound that is rustic and urbane, elegant and entirely his own. Luke and Roberto Luti, fronting member of the Playing For Change band, met back in 2002 in New Orleans, and have been writing, touring, and recording together for more than a dozen years.
Each year, March 8th is designated as International Women’s Day, a day that we celebrate and honor women all over the world but also bring women’s rights to the forefront and rally for gender equality. This day has been celebrated throughout the world on various dates for more than a century with the first United Nations’ celebration taking place in 1975—International Women’s Year. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to officially recognize the day.
This year’s theme, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” aligns with the UN Women’s Generation Equality Campaign which, according the the UN Women website, “calls for women’s right to decision-making in all areas of life, equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end all forms of violence against women and girls, and health-care services that respond to their needs.”
Women’s rights are human rights so the responsibility to bring about change lies with all of us. Playing For Change stands with our sisters all around the world as we work together to create an equal and just future for women and girls. Will you join us?
She is Woman Enough
In honor of women everywhere, we’re proud to share a new song from our friend and PFC Band member Vasti Jackson—”She is Woman Enough.” Vasti’s recent visit to Rwanda inspired him to collaborate with locals, international musicians, and singers across the world in an effort to highlight the beauty and culture of Africa—”She is Woman Enough” is a result of that collaboration. The song features Vasti surrounded by a global cast of women including Keiko Komaki on piano, Claire Finley on bass, and Maya Kyles on drums and is part of a larger project to support girls’ education and empowerment across Africa and beyond.
Vasti gives a special dedication to his mother for being one of his inspirations for the song. “My Mother, like many Mothers across the globe, are our first source of inspiration, and extraordinary human beings, that are the true definition of ‘She is Women Enough,'” says Vasti. “They instill in us, a believe that we are more than enough to achieve anything in life we sincerely pursue.” He dedicates the song to women all across the globe and encourages men to “let the song be a reminder to be thankful, protective, and supportive to our daughters, sisters, girlfriends, mothers, and wives.”
Los Angeles, CA — February 12, 2021 — Playing For Change is proud to announce the release of its latest Song Around The World, “Biko,” a remake of the 1980 classic by English rock and roll hall of fame musician Peter Gabriel. The song and video, produced by Sebastian Robertson and Mark Johnson, features Peter Gabriel joined by Beninese vocalist and activist Angélique Kidjo, Silkroad’s Yo-Yo Ma, bass legend Meshell Ndegeocello and more than 25 musicians from seven countries including South Africa, India,Spain and the USA. The video will stream exclusively on RollingStone.com for 24 hours beginning Friday, February 12th at 10 a.m. EST, followed by a release on the Playing For Change website at 11 a.m. EST on Saturday, February 13th—Peter Gabriel’s birthday.
“Biko” Song Around The World first premiered in December 2020 as part of Peace Through Music: A Global Event for Social Justice, a virtual concert and fundraising event organized by Playing For Change in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund in honor of the United Nations 75th anniversary. The moving performance was introduced by Nkosinathi Biko, son of the deceased anti-apartheid activist and subject of the song Steve Biko. Peace Through Music, produced by Playing For Change, Sebastian Robertson and Blackbird Presents, featured more than 200 musicians including Aloe Blacc, Annie Lennox, Becky G, Brandi Carlile with Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, Carlos Santana and Cindy Blackman Santana, Gary Clark Jr., Jack Johnson, Jim James, Keb’ Mo’, Keith Richards, Mavis Staples, Nathaniel Rateliff, Rhiannon Giddens, Ringo Starr, Robbie Robertson, Robert Randolph, Run The Jewels with Josh Homme, Sheila E., Skip Marley and Cedella Marley, and The War and Treaty.
“This song is as relevant today as the day it was written and inspires our need for racial and social justice,” says Mark Johnson, Playing For Change co-founder and producer. “Once we all join together as a planet, there’s nothing we can’t overcome.”
FULL SONG CREDITS: Angélique Kidjo (Benin), Dynamic Music Collective (USA), Peter Gabriel (UK), Jason Tamba (Congo), Meshell Ndegeocello (USA), Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (USA), Sebastian Robertson (USA), Silkroad (USA), Silkroad’s Cristina Pato (Spain), Silkroad’s Yo-Yo Ma (USA), TAIKOPROJECT (USA), The Cape Town Ensemble (South Africa), Tushar Lall (India)
About Playing For Change
Playing For Change (PFC) is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music, born from the shared belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. PFC spreads their positive message for humanity to millions of people through inspiring multicultural music videos, a live global touring band and a 501c3 foundation supporting music education around the world. Learn more at https://www.playingforchange.com/
About Sebastian Robertson
Sebastian Robertson is a producer and composer. In partnership with Playing For Change he produced “The Weight” Around the World which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). In 2020, he was Executive Producer of Peace Through Music: A Global Event For Social Justice in celebration of the United Nations 75th Anniversary. As a composer, he recently worked on Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, the blockbuster video game Cyberpunk 2077 and has written theme songs for network TV and major ad campaigns. He owns and operates Sonic Beat Records, a premium production music label under the Universal Music umbrella.
Today marks the 76th birthday of a musical legend and one of our heroes, Bob Marley. Through his music, with songs such as “One Love,” “Three Little Birds,” and “Get Up Stand Up,” he gave millions of people around the world hope and inspired them to believe in a better tomorrow. Marley’s lyrics shed light on the human condition; speaking of love and unity, but also of suffering. Now, 40 years after his death, the challenges of the human condition still exist and are very much prevalent in today’s society—one of the reasons his music is and will remain timeless.
“Bob Marley is one of the greatest musicians in the world and has the great ability to inspire people in every race, culture and economic status.”
-Mark Johnson, PFC producer and co-founder
Check out our Bob Marley playlist featuring Playing For Change versions of some of his most loved songs:
As we celebrate Black History Month, we’d like to honor the many contributions people of African descent have made to music and our world. Playing For Change has covered many classic songs written and/or performed by some of the leading black artists throughout the generations, here’s a few:
“Stand By Me”
Written and originally performed by Ben E. King
“A Change is Gonna Come”
Written and originally performed by Sam Cooke
“I’d Rather Go Blind”
Written by Ellington Jordan, Billy Foster and Etta James. Originally performed buy Etta James
Written and originally performed by Buddy Guy
Written and originally performed by Son House
“Talkin’ Bout a Revolution”
Written and originally performed by Tracy Chapman
Written by Sylvester Stewart aka Sly Stone and originally performed by Sly & The Family Stone
Written and originally performed by Kool & The Gang
Written by Jerry Ragovoy, Miriam Makeba and Edgardo Franco. Originally performed by Miriam Makeba. ***This version is a medley and also includes the songs “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by George Weiss/Solomon Linda and “Sebaka Nyana” by Malaika***
“Lean on Me”
Written and originally performed by Bill Withers
“Don’t Worry Be Happy”
Written and originally performed by Bobby McGerrin
“What’s Going On”
Written by Renaldo Benson, Al Cleveland and Marvin Gaye. Originally performed by Marvin Gaye.
In honor of the United Nations’ 75th Anniversary and GivingTuesday, Playing For Change and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) are thrilled to announce Peace Through Music: A Global Event for Social Justice, produced by Playing For Change and Blackbird Presents, exclusively on Facebook Live for 48 hours. The event will then be streamed on demand on the Playing For Change YouTube channel in honor of Human Rights Day on December 10th and will be available until December 31st.
The global virtual event will inspire people to act for peace, justice and equity, everywhere and for everyone. It will feature performances from some of the world’s most iconic artists, including: Aloe Blacc, Angélique Kidjo, Annie Lennox, Becky G, Brandi Carlile with Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, Carlos Santana and Cindy Blackman Santana, Gabi Melim, Gary Clark Jr., Jack Johnson, Jim James, Keb’ Mo’, Keith Richards, Mavis Staples, Nathaniel Rateliff, Peter Gabriel, Rhiannon Giddens, Ringo Starr, Robbie Robertson, Robert Randolph, Run The Jewels with Josh Homme, Sheila E., Skip Marley and Cedella Marley, The War and Treaty, Yo-Yo Ma and many more. Special appearances include Billie Eilish, Ellie Goulding, Killer Mike, Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird, Norman Lear, Prince Ea and Sara Bareilles.
Through the universal language of music and the art of storytelling, the event will call for equality, human rights, and an end to discrimination, spotlighting people of African descent and championing the full protection and promotion of human rights for all. It will embody the unity and common purpose that beat in the heart of humanity.
“We are stronger together than we are apart, and it is an honor to partner with like-minded artists and charities that echo this sentiment. The power of music is one tool we can use to unite and eradicate racism, inequality, poverty, and all other diseases that have plagued our world for much too long. The things in life that divide us, disappear when the music plays, and that’s something we hope you see and feel during this event,” says Mark Johnson, Playing For Change Co-Founder.
“Music is a wonderful medium to raise awareness about our collective quest for peace, justice, equality and dignity – the noble ideals of the United Nations. It is a powerful, unifying language that can help build bridges and advance social justice in all of its forms,” says Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund.
“We need to rediscover and reassert the language of our unity, of our common fears and common hopes, forged through the crucible of the pandemic. And what better example is there of a common language beyond our differences, notwithstanding our divisions, than music? We are delighted to be a part of this exciting event, advocating for social justice, and in honor of UN75,” says Fabrizio Hochschild, Special Adviser on the Preparations for the Commemoration of the United Nations’ 75th Anniversary.
“We are honored to work with artists and organizations that share in the values of peace, justice, and equality for all humans. This event is a reflection of these values at a time when they are sorely needed in this world,” says Keith Wortman, Founder, and CEO of Blackbird Presents.
“We’re proud to collaborate with Playing for Change and UNFPA on this exciting event,” said Scott Forester, Division Vice President, Business Director, Corning® Gorilla® Glass. “Over the last two years, the Gorilla Glass business’ relationship with Playing For Change has showcased the importance of music as a universal language and helps unite us as a global community. In today’s digital life, music is shared, and even created through our mobile devices – which is why we at Corning are excited that Gorilla Glass technology can play a small but important role in helping to protect our devices and ensuring that we stay connected to one another.”
“For over 100 years we have been inspiring, supporting and engaging with musicians across all generations, genres and nations, but it feels like the world needs music now more than ever to bring us together,” says James “JC” Curleigh, Presidentand CEO of Gibson. “The opportunity for us to partner with Playing For Change will create a compelling music movement around the world.”
Abdiel Pérez, Abiodun Oyewole (The Last Poets), Afro Fiesta, Ahmed Al Harmi, Al Harban Brothers, Alceu Maia, Alcione, Alfred Howard (US), Ali Boulala, Aloe Blacc, Amin Dominguez, Amina J. Mohammed (UN), Ana Carolina Pitti, André Siqueira, Andreus Valdés Torres, Angélique Kidjo, Annie Lennox, Armando Chiari, Azueï, Barou Sall, Becky G, Béla Fleck, Bernardo Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann (Grateful Dead), Bill Summers, Billie Eilish, Binho, Bizung Family Band, Brandi Carlile with Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, Candombe Drum Group, Carl C-Wyya Edwards, Carlinhos 7 Cordas, Carlos Amaya, Carlos Santana and Cindy Blackman Santana, Cesar Pope, Chandrajit, Chango Spasiuk, Char, Cheikh Gueye, Chouloute Minouche, Cizinho Jorge, Clarence Bekker, Congo Drums, Cory Henry, Courtney “Bam” Diedrick, Cristina Pato, Damaso Meléndez, Danny Glover, David Casséus, Debora Do Santos, Dianelys Vázquez, Dimitri Dolganov, Dina Elwebidi, Diógenes Villanueva, Django Degen, Donald Harrison and Congo Square Nation, Dr. John, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Dudu Nobre, Dynamic Music Collective, Eduin Valdés Hernández, EduMundo and Caveman, Elián De Hoyos, Elianys de Hoyos, Ellie Goulding, Elsa Molinar, Epsy Campbell Barr, Erubide Arias, Estefani Moreno, Estevenson Padilla Valdés, Eyadou Ag Leche, Fabián Miodownik, Fabrizio Hochschild-Drummond, Fernando Caballero, Fernando “Lobo” Núñez, Francois Viguie, Gabi Melim, Gary Clark Jr., George Porter Jr., Geraldo & Dionisio, Gilberto Muñoz, Grandpa Elliott, Guardians Of The New Fire, Guimel Jimenez, Gustavo Montemurro, Heraldo De Hoyos, Hiromitsu Agatsuma, Hugo Soares, Hutch Hutchinson, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, Ibram X. Kendi, Ignacio Mateu, Iluska Quiñones, Ivan Neville, Jack Johnson, Jaguara, Jairo Esquina, Jamal Murray, James Vergneau aka Rebel Layonn, Jason Tamba, Javoci Do Imperio, Jeanine Gall, Jim James, Joao Viana, John Cruz, John Prine, John Herno, Jorge Jiménez, Jorge Williams, José Luis “Bocha” Martínez, José Valdés Terán, Julieta Rada, Junior Kissangwa Mbouta, Karl Perazzo, Kasha Sequoia Slavner, Keb’ Mo’, Keiko Komaki, Keiler Valdés Herrera, Keith Richards, Killer Mike, Kolgate, La Escuelita del Ritmo, Larkin Poe, Lee Oskar, Lindomar Fraga, Los hijos de Benkos, Louis Mhlanga, Lucas Pietro, Lucila Rada, Luis Carlos Cassiani Simarra, Luiz Augusto, Luiz Otavio, Lukas Nelson, Lurielys Albert, Mamadou Sarr, Mambueni Bisalu, Manuel Betegón, Manuel Pérez Salinas, Marcelo Blanco, Marcus King, Marfa Kurakina, Mark Johnson, Mary Ann Ortiz, Massamba Diop, Mateo, Matias Rada, Mbonda Tempelo, Mavis Staples, Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird, Mermans Mosengo, Meshell Ndegeocello, Mestra Joana Cavalcante, Michelle Bachelet, Mickey Hart (Grateful Dead), MishCatt, Mohammed Alidu, Nasreen Sheikh, Natalia Kanem (UNFPA), Nathaniel Rateliff, Nayelis Boltier, Nelson Cedres, Nelson Rangel, Nielson Do Tamborim, Nikki Burt, Noé Núñez, Norm, Norman Lear, Ousseynou and Assane Kaba, Papa Lusamba, “Papi” Felix Garemua, Paulo Heman, Peter Bunetta, Peter Gabriel, Playing For Change Band, Playing For Change Foundation, Pokei Klaas, POPO, Prince Ea, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Rajeev Shrestha, Reggie McBride, Renan Silva, Rhiannon Giddens, Ringo Starr, Robbie Robertson, Robert Randolph, Roberto Luti, Robin Moxey, Roger Ridley, Rubén Rada, Rudson Daniel and Enio Taquari, Rui Dinis, Run The Jewels with Josh Homme, Sanjay Shrestha, Santiago Luzacando, Sara Bareilles, Sean “Pow” Diedrick, Sebastian Robertson, Sexteto Tabala, Sheila E., Shemekia Copeland, Sherieta Lewis and Roselyn Williams, Silkroad, Sinamuva, Skip Marley and Cedella Marley, Sol Homar, Songhoy Blues, Stefano Tomaselli, Taikoproject, Taimane, Tal Wilkenfeld, Tatiana Muñoz, The Cape Town Ensemble, The War and Treaty, Tia Vilma, Tito Puente Jr., Toumani Diabaté, TP OK Jazz, Tuca Da Cuica, Tula Ben Ari, Tushar Lall, Twanguero, Twin Eagle Drum Group, Venkat, Victor Gabriel Castro, Victor Jiménez, Vientos de Cordoba, Vusi Mahlasela, Washboard Chaz, Welele Doubout, Whitney Kroenke Silverstein, Wilbert Valdés Torres, Williams Callender, Yo-Yo Ma, Yu Hatakeyama, ZEPA, Zulu Choir
What are the impacts and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of African descent and their communities?
On Thursday 23 July, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem was joined by government and civil society leaders and other experts to discuss this question in the latest Nairobi Commitments/ICPD25: What’s Next? Global Thought Leadership Conversation. Participants reflected on how we can build a better world, one that breaks the cycle of systemic inequalities and brings us unequivocally toward equal societies, free from discrimination, marginalization and racism.
The virtual moderated event featured music and other performances by people of African descent and the African diaspora and Playing For Change co-founder Mark Johnson joined the conversation to share some exciting news!
Promote the conversation on your social media channels using the hashtags #ICPD25 and #WhatsNext4Women so we can engage a large global audience and continue our march for change.
This February, Matías Medús, a musician, producer, and recording technician from the Alamo Studio in General Roca, Rio Black, Argentina, will set off on a trip in order to record music of the world. Armed with a small recording system, some instruments, and an iPhone 7; Matías will begin his trip in London recording musicians and artists who walk through the world, in towns, villages and large cities.
We chatted with Mati about his upcoming journey:
PFC: What / Who inspired you to travel the world and record/film musicians?
Matías: The greatest source of inspiration is undoubtedly Playing For Change. Showing the world with its huge diversity and finding strength from these differences to convey a single message through music is really wonderful. On the other hand, having traveled several places and having met such wonderful musicians with stories so incredible, it motivates me to go to meet them, and with my other passion of recording and producing, I hope to share these melodies and stories that ring around the world.
PFC: How long will you travel and what countries/places will you be visiting?
Matías: The first few months I’ll be in the UK, Iceland, and Scandinavia, and will plan the trip from there as I go. The trips are constant movements in every way. I’ll let the music and finding people guide the way to go. Similarly, in relation to the duration, there’s no scheduled time.
PFC: Why did you choose London as the first location?
Matías: London is a wonderful place for artistic life. It is a fundamental step for nomadic musicians from the world and has an incredible musical history with its streets, bars, and corners. I certainly find in the streets and scenes big stories that deserve to be shared with the world.
PFC: What does “Playing For Change” mean to you?
Matías: Playing For Change is an absolute inspiration. When you think about it, it is a wonderful proposal, but when we move a little in this world, this message and this work is really an invitation to be part of that philosophy of life, that way of living music, traveling and meeting other people, whether musicians or not. Knowing Playing For Change allowed me to dream of my own project, which is “Music Wanderer,” and inspired me to go out to the world to record those great unknown musicians who have so much to say in their songs.
PFC: Day 1 upon arrival, where do you go?
Matías: On the street. That will be the first look at the nomadic artistic community in London. I am also mindful to explore different scenarios and social networks that will be of great help to know the proper motion of the places where the musicians are moving.
PFC: How do you plan to meet new people?
Matías: There is no recipe to meet people. It’s about being open-minded and letting our spirit enable us to add new stories to ourselves. Music does not need translation dictionaries or large presentations. It flows and I hope my instruments, recording equipment and my desire to meet the music of the world are a door to know the people I need to know in order to make this truly enriching musical adventure and both my music. My project, “Music Wanderer,” taps into all musicians who want or have something to tell from his melodies.
PFC: What will make this trip a success in your eyes? What do you hope to accomplish?
Matías: Success is everchanging. “Music Wanderer” is the engine and the cornerstone of this journey around the world to make a real connection with other musicians and their stories. To show this through recordings is the big goal.
“The global unity in the Playing For Change concept is phenomenal.Collaboration in music is everything and this is the epitome of that.”
– Robbie Robertson
In honor of it’s 50th anniversary, Playing For Change has partnered with Cambria® to bring you The Weight, our newest Song Around The World, featuring Robbie Robertson of The Band. Released in 1968, the song was written by Robertson, and has since survived the decades as an uplifting and uniting classic, engrained in our global musical history. The Weight is a song that reminds us of our humanity, connects us in our individual struggles, and teaches us to be kind to one another. With lessons like these, we learn that we are one human race, connected through music, and that we are all alike in our hardships we face.
This Song Around The World is dedicated to The Band, with special thanks to its members; Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, and Robbie Robertson.
To help us celebrate this monumental moment for The Weight, we recorded musicians from all over to share their weight with the world. The video features longtime greats like Ringo Starr and Robbie Robertson himself, PFC’s own Roberto Luti, Keiko Komaki, Mermans Mosengo, and Robin Moxey. Additionally, we’re thrilled to welcome both old and new faces alike, including John Cruz and Lukas Nelson.
The humble son of Willie Nelson, Lukas is a soulful and inspiring country artist as well as the latest musician to join us in the movement to bring peace through music. Recently, we met with him in Venice, CA to record this song.
While new to the movement, Lukas has continually done his part in breathing new life into timeless songs from our past. In collaborating with Playing For Change, he had this to say about the power of music and the people who listen:
“I’m honored to be a part of this community of good humans doing good things… music is a connecting force that spans cultures and brings them together .. may we continue to learn about each other through the rhythms and the notes we play.”
– Lukas Nelson
Great songs can travel everywhere bridging what divides us and inspiring us to see how easily we all get along when the music plays. Spanning 5 continents, this song is yet another example of the special connection we all share through music, and the seamless way in which we can unite across borders and barriers that stand between us.
Special thanks to our partner Cambria® for helping to make this possible and to Robbie Robertson, Ringo Starr and all the musicians for joining us in celebrating 50 years of this classic song.
Playing For Change has been recognized as a Best For The World honoree in the following categories: Overall, Changemakers and Community. This annual honor is given to Certified B Corps that rank in the top 10% for their positive societal and environmental impact.
“We’re incredibly proud of this year’s Best For The World honorees,” says Anthea Kelsick, Chief Marketing Officer of B Lab. “These inspiring companies represent the kinds of business models and impact-drive, business strategies that are building a new economy—one that is inclusive, regenerative, and delivers value to all stakeholders, not just shareholders. To that end, B Corps like Playing For Change are redefining capitalism and showing that it actually can work for everyone.”
Thank you to our extended PFC Family for your support as we continue to use business as a force for good!
On June 11th, Playing For Change co-founders Whitney Kroenke and Mark Johnson accepted Sweden’s Polar Music Prize alongside hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash and German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm.
Polar Music Prize
Regarded as one of the foremost honors throughout the international music community, the Polar Music Prize is bestowed annually to influential individuals, artists, and organizations who break down musical boundaries and bring together people from all the different worlds of music. First awarded to Sir Paul McCartney in 1992, there have since been more than 50 laureates, including such greats as Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, B.B. King, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and many more. Laureates from a wide range of countries, cultures, and continents have received the Prize in Stockholm from the hand of His Majesty, King Carl XVI Gustaf.
According to the Polar Music website, the prize is “awarded for significant achievements in music and/or musical activity, or for achievements which are found to be of great potential importance for music or musical activity, and it shall be referable to all fields within or closely connected with music”. This qualification has taken many forms, from rewarding individuals for outstanding musical innovation, to acknowledging significant careers in music and performance within local, national, and global communities, as well as honoring those for their service to humanity in leading positive change through music.
Each year, the Polar Music Prize Committee organizes the event in coordination with Sweden’s Royal Family, hosting various live performances, onstage “Polar Talks” with each of the Laureates, a red (pink) carpet and banquet, award ceremony, and additional pre and post-ceremony celebrations.
In their acceptance speech for the Polar Music Prize, Whitney said:
“Everyone here knows the power of music. That it can not only heal, but motivate. That it can not only give opportunity, but lift us out of that which holds us down. We see it every single day in the work we do with Playing For Change. By using their culture, their community, and their own history to strengthen next generations and build success and happiness. All it takes is music. All it takes is one spark.”
To view their full acceptance speech, click below.
Playing For Change
For Whitney Kroenke and Mark Johnson, the honor of accepting the Polar Music Prize on behalf of the Playing For Change Movement cannot be understated. Yet, to them, the accomplishment goes far beyond their work as co-founders, and is a reflection of the worldwide support and appreciation that has fueled the organization for the past 15 plus, years. Playing For Change could not have become what it has without the generosity of thousands of musicians, the dedication from countless individuals and partners, and the belief from millions of human beings around the world that we are all connected through music.
In speaking with the co-founders about the Polar Music Prize award and ceremony, they had this to say.
Whitney: To have a music movement, a music project, honored alongside heroes of ours that inspired us and Playing For Change was really, really humbling…. to me it means that the “small” musicians are being seen and heard, and being recognized, and that is SO exciting because it means people are paying attention to each other!
Mark:I felt proud for all the people and communities who have worked so hard to support our project around the world and I was especially honored for PFC to be in the company of so many legends and musicians who have inspired us in so many ways.
Are there any notable past laureates that you are honored to share the stage with?
Mark: So many of my musical heroes are included, too many to list but my new favorite is Grandmaster Flash!
Whitney: YES!!! All of them! But I was especially blown away by being in the company of Bruce Springsteen—I’m a huge fan!
What does the Polar Music Prize mean to you?
Mark: During our first trip recording and filming street musicians in New Orleans back in 2001 we met a percussionist named R1 who told us “Music gets to the sentiment behind the words…” and I always loved that perspective of music as a window into something deeper. The Polar Prize is similar as they are recognizing the sentiment behind the process of making music and spreading music education. It explores a deeper understanding of where we are coming from and where we are going with Playing For Change.
Can you describe what took place at the ceremony in Sweden?
Whitney: It was incredible! First, we walked the Polar Prize “red (it was pink this year!) carpet outside the Grand Hotel. Upon entering, we were ushered to a room for private cocktails where we met the Swedish Royal Family. After the pre-ceremony cocktails, we were escorted into the theater, where we were seated in the front row along with Grandmaster Flash and Anne-Sophie Mutter (the other laureates). The awards ceremony took place, a video of our work was shown and then we accepted the award for PFCF on behalf of all of the musicians, staff, program coordinators, friends who have been a part of our work for the past 18 years. It was extremely emotional, and very surreal, to accept this award from the King of Sweden! And in a room filled with such a rapt, passionate audience.
As an organization dedicated to changing lives and connecting the world through music, how do you hope to double down on your mission following this international achievement?
Mark: Fortunately for us Playing For Change was always a combination of a big global idea combined with a mission to make deeper personal connections and focus on one person, one child at a time…This rhythm gives us a chance to expand what is working and continue to grow our project while also maintaining deep personal connections with everyone we meet along the way.
How will the Polar Music Prize award support the Playing For Change Foundation and organization as a whole in the years to come?
Whitney: Well, first of all, the cash award of 100K is going to be a massive help in sustaining our current programs. We are excited to put the award funds to work immediately to guarantee that the work we have been doing in each program will be continued through the next several years. We will also be using the international platform of the Polar Prize to leverage new relationships into expanding our reach globally.
To Mark and Whitney, thank you for your years of dedication to Playing For Change. To all those who love and support the Playing For Change Movement, thank you for helping to make their dream a reality for all of us.
In April, the members of the Playing For Change Band made their 6th appearance at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in Australia. This was the festival’s 30th year anniversary, and it featured a lineup of renowned world musicians such as Iggy Pop, Norah Jones, George Clinton, Mavis Staples, and Gary Clark Jr., as well as some PFC favorites like Jack Johnson, Keb’ Mo’, and Larkin Poe.
Byron Bay Bluesfest
From humble beginnings, the Byron Bay Bluesfest has grown to become one of the world’s largest venues for live blues music. The festival has attracted international attention by featuring some of the biggest names in music, routinely drawing in global audiences numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
In the past, Bluesfest has been headlined by the likes of Bob Dylan, BB King, John Mayer, John Legend, Angélique Kidjo, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, and many more outstanding artists. It has also led rise to the annual Boomerang Festival, a ground-breaking Indigenous arts festival for all Australians featuring an array of music, dance, theatre, comedy, and film, all to celebrate the heritage of first nations people.
As the Byron Bay Bluesfest continues to grow, its yearly celebrations of music, culture, and community have grown far beyond their blues, jazz, and roots beginnings, becoming a world stage home to Australia.
Playing For Change Band
For the past 6 years, the PFC Band has been honored to connect with international audiences on one of Australia’s greatest stages. Although the band has seen many new faces and friends throughout the years, the mission to “connect the world through music” has always remained the same.
With Titi and Tula, Mermans and Tamba, Keiko, Roberto, Robin, Chantz, and more, the band was in full swing by the time they arrived in Byron Bay, having just played together in Bahrain a few weeks prior. They also managed to play a second show while in Sydney that same weekend, sharing the music with as many people as they could.
At the heart and soul of the PFC Band, we were overjoyed to see Grandpa Elliott make his way down under, gracing the Australian audiences with his profound bellowing voice and uplifting harmonica chimes.
In anticipation for the band’s 6th appearance at the Byron Bay Bluesfest, organizers wrote:
“Playing for Change is back to share their powerful live performance with everyone at Bluesfest this Easter 2019. The unique fusion of influences and music from more than seven countries allows for an extremely special performance. United in purpose and in chorus, everyone is touched by music’s unifying power!“
“I’m honored to have documented these lands before their metamorphosis and grateful to the island and its people for having shared and continuing to share so much with me.” -Taimane
On May 3, 2018, a catastrophic volcanic event began in the Puna region on the island of Hawaii followed by a massive 6.9 earthquake the next day. In the following days, weeks, and months; an estimated 2,000 Hawaiian residents were forced to evacuate their homes and roughly 700 of those homes were destroyed. Now, one year later, Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso Taimane releases her music video “Earth,” to commemorate this event in support of her fellow Hawaiians.
Filmed in the region affected by the 2018 eruptions shortly before the flows began, “Earth” showcases the island’s natural beauty and brings to the forefront, the inspiration the island and its inhabitants continue to foster. Seeing these beautiful landscapes covered in ash and lava deeply affected Taimane and in June 2018 she performed a free, impromptu concert at the campsite which served as the makeshift home for many who were displaced from their residences.
Taimane wrote the song featured in this video for her theatrical show, Elemental — A Musical and Theatrical Odyssey, which debuted in Oahu in 2016. Taimane brought the show to the Big Island and presented it to a sold-out crowd at the Kahilu Theatre earlier this month.
“Visiting the Big Island for the first time since last June was uplifting,” Taimane said. “I feel a stronger connection to nature there than anywhere else in Hawaii, and the aloha shared by the island’s people never fails to get my attention and put a smile on my face. Whether you’ve been there many times or have yet to visit, the Big Island will leave an indelible mark. I can’t wait to go back!“
From an Iowa farm girl to the Berklee College of Music, and finally beyond as “Lady B”, bass queen of the Florida Keys, Claire Finley has amassed a wealth of experience in her time as a professional musician. Now, she has started a new chapter as lead bassist for the Playing For Change Band, touring in Bahrain, Brazil, and recently arriving in Australia for the upcoming Byron Bay Bluesfest this weekend.
To formally introduce our newest member of the PFC Band, we asked Claire to share her story.
Although a bassist at heart, Lady B’s first connection to music was through the piano, which she started “plunking out melodies” on by the age of four. From then on, Claire made the plunge into performance, practicing-traveling-and-competing her way in classical piano, knocking down 11 consecutive superior ratings by her senior year of high school. Beyond piano, Claire tried her hand at nearly every other instrument and opportunity she could, “playing violin in orchestra, electric bass in jazz band, bass drum in drumline/marching band, French Horn and percussion in concert band and electric guitar“. As a driven musician from a young age, she notes that she has her parents to thank for supporting her ambition and busy schedule.
Picking up the bass in fifth grade, Claire had discovered an entirely new medium for expression through the instrument and began playing in the church band and the middle school jazz band immediately.
“The Bass seemed to give me an outlet that the classical piano didn’t offer. My place in the classical world was about perfection….carefully emulating famous works by renowned composers and being judged on my interpretation of what was notated on the page. Although I had appreciated the meticulous and detail-oriented nature of the style, I knew there was another musical world out there where self-expression was welcomed and encouraged.“
It was only once Claire discovered her love for the bass that she came to the realization that music was going to be her life. She says, “I had finally found an instrument that resonated with my idea that music should be joyful, creative, and fun“. Since then, she has lived a musical life that is just that. She has always gone with where the music takes her, and as of most recently, it has brought her to new countries, new audiences and new experiences in her role with the Playing For Change Band.
When did you first hear about Playing For Change?
I first heard about Playing For Change several years ago, having seen a couple of the viral videos being shared by friends online. However, I didn’t realize these very moving videos were also part of a non-profit to raise money to support the creation and sustainment of music schools around the world. I remember being brought to tears, seeing so many different people from all over the world with different beliefs and cultures coming together to play the same song. A genius idea to promote world peace through music.
How did you eventually get involved with the PFC Band?
I was invited to attend and perform at the wedding celebration of my friend and PFC advocate, Savannah Buffet and her fiancée, Joshua. The special weekend finally came and there were lots of late-night jams with all the musicians in attendance during the celebrations. That’s when I ended up meeting Mark Johnson and Raan Williams and jamming with Robin Moxey, one of the producers and guitarists in the PFC band. We all hit it off immediately and musical magic was in the air!
Five months later, this incredible weekend morphed into the PFC crew coming to Key West, Florida to film and record ME for my very first appearance in a song around the world. I will never forget the feeling I had when we were setting up at my favorite beach with the recording gear and film crew. I felt like this was it…I finally found what I was supposed to be doing with my music. The idea that music is the only international language had always resonated with me…but this was a project that could actually prove visually and sonically that this theory was true.
Is this the largest band you’ve ever been a part of?
The Playing For Change Band is definitely one of the largest musical collaborations I’ve been a part of. While at Berklee, I participated in many performances with large groups but they were always one-off shows for special occasions. The difference from these experiences is that the Playing For Change Band is a family. It’s about creating a foundation of support to continue spreading the word of the movement throughout the world. Being a solid band unit allows us to build on this foundation and learn from each other constantly. Everyone hears and performs music differently. The opportunity to be surrounded by so many talented international musicians, all with different stories to tell, is truly a dream come true.
As an artist who routinely performs with many different groups, is there anything unique/special about the PFC Band that you haven’t experienced anywhere else?
Absolutely. Playing music for such a good cause, using my musical powers for the greater good of humanity, is an amazing feeling. The memories we are able to create while on the road are memories I will cherish forever. Even outside of the music our friendships are strong and we are there for each other. Having the opportunity to hone in on the African, Latin, Reggae, Blues, and other styles of music we play are very exciting. We are all learning together and teach each other. I’m pretty sure Mermans Mosengo knows everyone’s’ parts! If I ever forget or have a hard time with a bass line or rhythm, he is right there showing me the way. I’ve already learned so much in the short time I’ve been in the band!
What’s been the highlight of performing with the band so far, and is there anything that you’re most looking forward to in the coming months/year?
Since I joined PFC in October, I’ve already had the opportunity to travel to two places that I always wanted to go, Brazil and the Middle East. Now, Australia! Travel has always been a huge passion for me so being able to combine this with music and great people fills me with joy. I am thrilled and looking forward to continuing this adventure, traveling to even more places I’ve never been, and musically connecting with as many people as I can across the globe.
We heard that you recorded one of your songs with Mark Johnson and the PFC Band. Can you tell us more about “Run”, and what it was like to perform/record your song with the whole group?
‘Run’ was a song that I wrote with my friend Jason Lamson in my living room in Key West Florida. Feeling inspired to write more after a successful songwriting visit from Robin Moxey, I called up Jason and asked if he wanted to get together to brainstorm and try to write a song. He swung by with his notebook and showed me a lyrical melody idea he had, “I’m gonna run, as fast as I can”. That line inspired me. How cool would it be to write a song that focuses on running towards the good instead of away from the bad?
Robin helped me come to the realization during his visit that I had a story to tell and needed to tell it, so I did and it turned into ‘Run’. The lyrics of this song resonate with the feelings of fear and longing that I’ve experienced living the life of a musician and always striving to get to that next level. In order to pursue this dream, I needed to give up the comforts and financial security of the wedding band business, which scared me. But, there was something else out there. It was finally time to run towards all those positive opportunities and take a chance for something even better, which ended up coming to complete fruition when I became a part of the Playing For Change Movement.
First hearing the song performed live by the band was an overwhelming and emotional experience. To have created something that has the chance of inspiring others to “dream big and take chances” fills me with such joy. Another big moment for me was when we were at 2 Seas in Bahrain working on the official studio version. Titi Tsira and the rest of the band put their magic touch on the track and just blew me away. Even down to Merman’s perfectly timed vibra-slaps. Hahaha… it was a moment I will never forget.
What does Playing For Change mean to you?
The entire Playing For Change Movement resonates in a huge way for me. Our musical voices are so much stronger together than alone. United, we have a much better chance of actually being heard by the rest of the world. The opportunity to SEE the change, and BE the change with such an incredible group of people is an honor that I will never take for granted.
Are you working on anything else right now that you’d like to share with us?
Currently, in between PFC adventures, I try to fill my life with experiences that will help facilitate creativity and inspiration to write more songs! The life of a musician is never boring! ; )
Thank you Claire for sharing a glimpse into your life, and thank you for everything you bring to the Playing For Change Band!
PFC co-founder Mark Johnson was recently featured on the Inspired Money podcast with Andy Wang. Check out his interview below where he discusses how the playing For Change movement began, the power of music, and the amazing work the Playing For Chang Foundation is doing all over the world!
The last time we spoke to A Brother’s Fountain, they were gearing up for a musical expedition to South Africa with no money, food, or outside support whatsoever. All they had were their instruments, the clothes on their back, and an unbreakable spirit and determination to put the power of music to the test.
Now that they have returned from the journey of a lifetime, we’ve reconnected with these explorers to document the experiences they had, to learn about the people that made their mission a success, and to discover what is next for the band with their newfound faith in the power of music!
Can you tell us about your average day while busking through South Africa?
The unique thing about this trip was that every day brought something completely new, and we never really had an average day. One thing we always did, was when woke up we would all get together, make some coffee, and then have some quiet time before the day started. This was pivotal as it gave us an opportunity to chat through how we were feeling with each other, and also get some crucial alone time to meditate and pray to reset ourselves and be grateful for each day.
From there we would make a plan and go do it. Music was our currency and connection tool so most days revolved around music. Mornings after quiet time we might research and call places we could play. Then we would go out and play music on the streets, for people we stayed with, at a pub, or in a hostel.
Tell us about the people!
The South African people were some of the kindest we’ve met in the world. So open to meeting someone new, and always down with some live music. We felt really privileged to meet South Africans from a lot of different backgrounds and walks of life and still felt so welcomed by them all. We were also blown away by the hope shown to us by the South African youth! Every kid of any age we met was always kind, engaging, and genuine towards us and each other. Looking us in the eye, asking us about our trip and always encouraging us in our musical journey.
The Playing For Change Foundation’s Imvula Music Program in Gugulethu
On one of the many stops for A Brother’s Fountain, the band was able to connect with the students and teachers at the Imvula Music School in Gugulethu, South Africa.
To top off a stellar performance and a memorable experience for all, the band chose to donate their instruments to the students, leaving a lasting impact on the Imvula Music School and demonstrating their own generosity granted through the power of music.
“We can’t say enough great things about the people of Gugelethu and the Playing For Change Foundation music school. We were welcomed with open arms and had such a good time playing music and hanging out with the kids and adults there. The connection in Gugs was the perfect icing on the cake for the journey. We were so happy that we were able to give them a few nice instruments to help keep the music alive and thriving there amongst the youth. We can’t thank them enough for welcoming us with such open arms.”
-AJ Fountain, A Brother’s Fountain
Were you able to perform with any new friends and fans?
We did have a few magical moments with other musicians. We had a great sunset beach jam in Cape Town with a South African saxophonist and an Argentinian ukulele player who we also met down by the beach. The feeling is indescribable to look out over the ocean and watch the sun setting with the sand beneath your toes as you play your heart out with total strangers who feel like best friends.
What did you learn in your travels?
The greatest highlight of the trip was having nothing. The feeling of waking up with no idea where each day was going. It made every day a grand adventure and every little blessing seem like a miracle from God.
We learned to not let them tell you it can’t be done, to dream bigger. We learned to never underestimate the power of a stranger. To stay grateful for every little thing and life will become so much more magical. We learned to keep the faith to make your story epic and worth telling.
Would you recommend more musicians go on similar adventures to test the power of music?
Absolutely we would. It is such a raw, invigorating and renewing experience to have nothing but your instrument to get around. The weird thing is although we played every day, and sometimes multiple sets a day, we never really got sick of the music. Playing music gave us a purpose, it allowed us to provide something to those who helped us, and it was tied in with surviving as our main focus every day. This reshaped how powerful music is to ourselves and others. It was our expression of who we were and what we were about, and our ability to bring down walls and bare our soul. It was such an honor and gift to play under those circumstances, and I’d definitely recommend it to any musician.
When will we be able to experience the trip with you? Will you be creating a documentary of your adventure?
Follow along for teasers at ABrothersFountain, but hold tight because it might be around 6 months of intense editing before the full short film will be coming out. This trip was so special that we want to make sure the short film about it is done right, so we can’t rush the process.
[UPDATE] The first teaser has been released. Check it out:
Next for us is to take these lessons we learned and apply them into our day to day lives in the states. We fell in love with the concept of ‘Only Music’ and are now planning on continuing in that theme with more trips and episodic content. This could include traveling internationally again, but we’re also looking to go out on some tours in America with only our instruments.
In the next couple months, we’ll be finishing up another documentary similar to Only Music / South Africa which we’re calling Only Music / Alaska. It features my brother, Justin Fountain, who hitchhiked up to Alaska from his house here in Fort Collins about six months ago, with nothing but a backpack and a mini guitar, again bringing no money and no food to start his journey. What happens is epic and magical and we can’t wait to show that journey to the world soon.
Until then, we’ll just have to wait. For now, we encourage you all to stay close to A Brother’s Fountain as they continue on their musical journey, crossing borders, bridging divides, building relationships, and connecting the world through music. This band has embodied the mantra of their mission, to not only survive, but to THRIVE through music. We are excited to see what’s next for ABF, and we grateful for their willingness and openness to share the songs and stories from their travels. Hopefully, their faith and trust in the power of music is something we all can learn from.
With decades of experience to show for it, Vasti Jackson‘s love and admiration for the blues is undeniable. Throughout his vast career, he has shown himself to be a true “Bard of the Blues,” telling stories of the genre’s roots, teaching audiences about the struggle from which the blues was born, and carrying on the soulful tradition for new generations to grab a hold of.
Born in McComb, Mississippi, Vasti Jackson was bound to be indoctrinated into the blues. First by family, and then through his surroundings, he gained invaluable experience growing up surrounded by the influence of the Delta blues. With a strong attraction to the guitar, Vasti began performing at local churches and juke joints while studying music at Jackson State University. As his artistry developed, Vasti was employed as a session musician working for various labels until he was named musical director for the television show, Blues Goin’ On. Throughout this period, he continued to perfect his craft, moving effortlessly from blues to soul to jazz to funk to gospel to pop, and more.
The early 90’s is where Vasti would find his rhythm, writing many songs from his life, releasing his debut album Vas-Tie Jackson, and partaking in recordings with other notable musicians such as B.B. King. In 2012, Vasti was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, forever leaving his mark on the Mississippi Delta Blues.
“As an artist, Vastiis known for sweat-drenched, soul-ripping performances marked by some of the most stunning and innovative guitar playing in Blues today. Vasti’s talent has been enlarged by an amazing array of musical experiences over 35 years of his vibrant career. Jackson’s Recordings “No Borders to the Blues”, “Live In Nashville” and “Mississippi Burner” present audio buffet of Vasti’s limitless energy and boundless imagination. It spotlights his talents as singer, and composer, and his utterly thrilling guitar mastery.”
Wherever he goes, the blues seems to follow, and wherever the blues are, you’re sure to find Vasti.
Career with PFC
For more than 5 years, Vasti Jackson has been involved with the Playing For Change Movement, first through live performances with the PFC Band, and eventually joining in a few Songs Around The World as well. With his wealth of knowledge and boundless musical talent, his contributions to Playing For Change have impacted the lives of thousands of supporters, as well as students from across the world.
Recently, Vasti traveled to the Saharan Desert with the PFC Foundation to visit the Joudour Sahara Music Program. Meeting with local musicians from the M’Hamid el Ghizlane region of southern Morocco, Vasti and Maya Kyles, a young drummer also from Mississippi, taught lessons and performed together, working to find the connection between blues from the two continents.
When he isn’t traveling the world, VastiJackson continues to educate audiences on the history of the blues and African culture in America. From January 29th through February 10th, Vasti served as musical director and a performer in the Marcus Gardley story, “Hell in High Water.” This play relives the account of the Great Flood of 1927. Set in Greenville, this story follows the social, economic, and political realities of an entire city of people who are subject to the powerful will of the Mississippi River.
Along with his fellow cast mates, Vasti recently hosted a PFC live stream while on set:
As a musician who continuously pushes himself beyond borders, across cultures, and into the lives of new world audiences, Vasti Jackson is the embodiment of our mission to connect the world through music. We look forward to reuniting with him again soon, and encourage you to keep your eye on Vasti.
We are humbled, honored, and grateful to announce that our Playing For Change Foundation is a 2019 Polar Music Prize Laureate along with hip hop pioneer Joseph Saddler, known as Grandmaster Flash, andviolinist, Anne-Sophie Mutter. The Polar Music Prize is an award that crosses musical boundaries; celebrating the power and importance of music by internationally recognizing excellence in the world of music. Past laureates include Sting, B.B. King, Yo-Yo Ma, Miriam Makeba, Metallica, Elton John, Dizzy Gillespie and more.
To every musician and their communities, and everyone around the world who’s supported the Playing For Change Movement, THANK YOU!!! This award is not just our award, it belongs to us all.
Through the power of music, we can continue to change the world; one heart and one song at a time!
A Brother’s Fountain and their Journey to South Africa
The Playing For Change Movement grew from the belief that we are all connected through music, and it is the universal language that is able to cross borders, cultures, and continents, uniting us as one human race. As we continue our mission to inspire peace through music, we are thrilled to share the journey of Colorado-based folk group, A Brother’s Fountain, as a few of their members embark on an adventure to South Africa to put the power of music to the test!
Beginning January 24th, A Brother’s Fountain will set out for South Africa. Bringing with them no food or money, they will be relying on their instruments and the kindness of others to support them throughout their month-long stay. During their journey, the band will travel along the coast from Durban to Cape Town, stopping in Gugulethu to visit the Playing For Change Foundation’s Imvula Music Program along the way.
When we asked what inspired them to take on this adventure, their response was:
“To write an epic story for ourselves, and not to do it in a manner that is necessarily traditional or comfortable. To be taken into a foreign environment with little resources or local knowledge so that we could see if we could truly connect with people and survive through music.”
-A Brother’s Fountain
Composed of seven members and countless collaborators, A Brother’s Fountain has developed “a folk-inspired genre that you’ve always wanted to hear, but never knew existed” (A Brother’s Fountain). Beginning on the street corners in Fort Collins, Colorado, this group of friends and musicians discovered a shared passion for music, community, and nature, inspiring them to spread their message and experiences with people from around the world.
The band features Ryan Guillen, Roel Calvillo, Bret Rindt, Graham Good, and Chris More, and was founded by brothers, AJ and Justin Fountain, (hence, A Brother’s Fountain). Relying on a variety of instruments, from drums and guitars, to the mandolin, cello, banjo, and some sweet sweet saxophone, the brothers bring a soulful balance to these sounds with their unified voices and meaningful lyrics.
Heading to South Africa will be Justin, AJ, and Chris, along with Christopher Burkholder, a fellow musician, videographer, and friend. Together, the four had some hopeful plans and perspectives to share for the trip ahead:
Day 1, upon arrival, where do you go? We arrive in Johannesburg and then we’ll take a domestic flight down to Durban which is where our journey will begin. From there we will likely walk around town to get a lay of the land. We’ll scope out some good places to busk, and probably ask around for spots we could camp on the outskirts of town. We do have a couple of connections in other parts of South Africa, but none in Durban yet, so it should be an interesting start to the journey for us!
What instruments will you be bringing? We were graciously donated instruments from Guitars For Glory and Sweetwater. We have an alto saxophone, a mini guitar, a baritone ukulele, some harmonicas and a slew of improvised and hand held percussion instruments. We’re excited to see what sort of new sounds we can create with this arrangement!
How do you plan to meet new people? We hope to meet people by playing music and being friendly. We love people and hearing people’s stories, so we’ll try to engage with strangers every day. Busking on the streets and smiling a lot is going to be our best ticket to meeting new people.
Do you hope to be recording any particular songs of yours?
Yes, we hope to record 5-10 songs from our journey which would include songs already written and songs that we anticipate being birthed on the trip.
Where do you plan to visit? Any destinations in mind?
We’re most excited for the towns that are a little more off the beaten path with a slightly slower pace of life. We’re also really stoked to visit Cape Town and connect with some folks there.
We’re excited that you will be visiting the Playing For Change Foundation’s Imvula Music Program, what do you hope to learn and accomplish at the school?
We’re are beyond thrilled to be visiting the Playing For Change music school in Gugs! We’re so appreciative of this connection. The biggest thing we hope to accomplish there is to just have fun with some South Africans at the school. We’d love to help out wherever we can, and it sounds like we’ll be able to play some music and possibly teach a class with the people there which is awesome. We also can’t wait for the opportunity to learn a little bit more about the music culture of South Africa and witness it all in action at the school!
What will make this trip a success in your eyes?
Success in our eyes is coming home having learned about life from each other, from God, and from the South Africans. Judging by the fact that we haven’t even left yet and have already learned a lot means we’re already poised for success! We’re a group of normal dudes who really want to squeeze all the juice out of life and who want to become better, more loving humans every day -that is ultimately “success” to us. We think this trip will help us do exactly that.
And before you go…
Will you be giving any updates during your journey for people to keep tabs on?
We will be uploading pictures, videos, and stories to our band Instagram throughout the journey. Our band Instagram is @a.brothers.fountain
But most of our documentation will be in video form for a short film documentary that we’ll put together after the trip.
If you’re interested in hearing more from A Brother’s Fountain during their hiatus, check out these videos below:
Upon their return, we will be reconnecting with A Brother’s Fountain to learn about their travels, the people they met, and the experiences they had. Until then, we wish the band safe travels and good luck for the adventure awaiting them.
This Friday, we’re excited to share an all-new Song Around The World with you, “Seeds of Freedom,” written by our friend Manu Chao. The powerful message of this song —that everyone is connected and has the power to plant the seeds to a better future for all human beings—resonates with us and we hope it does with you as well.
A word from PFC co-founder and producer Mark Johnson:
About ten years ago I was recording and mixing the music for The Henry Rollins Show in downtown Los Angeles which featured amazing musical guests ranging from Ben Harper to Slayer, but one guest I will never forget is Manu Chao. I had met Manu a few times before and he had performed on our PFC version of Bob Marley’s “One Love” around the world. Since the moment I met him I have always admired him and his conviction in both music and life to what he believes is right for the world. He is a voice for so many without a voice and his music doesn’t shy away from reality. Instead, his music, like that of Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, allows you to confront injustice and find positive paths forward for all of humanity.
I’ve learned many lessons from Manu throughout the years, but one lesson I learned way back when in the studio recording him for The Henry Rollins Show and listening to his rare interview for the program stands out. The producers of the show asked Manu if he thought music could change the world and his response (from what I remember) was: “Yes, but our planet is so desperate that we need everybody. We need the school teacher, the fisherman, the taxi driver, everyone. The musician has the microphone. So, what are they going to do with it!”
Musicians can use the microphone to represent the people who have no voice and also as a tool to educate their audience about what is happening in this world.
This new PFC Song Around The World, titled, “Seeds of Freedom” with Manu Chao, speaks to what he taught me way back when—music is not passive and neither is change. Music can plant the first seed of freedom but it will take all of us to make it grow into positive things for the good of everyone. Let’s plant the seeds of freedom for all of humanity. This is our time and the world is our family. Thank you, Manu and all the great artists who inspire us to be the change we want to see in the world.
Take a look at some of the musicians from around the world featured in this video:
Guitarist Wayu performing in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Bassist Bakithi Kumalo performing in Soweto, South Africa.
Sister duo Rising Appalachia singing and playing banjo.
Percussionist Surendra Shrestha playing the madal drums in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Songwriter and musician Manu Chao performing in Barcelona, Spain.
Keep an eye out for the video releasing THIS FRIDAY to see these amazing musicians in action, plus more!
This year was a great one for all of us at Playing For Change. We are thankful for all the people we met, and all the music we enjoyed! Above all, we are deeply thankful for all the love and support you keep giving us – together we are connecting the world through music!
This year we released our “Listen To The Music” album, featuring 12 Songs Around The World and many amazing musicians, and we are happy to share some photos with you!
In the 50 years since its release, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” has become a timeless classic of Otis Redding‘s and a permanent landmark in our world’s musical history. By the age of 26, his music had reached the heights of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, and touched the ears of millions of listeners from across the world. Despite his passing at an early age, Otis Redding left a legacy of music that will continue to span the generations as songs like “Dock of the Bay” retain their relevant nature and timeless touch.
As a young artist, Otis Redding was already bursting with talent. He began as a gospel singer in the Vineville Baptist Church choir where he also picked up the guitar and the piano, and later, drums. By age 10, he found weekly employment singing on WIBB radio in Macon, Georgia, and later, compete in a radio talent show called, “The Teenage Party,” which he would go on to win 15-consecutive times. Having left school at a young age to support his family, Otis Redding‘s future was now beginning to reveal itself, and upon leaving his home in Georgia, he and his sister, Deborah, would make the move out to Los Angeles where he could officially begin his career.
It did not take long before Otis found his rhythm, first through his recordings of popular ballads, and later by writing, recording, and performing his own songs. Some of his greatest work includes, “These Arms of Mine,” “Try A Little Tenderness,” “Respect” (yes, that Respect), “Mr. Pitiful,” and “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” At the height of his career, “Dock of the Bay” would become Otis Redding‘s most successful song, with its final version recorded just days before his untimely death at the age of 26. “Dock of the Bay” marked a transition in Otis’ career that was highlighted by his masterful expression of soul, coupled with the gentle despair of the blues. Throughout his career, Otis Redding maintained an articulate simplicity in his songwriting, filling the space with just as many words as emotions, once saying:
“There is beauty in simplicity whether you are talking about architecture, art or music.”
At Playing For Change, our appreciation for the work of Otis Redding goes back to the very beginning with Roger Ridley‘s unforgettable performances of “Stand By Me” and “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” In honor of his influence within our organization, and in light of the impact his legacy has had on connecting the world through music, we partnered with the Otis Redding Foundation and Princess Cruises to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “Dock of the Bay” with its very own Song Around The World. Featuring artists Jack Johnson, Corinne Bailey Rae, Aloe Blacc, Otis Redding III, Dexter Redding, Otis Redding Foundation Students, and more; this video takes you from the San Francisco Bay to the streets of Barcelona to the seas of Jamaica and beyond.
“This was such a wonderful way to celebrate 50 years of ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,’ and certainly an appropriate and heartwarming way to honor and remember the legacy of my husband.”
-Zelma Redding, President of Otis Redding Foundation
Peace Through Music
With special thanks to all those who participated in the 50th anniversary tribute to Otis Redding‘s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” we are proud to announce that the proceeds from this video will benefit the Otis Redding Foundation and the Playing For Change Foundation. Both organizations support youth empowerment through music education, and further our mutual dream to bring peace through music.
Larkin Poe, a sister duo raised in Atlanta and based out of Nashville, are a rising southern roots and rock group that has a bit more connection to their roots than you’d expect. Receiving their name in honor of their great-great-great grandfather, Larkin Poe, cousin of Edgar Allen Poe, both Rebecca and Megan Lovell are carrying on the family legacy of artistry, one stunned crowd at a time.
Boasting their strong southern harmonies, gritty guitar riffs, and endlessly rhythmic vocals, Larkin Poe have developed their personal brand of blues throughout countless collaborations with premier musicians, ranging from Elvis Costello to Gary Clark Jr., Keith Urban and even Steven Tyler. Beginning their career as teenagers in 2005, the girls had formed a trio with their third sister, Jessica, calling themselves The Lovell Sisters. For four years, the sisters toured, wrote new music, performed at festivals like Bonnaroo, and self-released two albums of their own, all while honing their talents and refining their abilities. When the trio disbanded in 2009, Rebecca and Megan joined together to form Larkin Poe, and since then, have developed a masterful wheelhouse of old blues ballads and their own new-age Americana sound.
During their first three years as a duo, Larkin Poe released five independent projects and two collaboration albums. In 2013, the sisters managed to sign their first record deal with RH music, and immediately began their first full-length album, Kin. Following its release, the pair went back on the road, making appearances at Lollapalooza, Glastonbury (twice), and another stop in at Bonnaroo. In 2016, Larkin Poe contributed to Steven Tyler’s solo debut album, We’re All Somebody From Somewhere, and just last year, they were invited to perform with Don Henley and Jackson Browne at the Tom Petty Tribute performance in Los Angeles. Along the way, Larkin Poe has managed to release three additional albums, with their latest arriving just last week, November 9th, titled, Venom and Faith.
“Larkin Poe are not only highly professional, nearly perfect musicians, they also manage to add a new passion, modernity, and elegant coolness to the genre of Rock.”
Run In With PFC
We first heard about Larkin Poe through our friendship and collaboration with Robbie Robertson of The Band and his son Sebastian. They are both fans of Larkin Poe and once we checked them out, we too became fans for life. We were able to meet up with the sisters in Venice Beach, California, to record them performing a Live Outside rendition of Robert Johnson’s, “Come On in My Kitchen,” which was also featured on their 2017 album, Peach:
“We’re two southern sisters: born in Tennessee, raised in Georgia. Having grown up in the south, the blues has always been a huge part of our musical upbringing. In the past few years, we’ve been inspired to strip it back to our roots and pay tribute to the music that raised us… And “Come On in My Kitchen” was one of the first blues tunes we ever learned how to play.” – Larkin Poe
Currently, Larkin Poe is in the midst of a tumultuous tour with tickets still available for shows throughout the U.S. and Canada, U.K., Germany, Italy, Spain, and Australia among many more locations worldwide. They will be traveling throughout spring, with shows booked until the end of April, and their full tour schedule and ticket locations are available on their PFC musician profile.
We are grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with such an inspiring and impressive pair as Larkin Poe, and are excited to see what more will come from the soulful southern sisters.
“My name is Roger Ridley and I’m in the joy business, I come out here to be with the people…”
These were the words I heard in my first interview with Roger Ridley before he sat down to perform “Stand By Me” for the small crowd on the Santa Monica promenade back in 2004. Neither one us could have imagined or even dreamed that this particular performance would be the catalyst to so many people seeing the world in a new and brighter way. It was, of course, our first ever attempt at creating a Song Around The World—a song created by us traveling with a mobile studio and cameras to record and film each musician in their natural environment as they each add a new layer to the track. We had no expectations but just a strong will to see if music can unite the world.
10 years later, after witnessing over 100 million people watch “Stand By Me” on YouTube across about 195 countries, I reflect on this performance with Roger and 25 other musicians performing together around the world. A great song, soul, and talent have proven to be one of the great unifiers in this divided world and I believe this is something Roger Ridley knew every day of his life. He didn’t just come out on the streets to be with the people; he came out there to connect them in a deeper way, with a song, as his heroes had done before him.
I also reflect on Roger’s soul brother, Grandpa Elliott, who was the second singer on “Stand By Me” around the world. I remember him as this beautiful character with a red shirt, blue overalls, and the Santa Claus beard. When I met him he had been performing on the streets of New Orleans for over 50 years!! Roger and Grandpa share a powerful musical quality in the conviction of what they do. The audience doesn’t just hear the song; they feel it in their soul.
The journey creating “Stand By Me” was full of searching for soul around the world and we found it everywhere we went. A friend introduced me through email to Bhakani Memela in Umlazi, South Africa who was the musical director for a vocal group named Sinamuva. I had first heard this type of singing with their local legends, Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
When the crew and I arrived in the township to work with Sinamuva we heard these amazing voices coming from a small shack in the dark behind Bhakani’s house. They were singing the choruses of “Stand By Me” in their native Zulu Language and it blew us all away!! The group was about 10 singers in total and their voices merged into a sound so full of love and power that I knew at that moment we were discovering something special with this attempt at a Song Around The World.
The final singer on “Stand By Me” is the great Clarence Bekker from the Netherlands. We met him in Barcelona after asking around the city for the best soul singer in town. He agreed to perform on the Song Around The World and added his powerful voice for the second verse,
“If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall,
Or the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry, no I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me.”
It’s amazing to look back at his performance and realize he is singing as if the sky is tumbling and the mountains are crumbling and somehow some way we are going to make it as a human race. We will stand by each other no matter what!! That’s what I feel when I hear him sing and I imagine many others around the world feel the same way. No matter how many things in life divide us they will never be as strong as the power of music to bring us back together. This is one of the lessons I learned traveling the world recording and filming “Stand By Me.”
The one group we are all a part of is humanity and the music will always be there to re-connect our hearts and our souls. Everyone out there, this is YOUR SONG, it was made just for you. Thanks for sharing in this journey with Playing For Change and thanks to all the musicians who made it possible!
In a vast world brimming with genuine talent, Taimane Gardner is among the most remarkable and awe-inspiring performers to take on the ukulele, breathing life and energy into her music that can only be described as a true force of nature.
Receiving her name from the Samoan word for “Diamond,” Taimane is a Pacific Islander herself, born in Honolulu, Hawai’i to a Samoan mother and European-American father. In tune with her name and heritage, Taimane cannot help but shine in the spotlight, pursuing her passion for music and expression of sound to its fullest extent throughout her 15 year career. By the age of 5, Taimane was learning and practicing the foundations of the ukulele, but soon found herself reaching far beyond the instrument’s traditional capabilities by introducing a wide range of genre’s and play-styles that were fueled by her inner rockstar. As her talents grew, this young and inspired musician soon caught the attention of many well known ukulele masters, and at the age of 13, she was invited to join Don Ho as part of his show at the Waikiki Beachcomber. Through this opportunity, her investment in her music soon became intertwined with a new passion for performance, and just as her technical abilities would grow, so too would her powerful stage presence become an impressive facet to her music.
“With the fierceness of a rocker, and the grace of a dancer, Taimane and her music are wowing ever-larger audiences.”
From Bach to rock, flamenco infernos to tribal hymns, Taimane focuses her songwriting and performances on bringing feelings and visions to life. Sharing her music with fans across the world, Taimane continues to tour extensively throughout the Hawaiian Islands, still finding time to play shows in Australia, Germany, Japan, France, China, and mainland U.S. among other locations abroad. Three years after her first show with Don Ho, Taimane would debut her first album, Loco Princess, and has since completed four additional album’s, the most recent of which, Elemental, released in 2018.
On Elemental she celebrates the energy of each element with songs entitled water, fire, air, earth, and ether. Recognizing her connection to the strength and beauty of nature, she possesses a unique ability to translate the objects our environment into audible energy, with soft finger-plucking to mimic the repetitive sounds of flowing water or dark and densely rhythmic strumming to simulate the violent storms of Mercury. Coupled with this enigmatic approach to the ukulele, Taimane can also be found shredding through covers of AC/DC, System of a Down, and “Stairway To Heaven” by Led Zeppelin.
Here is Taimane performing “Bodysurfing” at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California:
The vibrantly expressive nature of Taimane’s ukulele is in many ways a response to the limitations that were put on her as a young girl with a big dream. She wanted to disprove the assumptions of how a true ukulele virtuoso looked and sounded, and in doing so, she has expanded the possibilities of the instrument for a new generation of musicians to learn from. Yet, as a renowned composer, performer, and masterful musician, Taimane’s impression of her music is much more lighthearted.
“The ukulele, although maybe underestimated, can definitely blow some minds”
Run In With PFC
In August of last year, Taimane and the PFC team first met at a BBQ at Mark Johnson‘s house prior to her performance at The Mint later that night. Upon meeting, both parties found an immediate connection, and spent the evening eating, talking, singing and playing together until Taimane had to leave for her show. In the months following this introduction, we were able to coordinate two Live Outside performances with Taimane and her fellow musicians, Jasmine “Jazzy” Skurtu (guitar), Windy Weather (violin), and Jonathan Heraux (percussion).
Here is their performance of “The Moon,” filmed in Kualoa Ranch, Oahu:
Taimane also has a history of playing with other PFC favorites, Jack Johnson, John Cruz, Paula Fuga,and Lopaka Colon Jr., all featured in our Songs Across Hawai’i series. While truly dedicated to her local Hawaiian community, Taimane’s talents have certainly not gone unnoticed, as she is currently on the Grammy ballot seeking a nomination for Best World Music Album. Heading into the future, Taimane will be releasing two new music videos later this year from her Elemental album, as well as a new song about her love of Yoga. She will also be writing and recording three songs for an indie feature-film being shot in Hawai’i in 2019, and is preparing for tour dates in the U.S., Israel, and Europe for the coming year. To learn more about her upcoming projects, please visit her website here.
Born to Cadillac, Michigan in 1983, Luke Winslow-King has always held his heart in New Orleans. With a love for tradition, soul, and vintage blues and jazz, Winslow-King has earned his place among a new generation of musicians carrying on the New Orleans sound into the 21st century and beyond. First arriving in Louisiana at the age of 19 while on tour with a Woody Guthrie tribute band, fate saw fit to see their van and equipment stolen, stopping the trip in its tracks. Despite their misfortune, Winslow-King soon found a longing to stay in the city, and committed the next 15 years of his life to playing, learning, and observing everything he could about the old sound that still lives there. Since then, Winslow-King’s commitment to Louisiana’s roots has only strengthened, and as he embarks to take on the larger international music scene, he makes sure to keep his sound tethered to the music he loves.
Run In With PFC
Having forged friendships throughout New Orleans, one of Winslow-Kings’ most notable partners is Roberto Luti, a longtime member of the Playing For Change movement and PFC band member. Since then, Winslow-King has made his fair share of contributions to the movement, the most significant being his song, Everlasting Arms, which became a PFC Song Around The World, and is featured as the second track on our most recentalbum, Listen To the Music.
Just this past May, Winslow-King released his sixth studio album, Blue Mesa, which draws from several of the genres that he has mastered since his earliest entry into the New Orleans music scene. Although closely intertwined with the Louisianian musical culture, the album was actually recorded across the world in the Tuscan village of Lari, Italy. Collaborating with keyboardist, Mike Lynch, drummer Chris Davis, and of course, Roberto Luti, Blue Mesa is Winslow-King’s most refined work to date, proving his preparedness to take on a larger international audience.
Next month, the band plans to hit the road, kicking off a European in the Netherlands on October 18th which will eventually lead them to Spain, Germany, France, and a final return to the Netherlands. To conclude the year, the group will come back to the U.S. to play two more shows in November in Winslow-King’s home state of Michigan. For information on upcoming Luke Winslow-King tour dates, please visit our PFC tour schedule page here: https://playingforchange.com/events/. You can also access Winslow-Kings’ tour schedule by visiting his PFC Musician page here: https://playingforchange.com/musicians/luke-winslow-king/.
“You can lean on me brother, I can see you’ve carried too long…” This lyric is something we can all relate to. Sometimes life gets to be too much or too hard and we need somewhere positive to put our troubles so we can move on. Music is one of best places to put your problems and lay down your burdens, and when you hear Luke Winslow-King, Vasti Jackson, Dr. John, and the Roots Gospel Voices of Mississippi sing these words you know everything is going to be alright.
“This song was co-written by Mermans Mosengo and my brother, Greg Johnson, a few years ago while we were on tour with the PFC Band. The simple message and anthemic chorus made me really excited to record it as a PFC Song Around The World. We started under the hot African sun in the village of Lukala in the Congo and we added musicians wherever we traveled for the past few years until we finally added the final piece with Grandpa Elliott playing the harmonica solo in New Orleans. Someday we’ll all be free, until then, music is our ammunition.”
It has been twelve years since the Playing For Change crew and Afro Fiesta first crossed paths in Cape Town, South Africa in 2006. Although the band’s roots are drawn from many different regions and nations throughout the world, the heart of their heritage lies in the Congo, where Jason Tamba and Mermans Mosengo of the PFC Band both grew up.
Both men have been committed to a life full of music from an early age. With decades of experience and performance now behind them, they speak the language of music just as well as any of the other languages in their arsenal, all of which are utilized in Afro Fiesta’s variety of songs. Yet, within this arsenal of creative ability, the band moves on the offensive, using Music as their Ammunition. Having great pride in their country, Jason and Mermans sing of the pain in their nation’s past, the beauty in its people, and the dreams they have for a free world.
Playing together for years has helped the two PFC musicians develop a special chemistry that is present whether they are performing in a 12-member band or just jamming out with each other. Their ever-present sound draws equally from both band mates where some songs partner Jason’s melodic French/English/Lingala lyrics with Mermans’ skill in percussion, while others rely on Mermans’ dense and deep vibrato and sharp strumming, backed by Jason’s rhythmic guitar and gentle vocals. The genre’s they draw from are a mix of Roots Reggae, Makossa, and Congolese rumba, with Latin and Rasta influence as well.
In tune with our most recent release, Afro Fiesta’s “Congo To The Mississippi” harnesses nearly all of these harmonious characteristics into one song, taking listeners on an audiovisual journey from the Congo and onward, all in pursuit of people living free.
In their own words:
Jason tells us a wonderful story of how he built his first guitar:
Mermans ‘Mo Faya’ Mosengo
Mermans sharing some truth about the Congo’s past and the meaning behind “Music is my Ammunition”:
Quote of the Day
“When the fans listen to our music they will feel hope. The struggle continues, ‘a lutta continua a Victoria e serta’ fighting alone will get you tired but fighting in a group will get you into a rhythm. I want my people to know we are together in the fight for the Congo.”
Mermans Mosengo, Afro Fiesta
Photo of the Day
Afro Fiesta is just one of the many bands in the world finding new ways to fight war, pain, and poverty. Why fight fire with fire when you’ve got an abundance of love to share? Just as Jason and Mermans are willing to step forward and lead in the push for peace through music, so too will there be those willing to join them and play by their side. From the Congo to the Mississippi, an endless array of people, cultures, and countries exist, each bearing their own unique languages, customs, and borders. Our greatest tool to connect this world is music, “because music goes where people cannot go, music goes” (Mermans Mosengo).
Thank you to Jason Tamba, Mermans Mosengo, Greg Johnson, and every PFC musician and supporter out there!
“I do not see my guitar as a gun but rather as a hammer with which to help build the house of the Tuareg people.”
With over 1400 years of deeply rooted historical and cultural context in a single song, “Ahoulaguine Akaline” comes from a different breed of rebel rockers. Kel Tamasheq, known commonly as the Tuareg people, are an ancient society of nomads and herdsmen that exist across the Western Sahara desert, spread into regions of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Libya and Algeria. For the Tuareg, the desert has always been their home, but this home has come at a great cost to its people. Throughout the 19th century, colonial imposition cut borders across the Sahara desert, dividing the Tuareg into any of these five neighboring nations. Due to the Tuareg’s powerful resistance of French control, their governance and territory was overwritten by colonial rule, while other less threatening nations arose in cooperation with European expansion. From this division came even more violence as the Tuareg community clashed with their new hosts and governments. Yet, as these nations fought for control over the region, so too did the Tuareg continue their fight for autonomy, seeking independence from the powers that they never wished to be a part of.
In this endless rebellion, death, discrimination, and exile had become all too common for the Tuareg people. So, in hopes of returning to an era of peace, many veterans of the rebellion have put down their guns in exchange for guitars, taking to music to celebrate their life, culture, and to bring about an end to this century-old struggle.
One such rebel who has gained international recognition for his remarkable talent and career is Omar “Bombino” Moctar. Born in Niger in 1980, Bombino is a Tuareg rock ‘n’ rebel who learned guitar at a young age, citing Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler as his greatest influences. Dubbed, “The Sultan of Shred,” Bombino has long been recognized as one of the world’s most talented guitarists, but while his career has gained considerable attraction in recent years, his home life has been all but predictable. In the early 90’s, Bombino’s family was forced to flee to Algeria to escape conflict that arose against the Tuareg. It was during this exile that Bombino was first introduced to the guitar, and years later upon his return to Niger, he would join a band where he first received the nickname, “Bombino,” which is a variation of the italian word for, “little child.”
Despite returning home, building his career and shaping his path, Bombino was forced into exile once again when Tuareg rebels clashed with the Nigerien government in 2007. Along with Tuareg soldiers, the government also labeled Tuareg guitarists as enemy’s of the state, due in large part to their rebellious lyrics and opposition of Nigerien control.
It wasn’t until 2010 that Bombino would return to his hometown of Agadez. In celebration of the peace treaty between the government and the Tuareg, Bombino was granted permission by the Sultan of Agadez to host a live performance in the center of town, an event that would have been unthinkable just a few years prior.
The title of this song translates to, “I greet my country,” and it was originally written by another Tuareg rebel, Intayaden, and was later re-imagined by Bombino on his album, Agadez. Though simple in structure, it is in its simplicity that it captures the powerful sentiment of pain and sorrow felt by Bombino, the Tuareg, and all those who understand the context in which it is being sung. Truly, “Ahoulaguine Akaline” is an acknowledgment of the hardship endured by all Kel Tamasheq, but its purpose lies in its ability to connect the people of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Libya, and Algeria together through its music.
“I greet my country where I left my parents
I greet my country
I greet my country where I left my love
I greet my country
I greet my country where I left my community
I greet my country
You know that I am suffering from it
I greet my country”
In collaboration with Playing For Change, “Ahoulaguine Akaline” is the embodiment of our mission to connect the world through music, and this song, in particular, shows us the power of a single song to unite those separated by borders. In the words of PFC co-founder, Mark Johnson, “The unity of musicians around the world playing on this song is a statement that music is part of the foundation from which we rebuild our humanity and our world together”. With thanks to Bombino, the PFC team, and the many musicians who made this newest release possible, please enjoy our rendition of “Ahoulaguine Akaline,” featuring the world.
Quote of the Day:
“Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.”
Video of the Day:
This video is from Bombino’s 2010 return to Agadez, mentioned above.
Photo of the Day:
Mark Johnson pictured with Bombino in Los Angeles, July 17th.
We’d like to introduce you to our friend, partner, and honorary PFC Band member, Lee Oskar, who’s a world-renowned harmonica virtuoso, composer, producer, visual artist, musical explorer and harmonica manufacturer. As a founding member of the funk/jazz group WAR, Lee toured globally exposing the harmonica to many people and countries where the musical instrument was not part of the culture. He then went on to found Lee Oskar Harmonicas—available in various keys with standard and altered tunings—which allow musicians to play a wide range of musical genres and styles.
Learn more about this unique instrument from the virtuoso himself in a series of short videos we’ve titled Harmonic Conversations with Lee Oskar. Check out the first episode below and look out for our future episodes being released soon.
(8/1/18) Episode 1: Lee explains how anyone can play the harmonica.
(8/15/18) Episode 2: Lee talks about playing the Chicago blues.
(8/29/18) Episode 3: Lee explains the difference between the major diatonic harmonica and his signature “Melody Maker” harmonica.
(9/12/18) Episode 4: Lee talks about using his “Melody Maker” harmonica to play reggae and African music.
(9/26/18) Lee discusses the natural minor harmonica and how harmony, melody, and rhythm work together.
(10/10/18) Lee discusses playing “international blues” with the harmonic minor harmonica.
WIN A LEE OSKAR HARMONICA!!!
Congratulations to our July winner, Michael. Enter below for a chance to win a Lee Oskar harmonica of your own.
LOS ANGELES, CA—Playing For Change (PFC)—the global movement that was created to connect the world through music by recording, filming, and distributing musical performances—is proud to announce its new sponsor, Audio-Technica, will supply microphones and headphones to all international PFC-related events. Additionally, the Playing For Change Band and the Playing For Change Foundation will receive donations of microphones and headphones as well as technical support from Audio-Technica.
Reflecting on their future relationship, Playing For Change CEO/Co-Founder Mark Johnson offers, “We have been using Audio-Technica headphones for years and are excited to have them joining in on our ongoing mission of connecting the world through music. Much of what PFC does involves getting audio in the field—a task to which Audio-Technica microphones and headphones are well-suited. Audio-Technica also understands that music is about people, that it’s our global language and heritage, and it must be preserved and cherished. We look forward to a long-lasting relationship with Audio-Technica and together, show that great sound is everywhere.”
“Playing For Change represents the ways in which music unites us around the world,” adds Audio-Technica US President/CEO Phil Cajka. “We are proud to support their endeavors and we look forward to serving as an advocate for their efforts throughout the year.” That shared mission will result in Audio-Technica’s sustained presence in all PFC ventures as the organizations work together.
In addition to PFC Day events, PFC–affiliated concerts, and the Playing For Change Band directly benefitting from the Audio-Technica sponsorship, students from around the world who participate in any of the 15 Playing For Change Foundation music programs will also receive headphones, microphones, and Audio-Technica technical support.
“One evening, a few years ago in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, the PFC crew and I were waiting for an 80-year-old cuica player to perform on a Song Around The World. I remember it seemed to take forever for him to make it down the hill, as he would stop off in every bar along the way for a drink and some conversation. As we waited I looked and saw a Rastaman walking across the street with his acoustic guitar in hand. I waved to him and he came over to see what we were doing with all our equipment. I told him about Playing For Change and he agreed to play a song for us while we were waiting. The result was an incredible, spontaneous performance of Dennis Brown’s ‘Rasta Children.’ His voice reminded me of Peter Tosh and he sang with so much soul that we realized this could be an amazing Song Around The World. Just one man and his guitar playing on the street set the tone for this song and we added a worldwide band of roots musicians around him. ‘I and I deal with humanity…'”
– Mark Johnson, PFC Co-Founder
Rasta Children’s Roots
“Rasta Children” was released in 1979 by Dennis Brown, who was known as The Crown Prince of Reggae. One of Bob Marley’s favorite singers, Brown led a prolific career having recorded more than 75 albums throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. It was actually in Brazil where his journey would end—falling ill with pneumonia in 1999 and dying of a collapsed lung days later. Yet, while his physical journey on this earth would come to a close, his musical legacy continues to live on years later thanks to a chance encounter in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.
With help from 16 different musicians across 6 different countries, PFC’s rendition of “Rasta Children” is a beautiful melting pot of talent. Of course, the Rastaman mentioned above is Paulo César “da Luz” Pereira, whom we met back in 2011. As he was the true inspiration for this Song Around The World, we are lucky considering all of the forces that allowed our paths to cross. Had it not been for the popularity of the 80-year-old cuica player, we may never have been able to capture such an organic and truly special performance, nor could we have gone on to share it with musicians and supporters around the world.
This meeting shows us the beauty in the world just waiting to be discovered, and the chance encounters that bring these moments to reality. One such story is that of another musician in this collaboration, Brushy One String, who began his career many years ago as a street musician in Jamaica. With an uncanny similarity to PFC’s earliest beginnings, a filmmaker named Luciano Blotta was leaving a Jamaican recording studio when he noticed a man on the corner playing an old acoustic guitar with only one string. After recording his song, “Chicken in the Corn,” Blotta left Jamaica only to find the video blow up on the internet with thousands of people suddenly showing their love and support for Brushy. Since then, he has led a full career performing in places like France, Argentina, Japan, and the U.S., while continuing to play throughout Jamaica. It seemed only fitting, then, that Brushy join with PFC to record “Rasta Children” in his hometown of Ocho Rios, and continue to promote a life dedicated to peace and unity through music:
“If we can change the words and melodies and bring back the love, we can have a balance between God and man,” Brushy reflects. “That’s what we need to put the world together.”
Very much in frequency with Rasta Children’s nature sits Nattali Rize, a roots-rock-and-reggae rebel queen who has earned international fame as a singer/songwriter and social activist. Beginning as a street percussionist in Byron Bay, Australia, her career has grown through her dedication to an urban roots collective, Blue King Brown, and on to building her own band, changing her name from Natalie Pa’apa’a to Nattali Rize to reflect Bob Marley’s lyrics for “Rise Up.” With an emboldened attitude, Nattali Rize’s performances are praised for their, “epic, high energy, thought-provoking and uplifting live performances,” (Nattali Rize). Another featured musician in “Rasta Children” that deserves just as much credit to the success of Nattali Rize is Carlo Santone, a bandmate, manager, and partner of Nattali’s, who has worked with her since 2004.
Currently, Nattali Rize is just coming off a West Coast California tour, and will continue performing her latest album, Rebel Frequency, throughout France until the end of August. The full album is available by following the link above, and it boasts just as much of its Rastafarian roots while blending her own New-Era style and humanitarian message.
“Never forget, we are one human family and no one, man or woman or child, is illegal. We are the pioneers of a paradigm change and creators of a new world!”
We are introducing a new feature on the Playing For Change website. Now on musician pages, along with photos, featured videos, and related links and musician accounts, we will also be promoting individual tours and shows happening around the world. You can view our entire musician tour schedule by following the musician tour dates link above, as well as access individual events by searching for your favorite artists’ PFC page.
While this is an ongoing process, you can expect more tour information to be uploaded and updated regularly as we are always collecting new and amazing musicians. One of our longtime friends, Roberto Luti, will be performing in Denmark with Luke Winslow-King this August. Find more information about these events by following the link provided.
Our friend, Eugene Jarecki, has released a new film titled, THE KING, which explores America via a musical road trip in Elvis Presley’s 1963 Rolls Royce. Viewers are taken on a journey through American history and culture using the lens of music, and dive deep into how one musical icon’s life parallels with American society. The film is now showing in New York, with more cities coming soon. Check here for a list of theaters near you.
Watch the trailer:
About THE KING: Forty years after the death of Elvis Presley, two-time Sundance Grand Jury winner Eugene Jarecki’s new film takes the King’s 1963 Rolls-Royce on a musical road trip across America. From Memphis to New York, Las Vegas, and beyond, the journey traces the rise and fall of Elvis as a metaphor for the country he left behind. In this groundbreaking film, Jarecki paints a visionary portrait of the state of the American Dream and a penetrating look at how the hell we got here. A diverse cast of Americans, both famous and non, join the journey, including Alec Baldwin, Rosanne Cash, Chuck D, Emmylou Harris, Ethan Hawke, Van Jones, Mike Myers, and Dan Rather, among many others.
Featurette’s from the movie:
Watch Ethan Hawke step in to take ELVIS PRESLEY’s high school sweetheart to the prom she couldn’t attend and learn about The King’s extensive love life in this touching featurette.
Revolutionary rapper Immortal Technique hops into Elvis Presley’s 1963 Rolls-Royce for an electrifying video for his song “Rich Man’s World (1%)”.
The Stax Music Academy All-Stars of Memphis prove why they’re one of the most respected music schools in the country with a soulful rendition of “Chain of Fools,” all while crammed into the back seat of Elvis Presley’s 1963 Rolls-Royce limousine.
Sponsored by Lee Oskar Harmonicas, Playing For Change is happy to announce our new monthly giveaway sweepstakes! Each month, a new lucky winner will be selected to receive a Lee Oskar Harmonica, tuned to your favorite Playing For Change song, or key of your choosing. Winners will also receive educational information for your new Lee Oskar Harmonica, and by becoming a PFC member, you can enter the grand prize giveaway held twice a year!
Monthly Winners are notified via email, so don’t forget to check your inbox.
You can also boost your chances of winning by doing the following:
-Confirm your email entry
-Copy & Share YOUR lucky URL to earn more chances to win!
-Your entry points will be included in each month’s drawing, until you win!
At 12:00 a.m. ET, June 20th, our friends at peacechannel.com will be launching a 24-hour live stream webcast in honor of World Refugee Day 2018. The webcast will feature “music, news & views honoring the resilience of 65 million people forced to flee their homes by violence and disaster – the largest displacement in human history.”
Peace Channel is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting peace and hope around the world by streaming the best of humanity. Their mission is as follows: “We offer motivating music from the planet’s leading artists, empowering advocacy from leaders in sustainable peace and prosperity, and surprising stories about ingenious individuals around the planet who are tackling humanity’s most urgent challenges — and winning!”
We are proud to promote the efforts of other like-minded organizations spreading peace and positivity throughout the world, and are happy to contribute to this day of global recognition for the millions of people displaced from their homes and countries. As with the many others in support of this initiative, we are honored to stand #withrefugees.
On June 1st, Playing For Change posted the music video to “Natural Mystic/Just A Little Bit”, making it the sixth song from Listen To The Music to be released in video. While the video is just under 5 minutes long, this collaboration is actually 5 years in the making, and spans 6 different countries, featuring 16 different artists. Whether you haven’t seen the release yet, or you’ve been watching it on repeat for the past two weeks, it’s always worth the watch, check it out below.
This collaboration shows two sides of the same world:
“The original idea for this Bob Marley Song Around The World was born back in 2013 when the PFC crew first visited the Congo. Mark asked himself, ‘How can we live in a world that allows people to live like this, with virtually no food, no money, and no hope?’ The lyric, ‘Things are not the way they used to be…one and all got to face reality’ came to mind as he looked out into the river of garbage running through the city. ‘Natural Mystic always felt so deep in its groove and lyrics and it seemed as important and urgent as what I was seeing all around me,'” says Mark.
We need to rise up and make the planet a better place right now for ourselves, our children, and all living things. ‘Just a Little Bit’ written and performed by Paula Fuga was added as a medley to ‘Natural Mystic’ to take the music from minor key to the major key—from the darkness to the light.”
The musicians featured in this video come from all over the world, like drummer Courtney “Bam” Diedrick from Jamaica and ATD Horns from Burkina Faso, to Lee Oskar in Seattle, Washington and Yu Hatakeyama from Tokyo, Japan. Despite every conceivable difference that separates each of these performers, this video has been made possible by the one unique commonality shared by all people. They all share the internal resonance that is music.
Along with new artists to the PFC family like Donald Kinsey, Mike Love, and Irie Love, “Natural Mystic/Just A Little Bit” was made possible with the help of a few familiar faces as well, including Jason Tamba, Mermans Mosengo, and Roberto Luti, all of the PFC Band. Currently, the band is just coming off an amazing adventure in Colorado, USA, where they played four shows from Colorado Springs, to Denver, and a two-day stay at Vail for the GoPro Mountain Games Festival. Beyond the band, past PFC collaborators like Jack Johnson, Paula Fuga, and even Washboard Chaz all make heartwarming appearances in another video once again, showing their remarkable talent and continued support of the movement.
If you didn’t already know, Paula’s performance on “Natural Mystic/Just A Little Bit” is an extra-special collaboration, as it unites Bob Marley’s 1977 song with her own original composition. Written for her two nieces, “Just A Little Bit” is a beautiful melody that encourages strength, perseverance, and just a little bit more joy throughout all the hardship in life. Where “Natural Mystic” acknowledges the pain, suffering, and the truth that is bound to come, Paula gives us the will to carry on just a little bit longer.
Last featured in Island Style – ‘Oiwi E, Song Across Hawai’i, Paula is a cherished singer/songwriter and ukulele player, praised for her soulful and honest vocals, as well as her commitment to her community and culture. Growing up in a difficult environment surrounded by the wrong influences, Paula recognized the value of her role models, particularly her grandparents, and has taken it upon herself to use her talents and her spirit to reach out to those in need.
“Fuga relentlessly strives to inspire youth across the world, sharing her story of perseverance and hope. She makes countless efforts to participate in various community projects focusing on protecting the environment and spreading the fundamental values of her native Hawaiian culture. Fuga is an artist on a mission and music is her vehicle.“
Whether she’s playing at Madison Square Garden, the White House, or a beach in Hilo, Paula’s purpose is the same—to uplift her community, cherish her culture, and enjoy every minute of it. Paula’s story is certainly that of a woman on a mission to connect the world through music, and we are honored to have shared in this collaboration with her, as well as with every other musician that makes this movement possible.
As the Summer rolls on, be on the lookout for our next release, Rasta Children, coming early this July. Along with each Summer release, we will continue to post more artist spotlight blogs such as this one to show our appreciation for the voices behind the music, and the people behind the movement.
Quote of the Day:
“Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.”
Fan Photo of the Day: Special thank you to @hershe_june for this wonderful ‘Chaz’ inspired artwork. Click the link for similar drawings.
Throwback Video of the Day:
Finally, check out this video of the PFC Band playing live back in 2012.
Congratulations to all those who participated in the “Listen to the Music” Contest!
We are full of joy after hearing all of the amazing submissions from across the globe. Thank you to each and every one of you for joining in and sharing your creativity, and a huge thank you to our partner, nana, for making it all possible.
While many of the submissions featured wonderful embellishments on The Doobie Brothers’ original song and Playing For Change’s “Song Around The World” rendition, others re-imagined the track entirely to make something incredibly new and unique. Thanks to the movement and our partnership with nana, we are continuously finding new ways of connecting the world through music!
Congratulations to the winner of the Best Collaboration Award, Yubi Yoshiki [指ヨシキ], and to Striped Umbrella for winning the Outstanding Collaboration award.
If you would like to hear more collaborations of this song and others, please visit https://nana-music.com/, and be sure to search with #nanaPFC
Playing For Change is proud to join our partner, nana, for the “Listen to the Music” Contest!
Collaborate with musicians from around the world using official Playing For Change tracks exclusively available on the nana app. Nana will carefully hand-select 20 finalists from all submissions and the PFC team will choose the “Best Collaboration” and “Outstanding Collaboration” to win some special prizes.
DOWNLOAD THE APP
STEP 1: Learn the original song
STEP 2: Choose which track you would like to collaborate on and record
>Check out the official tracks by Playing For Change
>Go to the track you want to collaborate on and Hit the Collab button to add your sounds
For Singers: You can sing solo or sing with the backing chorus. You can also add some harmony or ad-libs to it.
For Musicians: You can play your instrumental tracks and build on sounds.
STEP 3: Post with hashtag #nanaPFC
Posts without the hashtag above will be disqualified.
Posts without any singing voice or instrumental sound will also be disqualified.
>1 year PFC membership including an audio digital download of the “Listen to the Music” album and access to PFC’s entire music library
>PFC Shop e-Gift Card (worth $50 USD)
>Receive a special shout-out on PFC social media
>3 month PFC Membership
>Receive a special shout-out on PFC social media
About nana music
Music social app “nana” is a social community where you can “record & post,” “collaborate & share,” whenever and wherever you are with your smartphone. Since its release in August 2012, more than 6 million registered users across the globe are collaborating and enjoying a global music session. Learn more about nana.
Los Angeles, CA, August 22, 2017 — Playing For Change, the multimedia company responsible for the popular ‘Songs Around The World’ video series, has announced it will host WE ARE ONE, a concert benefitting the Playing For Change Foundation and celebrating 10 years of positive change through music. Official partners for the event include Los Angeles’ premier rock radio station 95.5 KLOS, LA Weekly, and Japan-based music app Nana. The concert will take place on Tuesday, October 3, at the historic Mayan Theater in downtown Los Angeles and feature performances from The Doobie Brothers members Tom Johnston, Patrick Simmons, and John McFee; as well as Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett from Little Feat; The Playing For Change Band, that features 10 respected musicians from 10 different countries; world-renowned drummer James Gadson; The Ambassador of Soul, Ellis Hall; legendary harmonica player Lee Oskar; and more. Ticketing options include an exclusive VIP experience with a pre-show meet and greet reception with The Doobie Brothers and musicians, bar offerings, a priority seating area, and VIP gift bag which includes a commemorative poster. Tickets are on sale now athttps://tickets.alistixs.com/event/weareone
Playing For Change has garnered much success over the years by combining musicians from all walks of life, all over the world and showcasing music’s unifying power. Their videos have more than 450 million total online views, with their first ‘Songs Around The World’ video, “Stand By Me,” accumulating more than 100 million views on YouTube since its release in 2008. Artists such as Keith Richards, Bono, Jack Johnson, David Crosby, Jimmy Buffett, Sara Bareilles, Manu Chao, and many others have participated in these multi-cultural videos performing songs such as Bob Marley’s “One Love” and “War/No More Trouble,” Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Playing For Change’s new record, being released next year, features The Doobie Brothers along with more than 20 musicians from across the globe in a Song Around The World version of the band’s iconic hit song, “Listen to the Music.” The video for this song will be premiered at the show on October 3rd.
The Playing For Change Foundation, a separate 501(c)3 organization, was established in 2007 in order to give back to the communities of the musicians met while filming these videos. Now embarking on its 10th year, the foundation has developed 15 music programs in 11 countries including South Africa, Rwanda, Nepal, Thailand, and Argentina, and serves more than 1200 children. All proceeds from the WE ARE ONE benefit will support free music education as well as supplemental primary educational support, and life enhancement services provided by the Playing For Change Foundation and assist in its effort to serve even more communities.
“When one thinks of the thousands of children around the world positively impacted by the Playing For Change movement, gaining free access to music education in their own homelands, the love over a decade is simply immeasurable,” said John McKenna, Executive Director of Playing For Change Foundation. “What better place to celebrate than right here where it all started? We look forward to an unforgettable evening of joy, celebration, and recommitment to the children everywhere, through united love and song.”
“This concert represents 10 years of traveling to over 50 countries connecting the world through music. From the streets and villages to the stage to the hearts of the people, Playing For Change,” states Mark Johnson, Co-Founder of Playing For Change.
Every year since 2008, musicians, dancers, and spectators assemble on either side of the border between San Diego and Tijuana for an annual music event known as the Fandango Fronterizo. This heavily patrolled enforcement zone named Friendship Park, welcomes many Americans and Mexicans for a day of musical celebration even though there’s an 18-foot metal fence separating them.
Fandango Fronterizo shares the music of son jarocho, a traditional form of music from the south of Veracruz which incorporates Spanish, African, and Indigenous influences. It is a lively event with communal participation of people playing instruments such as the jarana, requinto, padero tambourine, quijada, and tarima.
The original idea for Fandango Fronterizo was for the purpose of joining all of the son jarocho musicians in one place where they didn’t have to worry about having documentation to cross into America and friends in America didn’t have to be fearful of the narco-violence then taking place in Tijuana. Today, musicians and friends from both sides continue to share joy, smiles and music as they join in solidarity with their fandango community across the border and prove that even physical barriers cannot break the unifying power of music.
Extended Deadline: September 10 – November 4, 2016
One of the most respected songwriting competitions throughout the world, ISC is known for being a launching pad for music and songwriting careers. More than $150,000 in cash and merchandise will be awarded to 71 winners, including a Grand Prize of $25,000 in cash.
Have your music heard by some of the biggest names in the music industry. Renowned for having prestigious celebrity and industry judges, ISC has an impressive line-up for 2016, including: Tom Waits, Chris Cornell, Ziggy Marley, Bastille, Lorde, Sara Evans, Donovan, India Arie, Mike Stern, Joe Bonamassa, Marti Maguire (Dixie Chicks), Joy Williams (The Civil Wars), Ryan Bingham, Salif Keita, Vijay Iyer, and more – plus top industry executives from major record labels including Craig Kallman (Chairman/CEO, Atlantic Records), Dan McCarroll (President, Warner Bros.), Seymour Stein (Chairman/CEO, Sire Records), Daniel Glass (President, Glassnote Records), Craig Balsam (Co-Owner, Razor & Tie), John Esposito (Chairman/CEO, Warner Music Nashville), Steve Yegelwel (Senior VP, Island Records) and many more.
Categories include: AAA (Adult Album Alternative), AC (Adult Contemporary), Americana, Blues, Children’s Music, Comedy/Novelty, Country, EDM (Electronic Dance Music), Folk/Singer-Songwriter, Christian, Instrumental, Jazz, Latin Music, Lyrics Only, Music Video, Performance, Pop/Top 40, R&B/Hip-Hop, Rock, Teen, World Music, Unpublished, and Unsigned Only. Entrants may submit as many songs as they wish – in the same category or in multiple categories.
NEW IN ISC 2016
This year ISC has added a new category called Unpublished. We all know how important publishing is to an artist – it is one of the major sources of revenue, but it is so difficult to get your music heard by publishing companies. So, ISC is taking steps to open the doors for you by having established, high-profile publishers as judges for this category only. This is your chance to get your music heard by publishers who can help your songwriting career. Songs entered into Unpublished cannot be owned in any part by a music publishing company (entrant must own 100% of the publishing rights to the song). Songs entered into the Unpublished category must also be entered into at least one other category (excluding the Unsigned Only category). Entries in this category will be entered in ISC 2016 and be eligible for all associated prizes.
Join the ranks of past winners Vance Joy, Kimbra, Goyte, The Band Perry, Passenger, For King and Country, Bastille, Kasey Chambers, Gin Wigmore and many others – and enter your songs now.
The Playing For Change Band just completed its summer “United World Tour” in Europe and one very special show in Beirut, Lebanon. We have toured Europe for many years but this was the first ever PFC Band performance in the Middle East and we didn’t take it lightly. As much as I prefer to avoid the world’s stereotypes of where we can and should travel, I was concerned for the safety of the band and crew as we traveled to Beirut. The US State department clearly warns United States citizens should avoid travel to Lebanon but I remembered my father telling me it was once considered the “Paris” of the Middle East, full of life and culture.
I was determined to discover what life was like in this mysterious and potentially dangerous city. I contacted our local promoter, Amin Abiyaghi, and asked him to help us find some local musicians we could record/film for new PFC Songs Around The World as well as invite them to join our show and add some local flavor to our concert. He was more than happy to help me and so we began production through Skype and email; everyone seemed more than excited to join the PFC movement and support us in any way they could. We received our permits to film in and around Beirut and assembled an oud player, percussionist and female violinist to join us as well as a great Lebanese singer named, Yuri Mrakadi. A small crew with cameras and our mobile recording studio traveled with me a few days before the band was set to arrive from Milan, Italy to Nice, France and then onward to Beirut. I remember my heart was racing as we got closer to our destination as I was so curious about what type of place we would discover…
Since we started traveling the world with Playing For Change over 10 years ago I have personally traveled to about 50 countries but I never lose the excitement of discovering a new city, town or village and seeing it through the lens of their music and culture. Beirut, the Land of the Sun, brought out more emotion than I can remember in quite some time. It was a trip of battling my own internal fear and outward propaganda that demonized a once thriving city and made us feel unsure about our safety. Once the plane landed, it was too late to turn back and so we had to move forward a bit cautious but also full of excitement and determination to connect the world through music.
The next few days in Beirut where full of amazing people, food, music, and life experiences that will forever live inside our hearts and memories. The PFC band features 9 musicians from 9 countries and our Lebanese guests made it 10. The 1,000 plus crowd greeted us with loud applause and cheers as we took the stage and throughout the night you could see smiles, laughter, dancing, and singing—the ingredients essential for positive change and deep human connection. Our differences of religion, race, economics, and politics faded away and the music made us more united as people as we returned to the one group we are all a part of, the Human Race.
Thank you Beirut for your amazing hospitality and more importantly for your reminder that no matter how many things in life divide us, they are never as strong as the power of music to bring us together. We are all “United” people finding our way one heart and one song at a time.
#ArtsForChange is a movement to bring together those who believe that all young people deserve to experience the power of the arts in school! It also symbolizes the shared belief of Turnaround Arts and Playing For Change that the arts and music have the power to change lives, schools and our world.
Coming Friday, May 27th…a music video produced by Playing For Change in partnership with Turnaround Arts.
Turnaround Arts, a signature program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, empowers high-need, low performing schools with innovative arts, dance, theater and music programs, arts integration across subject areas, arts resources, musical instruments, and high-profile artist mentors, as a proven strategy to help address broader school challenges and close the achievement gap.
Afro Fiesta band member, Jason Tamba, shares how he fell in love with the guitar and describes how he built his own from wood, tin and mosquito nets. Help him live out his dream of sharing his music with the world by purchasing Afro Fiesta’s latest album, Music is My Ammunition.
Listen to Mermans Mosengo’s heart touching rendition of “Africa Unite,” which is the first Bob Marley song he ever sang. Like the songs of Bob Marley, Mermans along with his bandmate Jason Tamba, hope to share their songs and stories of perseverance, peace, love and dignity with the world. It has been a lifelong dream of theirs to get out on the road and thanks to your support via Kickstarter they are making it happen!
This year will mark the fourth consecutive year that the Playing For Change Band will grace the stage at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in Australia. With a stellar lineup including Taj Mahal, Jackson Browne, D’Angelo, Melissa Etheridge and Kendrick Lamar; this year’s Bluesfest is surely one you do not want to miss, plus you never know who just may stop by and join the PFC Band on stage! Be sure to check out one of the band’s shows below and don’t forget to stop by the PFC tent to say “hey” and grab some PFC swag.
Sydney, we have you covered as well. Catch the band in a one-night-only performance in support of the Playing For Change Foundation at The Basement on March 30th! More info here.
BYRON BAY PERFORMANCE DATES/TIMES:
Friday, March 25th – Jambalaya Stage – 9:30pm (60 mins)*
Saturday, March 26th – Delta Stage – 11:00pm (60 mins)*
Monday, March 28th – Crossroads Stage – 5:30pm (60 mins)* *subject to change
Cuba is a mystery: why so much amazing music, so many great musicians and music genres in this small and beautiful country? Historians and musicologists might have a logical explanation to this but I still think Cuba is blessed and blessed we were to travel there to record and film musicians. It has been quite a short but intense trip, with 4 full days of recordings in Havana. We’ve added some incredible musicians to our latest videos and also started a version around the world of the Buena Vista Classic “Chan Chan.”
Havana is obviously a unique place in the world, were time seems to have frozen dozens of years ago but despite this vintage look, Cuba is also at the vanguard of many arts, especially in music.
Check out this video of maestro Pancho Amat introducing the tres (cuban guitar) as well as photos from our recent trip to the island.
Pancho Amat explains the tres and its role in Cuban music
A street in La Habana vieja
Pianist Roberto Carcassés, recording on our upcoming version of Chan Chan around the world
Recording a horn section in the streets of Havana on our upcoming version of Bring it on Home to Me
Trombon player Juan Carlos Marín
Clarinet player Israel Figueredo
Mark and Carlos Miyares
Amazing drummer Yissy García
Recording our friend Carlos Varela and his bass player Julio César González
PFC producer Enzo Buono with Yoana and Olivia, who helped us connect with all these amazing musicians in Havana and organised our schedule in Cuba . Thank you so much Yoana and Olivia for your amazing work.
Betún on timbales and Bernardo García on cowbell
Conga player Adel González listens to the track he is going to record on, the congolese song Afrika Mokili Mobimba
Recording vocals with Teté García Caturla
Francisco and his 360° camera
Rumba en el callejon de Hamel
LISTEN TO GREAT MUSIC FROM CUBA AND DISCOVER OUR CUBAN PLAYLIST ON SPOTIFY
In honor of the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary, and in support of the Playing For Change Foundation’s music schools and programs for children worldwide, our friends at JamBase asked us to turn The Grateful Dead’s 1970 classic, “Ripple,” into one of our world-renowned Songs Around The World for their “Songs Of Their Own” series. We are proud to announce that our “Ripple” video will be released on July 5th as the last in a series of Grateful Dead tribute performances. We started recording and filming the song with PFC Band members Roberto Luti and Jason Tamba while backstage at Byron Bay Bluesfest earlier this year. We then traveled to the ancient city of Matera, Italy to record strings, accordion and mandolins and from there our journey took us from Ghana to the streets of Los Angeles. Everywhere we go we are reminded that no matter how many things in life divide us they are never as strong as the power of music to bring us together. As Jerry Garcia said, “Let there be songs to fill the air…” Final “Ripple” video coming soon…
The entire Zebra team is honored to join forces with Playing For Change to introduce PfcPhotoShop, a new mobile photo experience that allows PFC fans to personalize their favorite PFC photos and shop them on popular products such as iPhone cases, playing cards, mugs and tons more. When Mark Johnson and the PFC team showed us their photo library we were blown away by the richness, beauty and power of PFC’s images. We knew right away that they would be a perfect fit for our technology and give fans an opportunity to experience PFC’s images in a brand new way.
We are launching the PfcPhotoShop with 20 images available exclusively on the new app with five new images to be added to the app every week.
We are excited to partner up with PFC as we share their love for music and firmly believe in its power to end hatred and divisions around the world, heal the people and bring them together to create a loving and prosperous future for one human race.
The New Yorker published the following article regarding Ben E. King’s passing. King started his career in the late 1950s with The Drifters, singing hits including “There Goes My Baby” and “Save The Last Dance For Me”. After going solo, he hit the US top five with “Stand By Me” in 1961. We thank Mr. King for his song “Stand By Me,” as it transformed Playing For Change from a small group of individuals into a global movement for peace and understanding.
“Stand by Me”, the hit by Ben E. King, who died last week, was the fourth-most-popular song of the twentieth century; a 1999 music-industry report revealed that it had been played on the radio and television more than seven million times since its release, in 1961. (“You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” was No. 1.) The song’s popularity was due in part to its use in the 1986 film of the same name, with River Phoenix, which sent King’s hit back to the charts and revitalized his career. But the song itself has a unique ability to connect people. No one, short, perhaps, of John Donne, has better articulated our need for mutual connection.
Music fans know that there’s much more to King than that one song. They know that he was born Benjamin Earl Nelson in 1938, in North Carolina, and moved to Harlem when he was nine. They know that he came from foundational doo-wop and went on to the Drifters, where he secured that group’s place in music history with “There Goes My Baby,” and then gave voice to the Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman songwriting partnership. Records like “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “This Magic Moment” became sort of the bedrock of East Coast R. & B. as it turned into soul. The work also connected him, at least spiritually, with a generation of rockers Lou Reed had a longstanding relationship with Pomus, and Led Zeppelin played King’s song “We’re Gonna Groove” frequently. His later releases tended toward different orbits “Supernatural Thing”, from 1975, was very much of its time, mid-tempo, Latin-flavored funk; it topped the R. & B. charts in March of that year, and was later covered by Siouxsie and the Banshees.
But “Stand by Me” remains King’s crowning achievement, one that connected not only with the public but with an exceptionally high number of performers more than four hundred cover versions have been recorded. John Lennon’s loose, poignant rendition, from 1975, is the most widely known, but everyone from Muhammad Ali (who laid down a remarkably respectable version, in 1963, when he was still Cassius Clay) to Stephen King (his verbose, tongue-in-cheek take appeared in 1999) has tried it. With YouTube and other forms of digital media, the number of times that the song has been paid homage is incalculable. Just over two weeks ago, Tracy Chapman performed it on “Late Show with David Letterman.”
“Stand by Me” has a deeper resonance than most pop songs, which is perhaps why it has such a lasting and universal appeal. The instantly recognizable bass line echoes humanity’s collective heartbeat. The gentle tapping of a triangle at the introduction functions as a reminder to wake up, calling to mind Buddhist chimes. The song cuts across generations as it starts with a childish concern — fear of the dark — and then offers a kind of adult relief two-thirds of the way through, with an uplifting orchestral break. And there’s a twist to the pronouns at the end that essentially says, “If you help me, I’ll help you.”
This message of mutual support is rooted in the origins of “Stand by Me” itself. Like many songs of the Brill Building era, it was written by a number of people working together. In this case, King was in the company of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. He had just left the Drifters, for whom the three of them had crafted “There Goes My Baby,” and he had scored a huge hit with their “Spanish Harlem,” written by Leiber and Phil Spector. According to “Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography,” King and Leiber worked up the lyrics for “Stand by Me,” Stoller came up with the signature bass line, and the arranger Stan Applebaum was responsible for the strings. Some might add that a higher power had a hand in its creation, too, as it was inspired by the gospel song “Stand by Me,” written, in 1905, by the Rev. Charles Albert Tindley, and also borrows from Psalm 46:2. Finally, it was King’s divine vocals, full of aching tenderness, that brought it all together.
Of all people to cover “Stand by Me”, perhaps the most influential was Roger Ridley (1948-2005). A year before he died, Ridley was playing it on the streets of Santa Monica, where the music producer Mark Johnson, who was working on a project devoted to showing how music can connect people and change the world, saw him perform it. Johnson was so moved that he recorded Ridley in situ, and went on to create a video with him and thirty other artists around the world contributing to the song. Since that video went up on YouTube, in 2009, it has been viewed more than seventy-four million times, and Johnson’s organization, Playing for Change, has found great success building music schools around the globe, reducing isolation, one note at a time.
Conductor Philippe Fournier gathered over 100 musicians onstage in the city of Lyon, France, to perform the Playing For Change anthem “Stand By Me” along with the original PFC video. Philippe’s symphony orchestra, “l’Orchestre Confluences” as well as musicians from different horizons including PFC band members Tula and Clarence Bekker met for an incredible concert. Here are the videos of these amazing renditions of “Stand By me” and “United.”
A day with Guem, Student at the Kirina Music School
In October 2010, the Playing For Change Foundation opened its second music school in West Africa: L’école de Musique de Kirina, in Mali, located in a small village 30 km out of capital city Bamako. Kirina is a unique village, as most of its inhabitants are griots, who are the keepers of the oral tradition and history. We couldn’t have dreamed of a better place in this country to build the school.
Every week, close to 200 children attend free classes in traditional instruments, dance, English and French. Since 2012, Mali has gone through several serious political issues, and more recently, has experienced the threat and fear of seeing the Ebola virus develop in the country. Although Malian political situation has improved and Ebola hasn’t spread there, the last few years have brought uncertainties and worries for our staff. I just came back from a 10- day trip to Mali and, as always, it was a fantastic and life changing experience. Malian people are truly among the nicest people I’ve ever met, and so far away from the image traditional media often delivers of them.
The impact of the music school on the village has been quite amazing.In addition to providing music education to the youth and helping to preserve a cultural knowledge that traces back through centuries of oral history and music, the school has generated unexpected initiatives such has the implementation of 300 solar panels in the village by the Malian government and the building of a maternity ward in the village. We also found a great water source in the village and drilled a well, thanks to the support of our generous donors, and the Malian government then took the initiative to build a well with solar pump and water tank..
Here are two videos introducing some of the people behind this project. The first will introduce you to Guem, one of our students living in Bamako but regularly coming to the school to study kora. Like for many children in the village, and as he says in his own words, “the music school has totally changed [his] life.” Get to know Guem’s experience, thoughts and concerns and discover some of his reality through this short video.
The second video here introduces Seidou Koné, one of our music teachers who rides 30 km round trip by bike twice a week to come teach at the school to share his talent with our students. Seidou received us at his home with his family and talks about his personal experience as a part of the project and how it has changed the way he is being seen in his village.
We’ve also brought new recording equipment to the music school: a brand new and powerful laptop, an amazing USB microphone , and great headphones and accessories in order to start recording workshops at the school. Our recently-recruited sound engineer, Bakoré, aka Mande Follo Sissoko, is going to come to the school twice a week to record our students and teachers and lead the recording workshops. We’ll share our first recordings with you very soon!
Click on the images below to access the photo gallery of this recent trip.
Playing For Change releases “Lean On Me” around the world for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Art of Saving a Life” campaign, an effort to improve children’s health across the globe.
This past January we released a new video that we had actually started a few years ago on the streets of New Orleans with PFC legends, Grandpa Elliott and Renard Poché. The streets of New Orleans have been the birthplace of some of PFC’s greatest recordings, and the soul of this city lives on in the music. When Grandpa Elliott sings “just call on me brother when you need a hand” and you imagine the thousands of people he has sung for in the past – all those smiles and moments of joy and possibility – you can clearly understand how music can change the world. It can change the world because it can change us. We are the ones we have been waiting for, each of us is here to help the other grow and live in a peaceful world with love and health and, of course, music!!
For the third year in a row the PFC Band will be playing at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in Australia. See you soon at the Bluesfest. (April 2nd-April 6th)
“When I think of Byron Bay Bluesfest, the first thing that comes to my mind is the Festival’s unique staff. The way each and every one of them receives us with a true smile, an outstanding care and fun vibes, always. The most professional stage crew, the amazing cooks who always feed us with healthy and tasty meals, the drivers with their patience, the volunteers who work so hard and make it work every time with their desire to help.
The festival is so well organized that you can really tell the 25 years of experience it has, because of the attention and the thought behind every little detail. It is so special in the way it makes you feel a part of this wonderful big family and that makes us play with with love and fun and just want to bring those good vibrations on stage and pass it on to the audience. I can’t wait to be back! It feels like coming home in a way….”
“This will be my 3rd year at Byron Bay. I remember my first time there, and how when I arrived it was even better than what I expected. We stayed at a hotel by a secluded beach, and on our way to the venue we drove through beautiful forests and countryside. I also love the easygoing, joyful vibe of the staff and the musicians at the festival. The musicians all hang out in a common area, so I’ve had a chance to meet some of my heroes, like Taj Mahal. It doesn’t take much time before someone picks up a drum, another a guitar, and we end up jamming with talented artists like Joss Stone. Performing onstage at Byron Bay is amazing. You hit the first note and you know it’s going to be a high energy set; the crowd is on fire! This festival is one of the highlights of my experiences playing music.”
Welcome to the PFC Advent Calendar & Holiday Sale! Every day until December 25th, we are offering a FREE digital download of a video or song along with a different PFC product at a discounted holiday price! Be sure to keep visiting this page to see the surprise sale item as well as receive your free download (available for only 24 hours –no purchase necessary)!
In 2014 the Playing For Change Band played over 75 concerts in 11 countries spreading a message of love, unity and peace through music.
Here are some photos from the road on a slide show over one of the songs that opens many of our shows: “Biendans”, by Jason Tamba.
The creation of the Playing For Change Band has helped us to realize a dream of uniting the musicians we met during our journey on one stage. The result is a unique fusion of influences and talents in constant evolution since the first concerts in 2009. Grandpa Elliott, legendary street musician from New Orleans, sings alongside Clarence Bekker (Netherlands), Titi Tsira (South Africa), Tal Ben Ari “Tula” (Israel), Jason Tamba (Congo) and Mermans Mosengo (Congo). The rhythm section features Louis Mhlanga (Zimbabwe) on lead guitar, Papa Orbe Ortiz (Cuba) on the bass, Peter Bunetta (USA) on drums, Roberto Luti on guitar (Italy) on Keiko Komaki on keyboard and Paulo Heman on percussions.
The brand new, limited-editionPFC Peace Pack seen below includes our favorite selection of Nepali handcrafts, in addition to the PFC Peace Through Music DVD Documentary. All of these unique handcrafts are made with raw materials, and many of them are made from world-renowned lotka paper!
About handmade lokta paper products:
This world-renowned handmade paper is made according to traditional methods from the bark of the Danphe Bush. It is only found above 6,500 feet altitude of the Himalayan region in Nepal. The paper is a fine texture, strong and is able to be preserved for some centuries.
In the heart of the Himalayas, Nepalese artisans combine a traditional process of ancient papermaking with modern fashion and style. The result is a high-quality paper product, prized for its superior strength, durability, and rich texture. This natural product is 100% handmade using local raw materials, simple technology, and ancient skills.
For ages Lokta bark has been used for the purpose of making paper. To avoid destroying the main root, the plant is harvested by cutting it’s stem at ground level. Lokta takes two to three years of time to regenerate naturally so there are no challenges on the Nepal’s forest ecology.
First the bark of Lokta plant is cleaned and then cut into small pieces with a sharp knife. The pieces are soaked in water for about six hours. Then cooked in a soaking solution of hot water and soda for 1-2 hours and washed in cold water. The material is then hammered and converted into pulp. The pulp is poured into wooden frames for drying into sheets of paper.
In Nepal, there is no government aid for the poor. Annual per capita income is $700 USD. Only 44% of women and girls are literate. The Playing For Change Foundation has come to benefit a special home for underprivileged children in Kathmandu, and this is their story.
After receiving many amazing fan video entries for our “La Bamba” Performance Contest, we’re excited to announce the Grand Prize Winner of the signed Fender Telecaster Guitar is the Official Ukulele Orchestra Dordrecht from the Netherlands!!
For the top 4 runner-up video entries, we’ve selected contestants Xander Lee and Chris Ren (Connecticut, USA), the Caburrasi Segundo Family (Cá¡diz, Spain), Philadelphia Phil (Pennsylvania, USA), and Rodo Vior (Madrid, Spain). These musician fans will be receiving a copy of PFC3: Songs Around The World for their excellent work.
Additionally, we’ve chosen clips from a few of our favorite video submissions and incorporated them into our original Playing For Change video! These contestants put a great deal of time, effort, and passion into each of their videos, and we’re proud to share their talent with you. Enjoy this PFC fan video version of “La Bamba”, featuring many amazing musicians playing for change around the globe.
Thank you SO much to all who participated; we hope you continue to join your friends, family, and community in creating peace through music together!
Jason Tamba and Mermans Mosengo are from the Congo and now live in South Africa. Since 2009, they have brought their spirit great music and soul to the Playing For Change movement touring with the PFC Band, composing songs, and recording on the Songs Around The World.
Their last album with Afro Fiesta, their Cape Town-based band that mixes congolese influences with roots reggae, is available soon!
“Prismatic Radio is a brand new independent podcast based out of New York that explores what it means to be human. Music is such a key element in being human and we here at Prismatic Radio jumped at the opportunity to be included in such a cool project.We were approached by John Hammond to create some content with some of the artists he works with. I, Randy Scott Carroll am the host as well as the Executive Producer and my other producer, Helena Okolicsanyi is based in DC. Most recently we had an episode released that speaks on collaboration and how we work together called “Harmony” where we put forth the thought that maybe musical harmony is a celebration of this collaborative society we have built as a species.”
Our tour across the U.S just ended and we are now starting a new tour across Europe! I´m taking a minute to embrace all those beautiful moments on our last PFC tour and share some photos with you.
I can only feel extremely greatful and so blessed while I go through the pictures that take me back to so many special moments on that tour bus. There we were 30 shows in 29 cities,10 musicians, 3 crew members, our beloved driver Doug and one bus that was our home for 7 weeks while we traveled all over the country, Playing For Change. That was a memorable experience I will cherish for life. The laughs we had, the music we shared, the stories we told and the lessons we’ve learned together as a group, as friends, as human beings. The people we met on our way were so passionate and loving, reminding us every time why love is the only way and how powerful music really is.
I am looking forward for another great tour with Playing For Change, but before, I just wanted to stop and say Thank you.
Thank you Playing For Change for inviting me on this tour and allowing me to add my voice in the call for peace and love through music. Thank you all those beautiful souls that connected with ours on the way and believe
that “A Change is Gonna Come”.
Thank you life, for teaching us that there´s always more to live and learn and love.
Shalom, Salam, Peace!
Somewhere in Italy: Roberto and Clarence – Tunnel Jam
Here’s your chance to be part of a PFC video AND win a Fender Standard Telecaster guitar signed by PFC Band members and Grammy Winners, Los Lobos!
Simply submit a video of you (and your friends, family, community, etc.) playing or dancing along with the instrumental track of “La Bamba” and post on your favorite social network, tagging your video with #PFCLaBamba.
Our favorite clips will be incorporated into the new “fan version” of the video by Playing For Change. The Grand Prize winner for best performance will receive the signed Fender guitar and the top 4 contestants will receive copies of the new PFC3: Songs Around The World CD/DVD!
Check out the original PFC Song Around The World video here:
As PFC musicians do, listen to the instrumental track through headphones while recording so it’s not included in the sound. If you’d like to record only dancing, feel free to play the instrumental track aloud. Perform the whole song or just your favorite part (a verse, chorus, or solo). Feel free to sing, dance, and/or play any instrument — be creative and have fun!
Shoot preferably outdoors. 2 camera angles maximum (of the same take). Your camera must have a microphone even if you record the audio separately. Use any decent microphone and hardware to record and ensure the sound isn’t distorted. You can even use your iPhone!
Post on Vimeo.com: Post a private video and send an email to [email protected]ange.com with the link and password to access and download the video. Make sure you’ve enabled the download of the video in your vimeo settings.
OR send file via email:You can also send us a download link (to [email protected]) through WeTransfer, Hightail or via FTP. Please send us the video and the audio in separate files. Name the files: “la bamba_your name_take or camera.”
Then post on social media: Upload your video to your favorite site (Youtube, Vine, Instagram, Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter) so others can enjoy it, and don’t forget to tag it with #PFCLaBamba!
Deadline: August 25th!
(If you are just posting your performance and not submitting to be a part of the fan video, feel free to record the video & audio however you wish!)
Video: HD .mov file / H264 or MP4 / 1920×1080
Audio: Wav or AIFF, Stereo or Mono, -24 or 16 bits in 44Hz
This September 20th, the Playing For Change Foundation will be celebrating its 4th annual Playing For Change Day, a global celebration of music and its power to unite and uplift communities all over the world. We started this Day in 2011 to provide an opportunity for all of the fans, followers, and friends of the PFC movement to participate more directly in what we do, unifying humanity and empowering people all over the world to find true self-expression through music.
It’s amazing how many people have written to us expressing how much the “Songs Around the World” video series inspired them and made them want to get involved in our organization. Not only musicians and artists, but people from all walks of life would say “I watched your ‘Peace Through Music’ documentary and the ‘Songs Around the World’ series and was blown away… How do I become a part of this movement?!”
We created PFC Day as a way for these people to directly channel that passion, energy, and dedication into something that would truly make a difference– not just in their local communities but in underserved and remote populations all across the globe. The funds raised through people’s grassroots PFC Day events go to support the Playing For Change Foundation’s 9 music education programs throughout the world in Mali, Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa, Nepal, and Thailand. The Day is a chance for people to engage with our cause in whatever way is most meaningful to them, be it playing a large-scale outdoor concert, a short acoustic performance in a coffee house, hula-hooping in their backyard, filming their own music video, teaching a benefit yoga class, hosting a bake sale, or busking on street corners or subway platforms (how this whole movement began!). The possibilities are truly endless and we’ve had the joy of seeing just how far so many thousands of people all over the world are willing to go for the cause. We’ve also had a pleasure of seeing it all GROW! Our first PFC Day in 2011 was a solid effort with 225 events in 41 countries, but last year we had over 300 events in 56 countries which raised over $150,000 to support music education programming worldwide and we have a good feeling this year is going to be our biggest and best yet!
One of the most rewarding parts of it is that we’ve also been able to extend our programmatic reach as a direct result of PFC Day. A few people in Bangkok, Thailand had organized their own PFC Day event back in 2011… as our correspondence continued to flourish and some of our friends happened to be out there for the event in September, soon enough we found ourselves working with those Thai contacts to establish the Khlong Toey Music Program, PFCF’s 9th official school. To this day it serves over 30 children every week and provides them with a safe haven away from drugs and gang activity in one of Bangkok’s most notorious slums. We’ve been able to forge even more connections and use PFC Day as a chance to connect students in U.S. schools to our own students in Africa or Asia, helping all of them understand what it’s like to be part of a global family.
Our PFC Day event creators are some of the most driven, inspiring people I’ve had the privilege of getting to know. Now that a number of them are in their second, third, or even fourth year of coordinating events, they’ve been able to recruit large groups of dedicated volunteers to support their efforts and they’ve shown what it means to be a true ambassador for the cause. I’m grateful for all the people who have reached out to us, offering a helping hand and an eagerness to make our movement grow. If you haven’t yet had the joy of participating in PFC Day, look for an event in your area or create your own at pfcday.org! See you all on September 20th.
This past Monday, conductor Philippe Fournier directed one of the most amazing benefit events for the Playing For Change Foundation in Lyon, France. In front of an audience of 2,700, a symphony orchestra of over 100 musicians united with Playing For Change musicians as well as an incredible diversity of other artists, dancers and singers, through the universal language of music.
The concert is about to start. Outside the venue, a musician is playing guitar, busking in the cold. Hardly anyone notices him; they came to see a concert, a real concert. A few minutes pass and everyone is now sitting in a comfortable seat. When the curtain opens, the same seemingly invisible musician who was busking outside is now on stage with his guitar. A video appears on a wide screen behind him. There he is again, on the screen, playing in the subway! He and his virtual self begin playing Les Yeux Noirs together. After a minute or so of this virtual jam, a double bass player and a drummer show up on stage to join the party. Behind them, the symphony orchestra adds to the mixture of sounds. 130 musicians are now playing together with one man in the subway while 2,700 people remain captivated by the awesome sight and sound. The effect is powerful and the message quite clear: with music, barriers between us can only last for so long before powerful connection arises.
Philippe Fournier, director of the show and conductor of the orchestra, has been removing barriers between people for over 25 years, working with superstars, classical musicians, and street musicians all over the globe. A few months ago, he contacted us to share his idea for this incredible project and his hope for Playing For Change to be involved in it. Just a few months later, Philippe transformed his vision into a reality!!
Resulting in an especially compelling portion of the night, the orchestra played live with PFC videos “Stand By Me” and “United,” displayed on a screen behind them. During this performance, PFC Band musicians Clarence Bekker and Tula joined the orchestra on stage to sing their parts and improvise with the videos and the rest of the musicians.. The show ended with “United,” a Song Around The World composed by PFC Music Producer Enzo Buono and produced for the United Nation’s 7 Billion Campaign. In the middle of the song, a choir of 100 people emerged, hidden amongst the audience, and began to sing along. They made their way up to the stage, joining the 150 musicians on stage for an indescribable moment of connection and harmony.
It was truly impressive to see how one man, armed with a great deal of talent, passion and inspiration, was able to put together such an incredible show in support of the PFC Foundation’s work to create positive change through music education. He not only directed over 200 musicians on stage with power and ease and inspired an audience of 2,700, but he also raised a great deal of awareness for the work of the Playing For Change Movement. We are greatly proud to have been part of this, and we hope that this show will take place again in the near future.
Palenque de San Basilio is one of the most uniques places in Latin America, a corner of Africa in Colombia. Founded by fugitive slaves more than three hundred years ago, Palenque has preserved its African roots over the centuries: music, traditional medicine and even a language that mixes Spanish with African languages. In 2005, UNESCO proclaimed Palenque “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” We had the chance to record in Palenque in 2010, while recording a Song Across Colombia, and in 2012, during the recording of “United,” a music video created for the UN’s 7 Billion Campaign.
We recently worked for the MDG Achievement Fund by creating and directing social and musical initiatives in 4 different countries (South Africa, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo and Colombia) to support musicians in their craft to help make this world a better place through music. Palenque immediately appeared as a ideal place to host of one of the projects. The main idea behind this project was to be able to offer the opportunity to amazing roots musicians to record some of their music and help promote their work and culture on a larger scale. We hired a local film and recording crew, who went to Palenque for a week to capture it’s unique music and provide the palenqueros with the recordings and videos.
This video features one of the main expressions Palenque’s roots music, El sextet Tabalá, a band who has evolved through generations since its formation in the 30’s.
The production team in Colombia:
Allan Kassin: Production
Lucas Silva: Music producer
Gabriel Bocanegra: Sound engineer
Luis Fernando Barbosa : Camera operator and film direction
Nicolas Cabrera: Camera operator
Juan Martinez & Rodolfo Camino: Assistants sound and camera
Luis Ender Caáte Martinez: Sound engineer assistant
Alou is a 16-year-old young man who studies kora at the music school. He is the grandson of the main chief of the village and has been attending the school since 2011. Like most of the inhabitants of Kirina, Alou is from a family of griots, who are traditionally the transmitters of oral stories and tales, and in most cases, are musicians. Alou has learned a lot about his roots and the traditional music linked to it, but has also been particularly interested in the English classes offered every week at the school by our administrator and teacher, Seydou Dembele. Alou now says that he wants to be an English teacher in the future.
There is no doubt he’ll become a great teacher, and now he’ll also be able to play some kora to his students!
The students and teachers of the Ntonga Music School, in Gugulethu, South Africa, came together to compose and record a song inspired by the great heroes of South Africa: Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Myriam Makeeba – The Song is called “Strong” and gives a clear message on how we have to face life, whoever we are, wherever we come from.
The song has been composed and arranged by two of our elder students at the Ntonga Music School, Faith Nomungeka and Nonvuyo and recorded at the school, with the participation of all our students and staff.
The township of Gugulethu is located 20 kilometers from the city of Cape Town, South Africa. This is where the Playing for Change Foundation built its first music school in 2009. Like many of the townships formed during the government-imposed Apartheid that lasted from 1948 to 1994, Gugulethu is a community in need of assistance and inspiration. South Africans are still striving to repair the damage and injustice created during Apartheid, and the Ntonga Music School is setting a strong example of how the country can come together to create a brighter future for its people.
During the summer 2013, we were able to work for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals campaign by creating and directing social and musical initiatives in 4 different countries (South Africa, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo and Colombia) to support musicians in their craft to help make this world a better place through music. In each country we identified musicians thanks to our contacts and travel experiences and gave them the opportunity to express themselves through music, by recording songs, organizing workshops, produce videos and educate the young generations. This song is the first release of a series of videos destined to demonstrate that music is a tool for positive change in this world.
After 5 years, it is clear that sustained music education is changing the lives of children and the village of Tintale in a remote mountain region of Nepal. Thank you for your role in making it happen!
Watch our new video and hear about the change first-hand from some people who have lived it:
Thanks to the amazing PFCF community, we can reach even more students. Two new rooms have been built to store instruments, provide space for music education, serve as a hub of activity for the Mother’s Society anti-trafficking education program , and house a cybercafé that will provide critical learning opportunities. Now, children who used to walk two hours each way to learn music will be able to do so in their own village.
The Tintale Village School under construction:
We hope to expand this program, which teaches children harmonium, madal drums, and traditional dances, by at least 20 students. Will you give today to support the program or a Stand By Me student scholarship?
For only $100 per year, you can provide music to a child every week. Will you commit today to Stand By Them? For the perfect holiday gift with a lasting impact, consider a student scholarship in honor of a special person in your life, someone who has stood by you.
Join with others who are making a very significant investment in this community and its children. Please make a gift today so that more children can enjoy this new space and begin to realize their dreams.
One Love, Happy Holidays, and thanks for believing in the music!
This song was composed by Jason Tamba, PFC band member and recorded in Australia during the Peace through Music Tour in March 2013, when the Playing For Change Band was opening concerts for Robert Plant. This amazing song is a fusion between Congolese rumba and reggae and has been a hit during the all tour.
Only the sound of this word make you dream about this far and yet so famous island in the Caribbean.
In my mind, Jamaica was always a synonymous of music. Reggae, roots, ska, mento music, dance hall, and of course, the Great Bob Marley!… “These words of freedom.” “Stand up for your rights.” “Don’t worry, every little thing is gonna be all right.” More songs are popping in mind, taking me back to so many moments in my life where this music could pull me out of a gloomy or sad moment, give me a bit of hope in difficult times, made me dance, made me think, made me rebel ,made me imagine this place across the ocean far away.
“One day, don´t know when, don´t know how, but I´ll get there”¦ I always said to myself when I was still a teenager dancing and singing to the beat of these songs alone in my room back in Israel.
And so, years later, it´s precisely music, that brought me to fulfill this dream of visiting Jamaica. And not only visit Jamaica, sing in Jamaica, and not only sing in Jamaica, I was invited with a part of the “Playing For Change” crew, to participate in the “Women International Forum” that was held in Montego Bay, this last May. What an Honor!!!!
The theme of the conference this year was “Music as an instrument of change” and the guests, that have traveled from all over the world, among them educators, politicians, writers, investigators, journalists, people from the music industry, musicians, and so many more, were gathered together, to debate this important subject, to learn from each other and connect together, each one from it´s field, to promote, emphasize and improve this cause all over the world.
In 2013. A year of Change.
Beside singing, I was asked to give a little speech, what at first scared me so much, because singing is one thing I love to do, I sing since I can remember myself, but to give a speech in front of everybody is another thing and it was something new and yet unknown for me. While I decided to just throw all drafts away and to just “speak from the heart, taking Mark Jonhson´s advice, I was recalling moments and experiences in my life where music just overcome all differences of language or culture, moments in which Music IS the only language. Because we all write or sing out of love, or about love, we write out of suffering, or happiness out of pain or joy. It makes no difference where you come from, as human beings we share these emotions everywhere and we can all understand them and feel them. I can feel them strongly while singing in languages I sometimes don´t even speak, sharing music with musicians from totally different countries and culture, but yet, we ALL feel it. And as I was thinking about all that, I got to realize how music has changed ME and how grateful I am to life that gave me this gift, to sing, to change and be changed through music.
The whole event was such an inspiration and the emotions overflowed the room when Rita Marley got on stage when we finished playing with the band , to say just one phrase, written by her husband years before, but today still remains one of the most truthful and powerful messages, that for me resumed the conference perfectly with it´s simplicity. “One love, one heart, let´s get together and feel alright.” And for a moment time stood, silence filled my head as I watched her, I watched the band members and the people in the crowed all smiling and applauding, in this such ecstatic moment, with tears in my eyes from excitement. Being there, in Jamaica, in THAT particular moment, hearing these words that meant more sense than ever, will be an unforgettable moment in my life forever. The incredible views, the different fragrance and sounds all mixed together in vivid memories… Jamaica has it´s own particular smell that i can still feel tickling my nose. A mix of fried bananas, sweet rose chilli and rum, mixed with the hot air and the salty ocean. The different smell of spices and beer are taking me downtown where we went with the guys to the market to record base for “songs around the world.” Surrounded by curious little girls that wanted to see what it was we were doing there and who we were and how did the music sounded on headphones, looking, laughing… Little wooden carts full of vegetables and fruits everywhere and rastafari passing by speaking in patwa and singing songs; us drinking beer in the killer heat with our T-shirts soaked with sweat, recording in the middle of this busy crowd. The smell of “Jerk chicken” takes me on the road, driving into the countryside on our way to Chris Blackwell´s farm, stopping on the side of the road to taste the traditional jamaican plate, that mixes with the smell of the mango trees that appears outside of the bus windows. On this bumpy road, we exchange smiles and greet to the local people that always smiles back to us while we pass through their village. The impressive beauty of nature all around us . The giant Guango trees that stand so nobly in the sunset, the endless fields to almost get lost in, on the bus, on the road, in Jamaica.
Unfortunately, my visit in Jamaica was short, too short, now knowing what this island has to offer; with it´s culture, it´s incredible people, and so much more. But I can only be grateful again, and cherish every moment of it, with hope that my destiny will lead me again to this magical land. As I mentioned earlier, I have imagined Jamaica before this trip many times in my head, but this time I can only say that reality exceeded my imagination by far.
I wanted to finish this blog, leaving you with a song that I heard on the radio on my way to the airport. It completes the musical memory of that moment and besides, it´s a great song, by a Jamaican artist , Eric Donaldson. The song is called “My Jamaica.”
The Playing For Change Foundation is establishing a new music program in Masaka, a village located 15km from capital, Kigali. For the first time, a PFCF program will officially include sports as one of the disciplines. Emmanuel, our young soccer teacher explains that sport is an ideal complement for the education of the kids. This new program will take place at Star School, a primary and secondary school founded a few years ago by Bishop Nathan Amooti in order to provide education to underprivileged children.
We are excited to partner with this amazing school and have the opportunity to introduce music to the students there. Like in many countries in Africa, music is part of daily life, and this was made clear by the students talent for singing, dancing and drumming before we even start our program. The idea of the music program is to help them to reach another level and focus on traditional music and dance. Our music teacher Samuel, is one of the best dancers and drummers in the country and has been touring around the world to represent the music and culture of Rwanda. Rwanda is a very special country when compared to other African countries: on the wall of Marjorie’s office (the Star School principal) a paper on the wall sums up the essential values of the nation. Number one : “Speed. A country in a hurry.” Rwanda is also the only African country I have visited where every person on a motorbike wears a helmet and each taxi driver asks you to fasten your seatbelt! Those two example might seem like unimportant details, but in reality they reveal a great deal about the current dynamic and the spirit of the country.
The recent history of Rwanda is absolutely unique. Since the genocide in 1994, which took nearly one million lives, the country is clearly trying to move forward as one and make a difference. This call for unity is why transmitting their ancestral cultural knowledge through music is very important. The music is an essential part of Rwanda’s identity, and therefore, as we do in our music schools in Mali and Ghana, we are trying to value and support the preservation of the cultural traditions here. We at PFCF believe that understanding one’s own roots and traditions is a great way to build a better future, adapted to a cultural context.
The program is officially starting in the next two weeks, so stay tuned to learn more about it!
Support the Playing For Change Foundation and help us continue making a difference for the young generations of this planet through music education.
Kirina has recently experienced a tremendous change for the daily life of the community. The village has been offered more than 300 solar panels (photovoltaic panels) through the Malian government. The initiative is the result of the cooperation between the Chinese and the Malian governments. The village of Kirina has been chosen for this very special gift among thousands of villages in Mali. Many other villages in the country are also without electricity so we are thrilled to have been chosen among these other places.
The “streets” of the village are lit every evening until 1am and dozens of families now have light in their homes at night as every solar panel is connected to a battery, a converter and a power strip, which allows for the use of lamps, radios, or any other electric devices in their home. This gift has been received with the blessing of the community, and a great deal of work has been done to inform all the community members on how to use the installations properly. A group of people has also been trained on how to maintain the installations. The music school also received a panel, a battery and a converter, which will allow us to organize special events at the school and introduce electronic instruments to it in the future.
This is a tremendous change for the village, and we believe it is going to make for a more comfortable everyday life, even if Kirina, like many other villages in Africa, still needs better access to clean water, alphabetization and education. This is an ongoing struggle, and your support is the only way we can continue to bring positive change through music education to areas such as Kirina, Mali.
Toumani Diabaté is one of the greatest exponent of African music around the globe, an absolute genius of his instrument: the kora. In this interview, Toumani shares an inspiring vision of Africa, music and life and reminds us how important it is to know our past to build a better future.
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!!