Mark Johnson Joins the United Nation’s “What’s Next” Conversation

On Thursday 23 July, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem will be 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 will reflect 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 will also include music and other performances by people of African descent and the African diaspora and Playing For Change co-founder Mark Johnson will join the conversation to share some exciting news!

The event will feature simultaneous interpretation in French,  Portuguese and Spanish, as well as international sign language.

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.

 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

 

 

Audio-Technica: PFC’s Exclusive Global Sponsor of all Headphones and Microphones

LOS ANGELES, CAPlaying 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, PFCaffiliated 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.

For more information, please visit audio-technica.com.

 

Listen to the Music Contest | nana music

Playing For Change is proud to join our partner, nanafor 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

NOTE:

Posts without the hashtag above will be disqualified.

Posts without any singing voice or instrumental sound will also be disqualified.

PRIZES

Best Collaboration

>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

Outstanding Collaboration

>3 month PFC Membership

>Receive a special shout-out on PFC social media

 

http://nana-music.com

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.

Collaborative Lyric App | Aballoon

 

SONGWRITERS, ARTISTS & FANS CREATING MUSIC TOGETHER!

We invite you to discover “Aballoon” a platform that allows you to connect with people from all over the world and create lyrics together!

People

Meet new people, make new friends and share your creativity by writing lyrics that might turn into amazing songs!

Private Lyrics

Write your own lyrics privately in an organized & verse-like format, and print them as in a Word file!

 

Playing For Change Announces WE ARE ONE Benefit Concert

Los Angeles, CA, August 22, 2017Playing For Change, the multimedia company responsible for the popular ‘Songs Around The World’ video series, has announced it will host WE ARE ONEa 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 KLOSLA 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 JohnstonPatrick Simmonsand 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 at https://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 RichardsBonoJack JohnsonDavid CrosbyJimmy BuffettSara BareillesManu 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.

How Music Can Build Community: Fandango Fronterizo

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.

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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.

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Playing For Change Argentina, Work In Progress

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The Playing For Change Foundation has now its own branch in Argentina with a fantastic team of people committed to bring positive change through music education across the country.

Last November, the PFC band hit the road in Argentina and performed one of its most amazing shows, in Buenos Aires, in front of 8000 people. This concert was the result of the great work from our Argentinian team and also became the starting point of our educational work in Argentina.

In Patagonia, we partnered with the IUPA ( Instituto Universitario Patagónico de las Artes ) in order to create music workshops in the area as well as connexions with the PFC programs in Argentina and around the world. Our first music program in the country is also located in Patagonia, and despite a flood that destroyed part of our school a few months ago, we have carried out several workshops in the community: Dance, traditional music, instruments making, Mapuche language as well as English classes. The idea is to be able to establish a program of consistent classes and workshops in 2017 and continue the work that has been done so far thanks to the hard work of the team in Argentina:Guillermo Schulmeier, Vanessa Ulloa, Jorge Amaolo to mention just a very few.

The second node of the PFCF work in Argentina is located in Diamante and coordinated by our friend Patrick Liotta who is putting together a music program in his hometown. Diamante is located 450km north of Buenos Aires and has a very rich musical heritage. We are looking forward to start this new Music program and as we’re doing in Patagonia, use music as a tool for education as well as contributing to the preservation of the cultural heritage.

This Wednesday, PFC co-founder Mark Johnson will speak at the Sustainable Brand Conference in Buenos Aires. For more information check out the SB 16 website.

Your support is crucial for the continuation of positive change.

Make a donation here

The International Songwriting Competition Wants Your Songs!

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Regular Deadline: September 9, 2016

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.

To enter, go to http://www.songwritingcompetition.com

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.

PFC is now an official B Corporation

Playing For Change is proud to announce that we are now a Certified B Corp!
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What is a B Corp? B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

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 “When people think first about the money and then about the music, the music won’t be worth the money they were thinking about.” – Bob Marley
We are happy to stand with a community of more than 1,600 certified B Corps, spanning 42 countries and over 120 industries who believe in using business as a force for good. With our new certification we join likeminded companies in the shared vision of not only being the best in the world but also being the best for the world. We will continue to spread Peace Through Music and create positive change in our world — one heart and one song at a time.

View our B corp Profile

#ArtsForChange

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#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.

Learn more: http://turnaroundarts.pcah.gov

Check out our photo album here:

Africa Unite

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!

 

PFC3 Cover Contest 2016

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TO ALL MUSICIANS AROUND THE WORLD!

We are happy to invite you to participate in our PFC3 COVER CONTEST, where you can be eligible to win a LIMITED EDITION PFC3 Songs Around The World vinyl.

Plus, we will FEATURE YOUR PERFORMANCE on our Facebook page!

 

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You just have to:

-Record yourself performing a cover version of any of our PFC3 songs.

-Upload to youtube and share on your wall using  #ICoverForChange

-Send us your youtube link through a private message on Facebook.

-All videos must be submitted by Wednesday February 3rd.

-Our team will select the winner and will be announced on Friday February 5th.

 

Playing For Change 3: Songs Around The World, is a musical journey featuring over 180 musicians from 32 countries.

The songs to choose include:

-La Bamba                                -Words of Wonder

-Get Up, Stand Up                   -Reggae Got Soul

-Down By The Riverside         -A Better Place

-What’s Going On                    -Guantanamera

-Clandestino                             -United

So get your jammin’ on. One Love!

The Playing For Change Family

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Playing For Change on Spotify

Enjoy this selection of playlists from around the world.

 PFC Songs with originals                        Songs from our friends and heroes

 Amazing songs from Brazil                          Amazing Songs from Cuba


 Sounds from Mali                                        Music from the Congo

 Grandpa Elliott ” Sugar Sweet”               Great Jazz


 Tal ben Ari “Tula”                                           Jamaica Roots

 

A Visit to Cuba | Photo-Video Blog

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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.

Hasta Siempre

Pancho Amat explains the tres and its role in Cuban music

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A street in La Habana vieja
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Pianist Roberto Carcassés, recording on our upcoming version of Chan Chan around the world

 

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Recording a horn section in the streets of Havana on our upcoming version of Bring it on Home to Me

 

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Trombon player Juan Carlos Marín

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Clarinet player Israel Figueredo

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Mark and Carlos Miyares

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Amazing drummer Yissy García

 

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Recording our friend Carlos Varela and his bass player Julio César González

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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.

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Betún on timbales and Bernardo García on cowbell

 

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Conga player Adel González listens to the track he is going to record on, the congolese song Afrika Mokili Mobimba

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Recording vocals with Teté García Caturla

 

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Francisco and his 360° camera

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Rumba en el callejon de Hamel

 

LISTEN TO GREAT MUSIC FROM CUBA AND DISCOVER OUR CUBAN PLAYLIST ON SPOTIFY

A journey in Argentina | PhotoBlog

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The recent travel of the PFC Band and crew to Argentina has been one of the most amazing highlights of this year for us and sets the start of a lot more to come.

During a week we had the chance to play a show in Buenos Aires with over 6000 people, record musicians on new Songs Around the World, travel to Patagonia to start working on a new educational project as well as grow and strengthen the PFC global family.

Everything that happened during this quite short amount of time is obviously the result of the hard work of the PFC Argentina team over the last months. We thank you SO MUCH and look forward to come back soon.

GRACIAS A TODOS

Here is a photo report from this trip.

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The PFC Band after a concert at the diary La Nación‘s headquarters

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At Radio Metro after a live session in Buenos Aires

 

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Rehearsals at the Direct TV Arena: GrandPa’ is on Fire !

This venue is a brand new stadium out of buenos Aires which : the construction just finished a few weeks before the show, and the very first concert welcomed Sting: a week after the PFC Band is in the place.

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Mike Shaeffer, our sound engineer and tour manager, during the soundcheck

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Mermans, giving it all, as always, at soundchecks, as if they were shows

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GrandPa Elliott, Backstage, takes some rest before the show.

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The Argentinian actor Boy Olmi introduces the project to the crowd

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Opening act with Tonolec

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Mark introducing the Band

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The blues harmonica meets the bandoneon

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Maestro Louis Mhlanga on the flying guitar

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Chinese vocalist Jin Wu joined the band on Stage

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From Argentina, on percussions, our friend Don Camel

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Looks like the Venezuelan baseball team just scored!

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The PFC band by Manu. The guy floating in the air is our beloved Clarence Bekker, himself.

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On our way to Patagonia to play a second concert and discover the location of the first PFCF music program in Argentina

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Jorge Amaolo is the founder of the Movimiento Nueva Escolaridad, an educational project that has developed a network of alternative schools in Argentina. We are currently working on a partnership with his organisation to provide music education across these schools and connect them with the PFCF music programs around the globe.

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This photo was taken during the presentation of the school that will host our first music program in Argentina.

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Interview with a local TV in Rio Negro.

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Recording our very first Song Around The World in 360°

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Recording Roberto and his Argentinian soul brother, Nico Bereciartúa

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Last show in General Roca, Patagonia

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The venue was so packed that some had to stay outside…

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 Photos by François Viguié, Sandra Selva and Patrick Liotta.

 

 

Introducing the PFC PhotoShop App

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.

Download the app here.

Anton Pereiaslavtsev
CEO, RunZebra.com
Venice, California

About Zebra
A leader in mobile product personalization, Zebra works with leading musicians and brands to make their images available on great products their fans can use and enjoy every day.

 

 

Stand By Me Lives On

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. (“€œYou’€™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 “€œThere Goes My Baby,” and then gave voice to the Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman songwriting partnership. Records like “€œSave the Last Dance for Me”€ and “€œThis 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 “€œWe’€™re Gonna Groove”€ frequently. His later releases tended toward different orbits “€œSupernatural 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 “€œLate Show with David Letterman.”

“€œStand 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 “€œStand 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.

See original article here.

Playing For Change Advent Calendar

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)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

“La Bamba” Performance Contest Winners & Fan Video!

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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!

Meet with PFC Band Members Mermans and Jason

 

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!

Mo Fire

10 Playing For Change Songs That Will Change Your Life

By: Jaime Lutz

In honor of Playing For Change’s newly-released third album, PFC3: Songs Around The World, we’™ve put together a track list of ten amazing Playing For Change songs that truly deserve the (usually insultingly vague) classification of World Music and exemplify the amazing body of work they’™ve created over the years.

If this is your first time hearing about Playing For Change and you’™re not sure what the fuss is all about, imagine yourself listening to a musician on a street corner who is way too talented to perform for free. That was Mark Johnson’™s experience in 2005. Mark heard a man named Roger Ridley sing “œStand By Me” in Santa Monica. Johnson was so moved by the troubadour’™s voice that he asked “œWith a voice like yours, why are you singing in the streets?”

“œMan, I’™m in the joy business,” Ridley replied. “œI come out to be with the people.”

This week, Playing For Change takes the joy business online as “Songs Around The World” meets fans around the world for the first time. Please join them for a series of interactive live video performances on Wizeo, the second of which will be streamed from Barcelona this Friday, July 18th and third from Austria on Saturday, July 26th. Check out a video from the first performance PFC Band members did live from San Francisco on July 10th.

1. Clandestino

Led by French sensation Manu Chao, this reggae-Latin jam features artists from five continents; everything but Antarctica and Oceania.

2. Stand By Me

The song that started it all. Totally stunning.

3. What’s Going On

Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” took years to cover, but the final result, featuring Sara Bareilles, is something special.

4. What a Wonderful World

It’™s a “What a Wonderful World” sung by children’s choirs. Come on, you like this one before you even hit play.

5. Gimme Shelter

The Rolling Stones’™ counter-culture anthem takes a bluesy, swampy turn on this inspired cover.

6. Teach Your Children

You might want to cut onions before you play this one; you know, in order to save face.

7. œ(Sittin’™ On) The Dock of The Bay

This video begins with Roger Ridley in a live, street-side performance. I’™m charmed by the way he thanks everyone who gives him a tip, and how his voice is so remarkably similar to Otis Redding’s, the original singer of this classic.

8. œLamuka

This original, by Congolese musician Christian Baklanga, is mesmerizing, and accompanied by nothing more than his guitar.

9. œSatchita

Another, highly danceable original by Playing For Change.

10. œGroove in G

This one’™s really cool -” Playing for Change went around the world and asked musicians to play a blues groove in the key of G. The end result is an original composition, written by composers hundreds of miles apart.

SCENES DE RUE: From the Streets to the Stage

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.

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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.

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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!!

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Resulting in an especially compelling portion of the night, the orchestra played live with PFC videos “œStand 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.

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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.

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Click here or on any photo to access the photo gallery.

Recording in Palenque de San Basilio, Colombia

 

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.

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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

 

 

 

Gugulethu Sings in honor of South African heroes

 

Gugulethu sings for a Better Place !

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.

One love

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2tiana ok bongi ok

 

Jamaica

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.

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“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.”

Tula

 

New Music & Sports Program in Kigali, Rwanda

 

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.

François

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Playing For Change Day 2013

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Music lovers around the world will rally once again to spread peace through music with the Playing For Change Foundation’™s (PFCF) third annual global event on Saturday, September 21, 2013. This year marks a new beginning as Playing For Change partners with the 1Love Foundation for this year’™s event, renaming the event 1Love Playing For Change Day,“ Make Way for the Positive Day. On this day, musicians and fans will gather on stages, street corners, schools, and even watch via live-stream music performances, concerts and events that promote peace and positive social change.

Inspiring the collective audience of both Playing For Change and 1Love, 1Love Playing For Change Day will raise awareness and funds to create lasting change through music for generations of children to come. Proceeds from the event will provide direct support for the Playing For Change Foundation’™s free music education programs that serve children and their communities around the world. 1Love, a foundation started by the Marley family, works to inspire a global community to join together and build a better tomorrow, a philosophy shared by the Playing for Change Foundation that will be realized by bringing music into the lives of young people who might not have access to it otherwise.

People in every corner of the world will be able to participate in this memorable day of music by hosting, attending, or performing at an event on September 21st, 2013. Even those who are unable to physically go to an event will have the opportunity to watch one of the many performances streamed live online.

1Love Playing For Change Day is a unique opportunity to advance the missions of both organizations and forge even greater connections as the world comes together to play for change. The event will build on the success of PFC Day 2012, during which thousands of volunteers hosted over 300 events in 52 countries on 6 continents. Funds raised through the day will support PFCF music programs that give children the opportunity to develop new skills and find personal expression through music.

Anyone interested in participating in 1Love Playing For Change Day can visit www.pfcday.org to create an event and learn more about getting involved in this global day of action.

Playing For Change en el Congo (Spanish Blog by Enzo Buono)

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El viaje al Congo sin lugar a duda fue uno de esos viajes que no te olvidas mas, desde la entrada al aeropuerto hasta agarrar los equipos del carrusel, todo es caotico y desorganizado, saliendo del aeropuerto de Kinshasa los militares nos pararon cuando vieron una camara de fotos y la secuestraron, despues de media hora la recuperamos, todavia no se como pero no hubiese sido una buena experiencia perder un Leica de entrada.

Cuando la musica se enciende es cuando el caos desaparece y comienza el sabor de la cultura que tiene tantos años de explotacion y de injusticia para los ciudadanos del Congo.
La Rumba Congolesa es una mezcla de la musica Cubana de los 50 y las raices de la jungla, para mi es alegria, miseria, calor humedo y tristeza al mismo tiempo. Tiene algo que te hace sentir bien, tiene ritmo para bailar toda la noche y tiene historias romanticas en sus letras.
La ciudad de Kinshasa parece como si la autoridad no existiera, creo que vi un semaforo en toda la ciudad. La pobreza es mayoria, no es un lugar para salir a caminar solo por las calles. Un dia comenzamos a armar el equipo para grabar y tuvimos que meter todo en el auto porque nos decian que venian los chicos con machetes, por supuesto no nos quedamos para averiguar como eran esos chicos.
Volviendo a la musica, sin dudas el Congo fue una de mis influencias e inspiraciones mas fuertes que he tenido musicalmente ultimamente.
Tenemos planes de volver y fundar una escuela en Kinshasa, un lugar con muchisima historia y talento!!
Enzo
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Playing For Change Day

If you haven’t heard about Playing For Change Day, you need to check this link. The first annual Playing For Change Day is taking place September 17th, and is going to be celebrated by thousands of people all over the world. Musicians are taking to the streets and stages in their communities to raise funds and awareness for Playing For Change Foundation, a non-profit organization that is bringing music education programs to children around the world.

There are many ways you can participate in Playing For Change Day! Musicians, you can create an event in your community, or transform an existing gig you have on September 17th into a PFC Day event. If you are not a musician, you can still host a Playing For Change Day event– many yoga studios are holding “Yoga For Change” events at their studios; a couple whose wedding is on PFC Day is donating to the cause in lieu of buying party favors for their guests; one young woman is even hula hooping for change! How creative can you get? Log in to playingforchangeday.org and show us!

If hosting an event is not in the cards for you this year, you can still support Playing For Change Day by spreading the word and by attending other folks’ events. There are currently more than 75 events to choose from in dozens of countries. Get out there and have fun! Enjoy the music and the community energy of the world coming together to support music education.

Play a Song. Change the World.

-Jeremy

One Love from Davos

Well my time at Davos and the World Economic Forum has come to an end. I leave with a strong feeling of optimism. I understand that there is plenty of room for skepticism in the economics of the world, but somehow I feel that music and the arts left a strong impact on leaders of all kinds across the globe.

 

As I was walking out of the Congress Center on my last day a CEO of a major company stopped me and said after hearing about Playing For Change and watching our One Love video he has decided to implement a new job at his company titled, Chief Music Officer. The role will be to instill inspiration in the work place!

 

I believe that the power of music is being felt in places we never imagined. This project started ten years ago in a subway station with two monks singing and playing guitar. To this day I cannot tell you where they where from or what language they where singing in. I am starting to believe that this is meant to be, as they serve as a symbol that regardless of who we are or where we come from we are all united with music. Let’s continue to build a global family with love and inspiration at our core so we honor the message of Roger Ridley, Grandpa Elliott and those monks in the subway station.

 

Changing the world for the better, and creating peace through music must always start from the inside out. I want to ask all of you to reach out to your friends and families and ask them to join our movement so we can expand our mission to everyone. Music is the greatest tool for healing broken countries, cultures and hearts!!!!

A Holiday Smooch from PFC

It has been another amazing year for Playing For Change. This fall the PFC Band completed its largest tour ever. On the road we rekindled old friendships, and rejoiced in new ones. Along the way we learned about an amazing project called “The Smooch! Project” that was started by Bonnie Fournier, a Minneapolis-based photographer.

Smooch! is a documentary record that demonstrates that all humans, regardless of social, economic, or political barriers, share a joyful willingness to welcome love and affection into their lives. To learn more about this beautiful project, click here.

As soon as we learned about Smooch!’s mission, we were excited to get involved. Bonnie offered to do a “Smooch! shoot” with the band while we were in town for a show, and we readily accepted– that’s where the above pic of PFC Band drummer Peter Bunetta being smooched by our roadie/photographer Lindsay Fishman came from! Click here to see more photos from the PFC Band’s Smooch! photo shoot this fall!

 

Since its humble beginnings in 2004, The Smooch! Project has archived thousands of images, working toward their goal of 10,000 smooches. If you would like to “pucker up” and be a part of this historic, heartwarming effort email Bonnie: photogirl@thesmoochproject.com

From all of us at Playing For Change, we wish you a very happy holiday season surrounded by friends and family, love and light.

Peace and Love from Boston,

-Jeremy

Recording with the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars

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

 

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

 

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

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


One Love, Mark

Recording at Shiba Rikyu

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

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

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

Love From Japan!

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

 

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

 

Thank You,

 

Mark

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

Tokyo Rain

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

 

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

 

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

 

Peace and Love from Tokyo!

Our First Day of Recording in Japan

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

 

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

 

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

 

Peace and Love from Tokyo!

Connections Made

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Oyasumi nasai from Tokyo!

A Day of Location Scouting

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

 

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

 

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

 

Peace and Love from Tokyo!

Welcome to Japan!

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

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

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

Peace and Love from Tokyo!

Next Stop: Japan!

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

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

Peace and Love from Los Angeles!

Greetings From Jamaica!

I originally wrote this blog high in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica last week– unfortunately we did not have internet access in that beautiful part of the world, so I am only just now able to post it, having just gotten back to LA…

 

Wow, it feels great to be in Jamaica. Such a beautiful place with beautiful people. Naturally, with that comes beautiful music. We have only been here two days and have already met, filmed, recorded, and embraced some of the most talented musicians we have ever encountered. A big thank you to Courtney and Sean Diedrick, who showed us some serious love and not to mention brought some serious fire to our songs. After landing in Montego Bay we shuttled to Discovery Bay to film at some extraordinary and “œreal” Jamaican locations. From Discovery Bay we crossed the island through mountains to Kingston. As I write this we are 4000 feet up in the Blue Mountains outside of Kingston. Truly a country filled with a rich culture and proud people. You can feel the history and legacy that Bob Marley has left here as one of the great ambassadors of music and peace in the world. No place is this more evident than in Kingston. I can’™t wait to see what tomorrow brings

 

Its all about RESPECT here in Jamaica. Earn their respect and they will certainly win yours.

One Love,

Raan

 

PFC Band’s Fall Tour + A Chance To Meet the Band!

I am thrilled to announce that the Playing For Change Band is back by popular demand, and is getting ready to kick off a Fall Tour visiting 30+ cities in the U.S. and Canada! And, over the course of their tour the band will be making special stops in communities all along the way to meet with “Changemakers.”

We want to hear from you! If you live in one of the cities the band is performing in, and you or someone you know is making a positive contribution in your community, please send your story to housecall@playingforchange.com. We may feature your story on our website and what is more, the Playing For Change Band may pay you a visit this Fall at your home, school, hospital, community center– or wherever you may be!

To be clear, this is not a contest– we are not looking for the “best” or most amazing stories. We just want to share some of the good things people are doing to make the world a better place. And if you are interested in helping spread the message of Playing For Change, please email us at peacesoldier@playingforchange.com for information– we want your help!

PFC Founder Mark Johnson is currently on location in Jamaica working on new Songs Around The World. He just sent this video explaining the upcoming Tour and this exciting opportunity to meet the band– check it out:

The PFC Band is coming to a community near you! ($1 of every concert ticket purchased goes to benefit the Playing For Change Foundation, building music and art schools in communities around the world.) Below is the current line-up for the PFC Band’s Fall Tour; we hope to see you at a show!

Date Location Venue
October 13 Calgary, AB, Canada MacEwan Hall
October 16 Atlanta, GA Center Stage
October 17 Asheville, NC Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF)
October 19 Birmingham, AL WorkPlay Theater (Soundstage)
October 20 New Orleans, LA House of Blues
October 22 Dallas, TX House of Blues
October 23 Austin, TX Antone’s
October 24 Houston, TX House of Blues
October 27 Los Angeles, CA Wilshire Ebell
October 29 Petaluma, CA Mystic Theatre
October 30 San Francisco, CA Yoshi’s
November 01 Medford, OR Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater
November 02 Portland, OR Aladdin Theater
November 03 Seattle, WA Moore Theater
November 05 Boulder, CO Boulder Theater
November 06 Aspen, CO Belly Up
November 08 Minneapolis, MN Cedar Cultural Center
November 09 Madison, WI Capitol Theater
November 10 Chicago, IL TBD
November 13 New York, NY The Concert Hall – Ethical Society
November 14 Northampton, MA Calvin Theater
November 15 Philadelphia, PA World Cafe Live
November 17 Boston, MA Symphony Hall
November 18 Lebanon, NH Lebanon Opera House
November 20 New Haven, CT Stage One
November 21 Annapolis, MD Ramshead on Stage
November 22 Washington, DC The Birchmere

Love Rescue Me

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A dear friend of mine was married last weekend in Montana. A couple days before the wedding, I was surprised and pleased to learn that she and her fiance had chosen one of Playing For Change’s songs to be featured at their wedding: The Omagh Community Youth Choir’s version (arranged by Daryl Simpson) of Bono’s original “Love Rescue Me.” They asked me to sit in on a rehearsal the night before their wedding, where a band made up of the bride’s closest friends and family was preparing their musical accompaniment for the ceremony. They had a copy of our “Songs Around the World” release, and after listening to the track through a couple times they asked me to talk about the significance of the song.

I explained the history of the choir– that it was founded by Daryl Simpson shortly after a terrible bombing that took place in Omagh, Northern Ireland in 1998. He created the choir in an effort to bring peace and reconciliation to the community and to bring Catholic and Protestant young people together through music. His vision was so perfectly aligned with ours that as soon as we learned about his organization our crew began making plans to film and record the choir.

The healing and connective power of Music touches us all throughout our lives– sometimes in ways so subtle that we barely take notice, and other times so profoundly that our life’s path pivots on the spot, transposing itself into an entirely new key. The next day these thoughts played along in my subconscious as I joyously watched my friend exchange vows with her groom while music filled the air.

Family Reunion

I was in a Playing For Change Foundation board meeting when I got the message: Jason Tamba and Mermans Mosengo have landed– they’re in a hotel in Marina del Rey.” The meeting had just adjourned, and I couldn’t help but smile. The last time I had seen my friends was December in Madrid– we had just concluded an unforgettable tour (almost thirty shows over the course of 6 weeks)– and now here they were in LA! My brother and I drove straight from the meeting to their hotel; sheer joy as we hugged our hellos!

We headed back to our home in Venice and caught up. Before too long our conversation turned to the band’s upcoming tour (which, or course is why Jason and Mermans were in town). My brother and I had just picked up an advance copy of the band’s about-to-be-released live performance film, and we thought it would be fun to watch it together. Just as we popped in the DVD, Mark and Raan showed up– perfect timing!

I could not have predicted the impact that pressing “PLAY” would have on me. I have been watching cuts of this film for the past six months. I knew every word that our band members were going to say, and every note that was going to be played. And yet as I watched Jason and Mermans watch themselves– larger than life– I was overcome.

The gravity of this project was hammered home for me. Years of traveling the world, meeting people who became my family; who opened their lives to our crew; who left their homes because they felt a connection to musicians across the planet; who created a band that connected the world… seeing the joy in their faces at the realization of a vision so powerful– it left me speechless.

The group migrated to our backyard fire pit, and the evening was transformed into a campfire acoustic jam that beckoned the neighbors to come and join. I am so thankful to be a part of this project, and it is a true honor be able to contribute to its message being shared with the world. One Love!

PFC in Brazil!

Today, the PFC crew arrived in the beautiful city of Salvador, Bahia in Brazil.  When we arrived, we asked a local if we were likely to find some musicians for our project– they laughed and said, “In Bahia, you shake a tree and musicians fall out of it!”

We have been traveling the world for years trying to build a global community and somehow we knew all along this intention could never meet its potential without Brazil!!  We have received so much love and support while traveling in Brazil and spent the last week recording every day in Rio de Janeiro. It is such a beautiful city full of life and music. We recorded and filmed Samba, Bossa Nova, Reggae, and recently we were given the opportunity to work with one of the greatest organizations in the world, “Afro Reggae.”

This organization works all over Brazil and the planet using the power of music to transcend differences and conflicts and replace them with love, respect and community. They are very well known here in Brazil for all of their work in the Favellas (poorer neighborhoods), and offered us an inside look into their transformational programs. They provided us the freedom to visit some of these neighborhoods and add some of their musicians to our new songs around the world. Our Producer, Raan Williams, told me today, “If there is ever proof that music saves lives, this is it. And if you let it, it just might save yours.”

These are words to live by, and everyday when Playing For Change travels the globe we are always reminded that we ARE the Change we want to see in the world. Music Is Our Ammunition!!!

One Love,

Mark

Playing For Change in Colombia

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

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

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

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

Dreams of Kirina

 

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

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

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

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

 

A day in Bamako, Mali.

A day in Bamako,

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Bamako, February 5, 2010, 33 degrees Celsius in the shade.
Rendezvous at noon with members of the group Tinariwen, former rebels of the Tuareg rebellion, who now preach peace through their music. They play tonight in Bamako and the idea is to take this opportunity to record them before their concert. We’re in a neighborhood a few miles from the center of the capital and we need to quickly find a place to capture their music and their message. Ideally, it would be a garden with a little shade and a power outlet to connect to their amps. After a quick eye at the area, we decided to knock on the door of a local resident to ask if we can record the band in their yard. An old man welcomes us with open arms and therefore, in his small garden, we plant our cameras and microphones to record Tinariwen. After several hours of music in the shade of a mango tree, under the curious eye of neighborhood children who clap their hands to the sound of the haunting music of these men and women from the desert, Ibrahim gives us his impressions on the music’s meaning to him. The idea that music is a perfect tool for sharing and a universal language emerges naturally in his testimony, joining  once again, the point of view of many musicians we met around the world. “Our feeling is that music is the best tool to be able to communicate with the entire world and find solutions about our today’s life”.

Une journée à Bamako,

Bamako, 5 février 2010, 33 degrés à l’ombre. Rendez-vous à midi avec les membres du groupe Tinariwen, anciens rebelles de la révolte touareg, qui prêchent désormais la paix à travers leur musique.  Ils jouent ce soir à Bamako et l’idée est de profiter de l’occasion pour les enregistrer avant leur concert.  On est dans un quartier à quelques kilomètres du centre de la capitale et il faut qu’on trouve au plus vite un endroit pour pouvoir saisir leur musique et leur message.  L’idéal, ça serait un jardin avec un peu d’ombre et une prise de courant pour pouvoir brancher leurs amplis. Après un repérage sommaire des lieux, on se décide à frapper à la porte d’un habitant du quartier pour lui demander si on peut enregistrer dans sa cour. Un vieil homme nous accueille à bras ouvert et c’est donc dans son petit jardin, devant chez lui, qu’on plante nos caméras et nos micros pour enregistrer Tinariwen. Après quelques heures de musique à l’ombre d’un manguier, sous l’œil curieux des enfants du quartier qui tapent dans leurs mains au son de la musique lancinante de ces hommes et ces femmes du désert, Ibrahim nous livre ses impressions sur le sens qu’a la musique à ses yeux. L’idée que la musique est un parfait outil de partage et un langage universel se dessine naturellement dans son témoignage qui rejoint ainsi, une fois encore, celui des musiciens des quatre coins du monde. “Nous pensons que la musique est le meilleur outil pour communiquer avec le monde entier et nous aider a trouver des solutions pour notre vie de tous les jours”.

Un día en Bamako,

Bamako 5 de febrero del 2010, 33 grados a la sombra. Hemos quedado a las 12 del mediodía con los miembros del grupo Tinariwen, antiguos rebeldes de la revuelta Tuareg originarios de la ciudad de Tombuctú que predican la paz a través de  la música. Tocan esta noche en Bamako y la idea es aprovechar la oportunidad para grabarlos antes del concierto. Estamos en un barrio a unos kilómetros de la Capital y necesitamos encontrar lo mas rápido posible un lugar para poder captar su música y su mensaje. Lo ideal sería un jardín con un poco de sombra y un enchufe para poder conectar los amplificadores. Después de una breve caminata de reconocimiento decidimos preguntar a un vecino si era posible grabar a la banda en el patio de su casa. Un hombre  de unos 70 años nos recibe con los brazos abiertos y enseguida nos ponemos a armar el estudio delante de su casa. Después de un par de horas de música a la sombra de un árbol de mangos, con una audiencia de niños curiosos  que marcan el ritmo con sus palmas, Ibrahim, el líder de la banda, nos transmite durante una entrevista su percepción del poder de la música: una herramienta esencial para la unión del ser humano. “Creemos que la música es la mejor herramienta para poder comunicarse con el mundo entero y encontrar soluciones para nuestra vida cotidiana”.

Getting Things Rolling in 2010

With all the travel and excitement that the PFC Band and Crew enjoyed in the last three months of 2009, it was wonderful for us all to have a restful holiday break with our families. We are now all back in LA, and tomorrow is going to be our first meeting of the new year. We have a lot of exciting things to discuss, not least of which is “where to next!”

Thank you for all the love and support we have received from our community over the course of this journey. Whether we are home or abroad, it always means so much to us to read your feedback, comments, and emails. Please continue to keep them flowing in 2010, and we’ll do the same with the music!

Peace and Love from Los Angeles!

A Day in the Studio

The PFC Band spent the day in the studio today. It was a long day but we got a lot accomplished. The band recorded a beautiful version of Clarence Bekker’s original “Mr. Morality” to start with. Following that the band went to work on a version of a song by The Temptations that was absolutely through the roof (Mr. Bekker has a gift for Motown!). We wrapped the day by adding a few of the band members to our new Songs Around The World, which was the perfect end to a long session.

By the time we got home we were all beat– we all pulled close to 12 hours at the studio, and were looking forward to catching a bit of rest before rehearsal the next day. Bhekani and Sinamuva are due to arrive in the morning, and we can’t wait to add them into the mix. Until then…

Peace and Love from Madrid!

A Family Roadtrip

We woke up this morning and checked out of our hotel in Seville, and are now traveling by bus to Madrid. As I write this, we’re about two thirds of the way through the 350 kilometer journey, but the time has been flying. For the past four hours the back of the bus has been one big jam session, where a constantly changing group of musicians are singing, playing, and writing music. Mark Johnson and Jonathan Walls have turned the middle of the bus into a screening room, where they are sharing videos of the various shows the band has performed around the world this past year (don’t worry– we are planning on releasing these soon!). Meanwhile Enzo Buono has transformed the front of the bus into an editing studio, where he’s working on mixing the new Songs Around the World we just began in West Africa. And while all this has been going on, I have been sorting photos from the past few weeks (10 gigs down, 30 to go!). Jonathan Walls edited this short piece together so that you could share in the fun with us, I hope you enjoy it:

We’re due to arrive in Madrid in a couple hours, at which point it will be full steam ahead as we all prepare for our final concert of the year on the 17th. We’ll be adding Venkat and members of the Sinamuva choir to the lineup from last night, and will be performing in front of the largest indoor audience we’ve ever had. If you live anywhere near Madrid, I would not miss this show– More Fire!

Peace and Love from the road!

 

A Family Gathering

After tonight’s rehearsal the crew and band returned to the hotel to quickly clean up and drop gear, then we all headed out for Tapas. We are a large group– over 20 people in all– and finding a Tapas bar that could accommodate us was no small feat. However after a half an hour of roaming the streets of Seville (and doubling back on our route more than once), we ended up finding a restaurant that was perfect.

A couple dozen plates of tapas and a few bottles of wine later, we had managed to wile away 2 or 3 hours over joyful conversation and excitement about the next day’s show. The excitement was not just about performing together, but more about everyone coming together again. Over the course of the band’s 5-week adventure across North America last month, this group of musicians became more than a band– they became a family. And after not seeing each other for the past couple weeks, bringing everyone back together again was cause for a celebration in its own right.

It wasn’t long before our group was one of the only tables left, and we decided we should all be on our way. While everyone finished their last glasses of wine, Clarence and Mermans entertained us (and the couple at the other remaining table) with a cappella versions of a selection of the band’s set list. It was another beautiful evening with the band, and we can’t wait to share the same energy with the crowd tomorrow night!

Bienvenue au Mali

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After sharing one last magical night of music with Baaba Maal in Dakar, the PFC crew has just arrived in Mali. The Playing For Change Foundation’s next school is being built in Mali, and we’re here to begin work on that– and of course to keep finding more amazing musicians to add to the project as well.

Tomorrow we are heading out to the site of where the new school will be built– a village of Griots (the musician’s caste in West Africa) about an hour outside of Bamako. Mali is the right at the heart of West African music, which is the root of so much of the music we enjoy today– rock, blues, jazz– it’s all from here. We are only going to be in Mali for a short time, but I can already tell we are going to find a tremendous amount of inspiration during our stay…

2 More Great Days with Baaba Maal

We just got back from yet another amazing day with Baaba Maal and his band. We’ve spent the past two days recording up on the roof of Baaba’s home in Dakar. The intermittent calls to worship echoing from across the city and the chittering of the birds that live in one of Baaba’s trees have added a beautiful environmental component to our recordings. He has been a wonderful host to our whole crew, and we’ve all developed quite a taste for the local tea he brews– it’s an extremely strong green tea, served sweetened in small (maybe 2 ounce) glasses. Both days we’ve kept going long after the sun set (the tea kept us all wide awake), completing our sessions by the warm glow of tungsten light bulbs.

We’ve established a great foundation for our new Songs Around the World here in West Africa, adding percussion such as the calabash, talking drum, and djembe, in addition to guitar, and vocals. We’re looking forward to tomorrow, when a very famous kora player is arriving from Mauritania to add her talents to the project.

We also had a great interview today with Baaba’s Talking Drum player, Massamba Diop– what a player! He gave us some amazing insight into the history of the talking drum and how it was used as a means of communication between families and villages. He then went around the room and played each of our names. It was so cool to hear our names being spoken by his drum– his drum does talk!

Baaba Maal and his band are performing a pair of shows Friday and Saturday here in Dakar. We’re planning to meet up with them tomorrow afternoon before the show to get another session in. We can’t wait to begin to share all the great music we’re experiencing with the Playing For Change Family– and we will– just as soon as we have the chance to do some editing! In the meantime…

Peace and Love from Senegal!

Drums and Dancing at the Beach

Today we drove to a beach about 45 minutes outside of Dakar to film Baaba Maal’s talking drum player, Massamba Dioup (who is out of this world!). He brought with him a couple other talking drum players he performs with, as well as six of Baaba’s dancers who set the sand flying. As they began to play and dance, children and adults from the neighboring village gathered around to enjoy the show, and even joined in the fun with some impressive moves of their own! The children in particular took great joy in watching the musicians and dancers, and their presence added something so special to the energy of the afternoon.

The performance lasted a little over an hour. The drummers’ rhythms swirled with the dancers’ colors and choreography to create a truly mesmerizing experience. By the time the performance ended dusk was upon us (and the rising tide was only a mere few feet away from swallowing our recording gear).

We packed up quickly and headed back to Baaba’s house to thank him again for arranging such a beautiful day for us, and to say our goodbyes to our new friends. Tomorrow we are planning to head back to Baaba’s house to film and record him again with more of his amazing musicians. As Mark said earlier this evening, “the music never stops.”

Peace and Love from Senegal!

Another Amazing Day with Baaba Maal

We met up with Baaba and his band this afternoon at his house and have been filming and recording him for the past 12 hours straight. His music is so powerful– you don’t have to be able to understand the lyrics to be awestruck by the beauty of his songs’ melodies and his amazing voice. After recording three or four songs with his band, we started working with his some of his musicians one at a time, adding them to our new Songs Around the World. As of today we are up to six musicians on our first track, representing three different countries.

We filmed and recorded until the light was gone, then lit a lantern and sat in a circle w/ Baaba and his band. They performed an other worldly campfire-style acoustic concert that grew and grew in numbers. In the beginning there were only 8 or 10 of us, but by the end of the evening we were surrounded by a few dozen of Baaba’s friends and family all singing and celebrating with us.

Around 11:00PM the crew and I headed to the stadium where Baaba would be performing, to setup our gear. He took the stage around midnight and performed until 3AM! Unfortunately we had to stop filming around 2 o’clock because by that point we had shot through every memory card we had brought with us– what a day!

The crew and I are now on our way back to our hotel in Dakar– I’m actually typing this posting from the back seat. We’re all looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep, and then are planning on taking the day tomorrow to go through all the footage we have shot since arriving in Senegal four days ago– we’ve been so busy filming and recording that it’s been difficult to keep up with it all… but of course, that is a good problem to have.

Peace and Love from West Africa!

Baaba Maal’s concert in Dakar

We spent another amazing day with Baaba Maal yesterday. He invited the PFC crew to his home in Dakar to share a festive meal with him in celebration of Tobaski. It was an incredibly special experience for all of us– not to mention delicious! Following the meal we spent some time discussing the history of music in Senegal with Baaba, and he explained the special role griottes and musicians in general play in society here. It was also very interesting to learn how Senegalese society takes care of its musicians, with gifts of money, goods, food, livestock– and more!

Following our time at Baaba Maal’s home, we went to a large open air stadium downtown where he was performing. We set up to film the event, but none of us were prepared for the overwhelming energy of the show. When Baaba came out on stage, the crowd ignited, and everyone’s excitement only went up from there. The performance was a blend of music and dance with brilliant choreography– it surpassed all my expectations and was unlike any show I have ever seen.

It was a late night last night, and the crew is just now waking up and gathering gear. We’re meeting in the lobby of our hotel in an hour and will be heading back to Baaba’s home to add him and some of his musicians to our new Songs Around the World. More to come…!

Under the Mango Tree

 

What an amazing day of music, recording, and sheer joy we all just shared with Baaba Maal at his house outside of Dakar! Mark first met up with him in England this past Spring while the PFC Band was preparing to share the stage with him at Glastonbury. Since then we have been planning a trip to Senegal to work with him, and today was the day we’ve all been dreaming of. Baaba invited our crew over to his home to record performances by himself and a few of his incredibly talented friends, and it went SO well.

Following a breakfast of fresh fruit and tea, we setup beneath a towering mango tree in Baaba’s front yard and spent the day recording some of the most beautiful music. We fell absolutely in love with one of his songs called “Tara.” After the session Baaba explained to us that he wrote the song years ago, but had never recorded it… until now that is– and what a recording it was! We concluded the day with a delicious meal served on a mat beneath the mango tree, and it was the perfect end to an unbelievable day.

This past year has been a beautiful journey for Playing For Change– releasing the album “Songs Around the World” and our film “Peace Through Music,” and putting together the Playing For Change Band’s first coast-to-coast tour… But all of those milestones owe their existence to days like today.

There was something magical about going back into production in the field. There is no doubt that a huge part of that magic came from Baaba Maal and his friends. More of it was created by the synergy of the music with the environment– The birds and the breeze, children playing and roosters crowing, and even the occasional passing cars all made their own contributions to the musical experience we recorded today. And knowing that we would soon be sharing this afternoon’s intimate performance with the rest of the world was the final ingredient to that special magic we all felt today.

Tomorrow is going to be another big day. The whole country (and much of the continent) is celebrating Tobaski, and Baaba is performing a large concert in honor of the holiday. We are all looking forward to another magical day of music, but for now it is back to the hotel for our crew.

Peace and Love from Senegal!

 

Thanksgiving in Senegal

After nearly 24 hours of traveling, the crew and I have finally arrived in Senegal. We are here to begin production on some new Songs Around the World, and cannot wait to get started. We were met at the airport this afternoon by some colleagues of Baaba Maal, who were all very kind and helped us get situated in our hotel.

We took today to get settled in, but decided to grab dinner in downtown Dakar and get a bit of a sense of what the local scene is like. We enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner that consisted of a mix of international and local fare that tasted delicious after our long trip. Following our meal we made friends with an energetic young man named Faluo who recommended a band playing at a club on the other side of town. And so we all piled into a cab (that sounded and felt like it was going to fly apart at any moment) to check out the local music scene. The band was great, but jet lag started to hit us all midway through the set and so we parted company early. We are meeting Baaba Maal at his home outside of Dakar tomorrow, and we wanted to make sure we were well rested for that!

And with that, I will conclude this Thanksgiving posting. Whether you are celebrating in the company of friends and loved ones, or reading along from the comfort of your own home, all of us at Playing For Change are honored and proud to count you among our global family. Peace and Love!

Midwest Moments

I was fortunate to join the Playing for Change Band’™s tour in Cleveland, Ohio and hopped on the bus for another journey of a lifetime through the Midwest region of our beautiful country. The fall season was in full blossom; the air was crisp, the sounds of crunching leaves were beneath my feet and the vibrant music of the Playing for Change Band consumed my soul. To be united again with the musicians and our family was rejuvenating, putting a dancing smile in my step. I wasn’t sure how the band, or myself for that matter, was going to handle the rigorous and nomadic ways of life on the road, but my hopes of an exuberant and joyous journey manifested itself and this energy became contagious and transferred itself to all audiences. The Playing for Change Movement is on FIYA right now and I am so blessed to be a part of its™ beautiful journey and would like to thank the band and our PFC family for everything we are all doing to spread the message of global unity and peace through music! Below is a short video of some moments experienced in Milwaukee. I hope you enjoy and celebrate with us as our journey continues!

 

Moments in Milwaukee | Playing For Change Band from Playing For Change on Vimeo.

PFC Band Visits a Philadelphia School

Last Tuesday, October 27th, was a special day for the Playing For Change Band as the Band descended upon the Philadelphia School (K-8), in, of all places, Philadelphia. Mark Johnson was invited to speak to the school about the Playing for Change project and the Foundation. However, when the Band heard that Mark was speaking at an elementary school and his two nieces (Anna and Claire) attended the school they all volunteered to come to the school and play a few songs for the teachers and students. Mark was also asked to speak to Anna and Claire’s individual music classes, and was assisted by 4 Playing for Change Band members; Louis Mhlanga (Zimbabwe), Mermans Kenkosenki (Congo), Jason Tamba (Congo), and Mohammed Alidu (Ghana). The first class, the second graders, listened to the musicians play some of their traditional music, and then joined in playing with their own xylophones. As Mermans Kenkosenki said after the class, along with music, the smiles and laughter of children is universal.

Next, the four musicians spoke and played for the kindergarten class. At the end of the class when Mohammed Alidu was going to teach the children a traditional song from Ghana, the music teacher asked the children if they knew a song that they could sing to Mohammed, and, to everyone’s surprise, they started singing a song in one of Ghana’s native languages. It was clear that both the students and the musicians were both learning and sharing that day.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get better, the rest of the Playing for Change Band showed up at the school for the concert. The rest of the musicians showed up during a third grade gym class, and it wasn’t difficult to convince Clarence Bekker, Mohammed Alidu, and Mermans Kenkosenki to play soccer with the children. Grandpa Elliott had other plans. Grandpa picked up a basketball and started shooting the ball. It clearly was not the first time Grandpa had picked up a basketball. After being told where the basket was, Grandpa took several free throws, and to everyone’s surprise (except for Grandpa) he made a shot. Not two shots later, Grandpa made his second shot!!  I don’t think the Playing for Change family will ever be surprised of what Grandpa Elliott is capable of.

After gym class, the students, teachers, and administration poured into the gymnasium for the concert. It was amazing to see groups of children staring in awe of Grandpa and the other musicians they recognized from the Playing for Change videos. During the Band’s performance of Stand by Me, and to the amazement of several teachers standing around, you could see children singing the lyrics and holding each other arm and arm. The grand finale came when Clarence Bekker treated the students to a searing tribute to Michael Jackson with his rendition of Billie Jean. Several students (with great dance moves) came up and danced with Clarence, and by the end the entire audience was up singing and dancing.

It truly was a remarkable day, and reminds all of us in the Playing for Change family what this project is all about…connecting ALL people of the world through music..it certainly connects old and young!

Peace and One Love,
Greg J

Jonathan Walls to speak at PFC Screening near Colorado Springs

Playing For Change: Peace Through Music co-director Jonathan Walls will be present at a screening of the film at Colorado College Campus this Tuesday, November 10th at 7PM. The event is open to the public and will be held at Armstrong Hall. Following the screening Jon Walls will be hosting a short Q&A session.

If you’re not in the Colorado Springs area but have friends or family who are, spread the word!

Change In Action: Ivano Newbill

“œWhen the night has come, And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
No I won’t be afraid, no I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me”
-Ben E. King

On September 20, former NBA player Ivano Newbill set out from the steps of Capital Hall in Atlanta, Georgia alone on a bike. In just 12 days he would cycle over 700 miles to Washington D.C. in time to attend the 2nd annual summit on Global Hunger. He rode to raise awareness about the billions of people who face hunger around the world each year. He rode to raise money for the Global Hunger Fund. He rode, as a volunteer, to take action against a crisis that kills over 25,000 people each day, and to fight against an issue that creates conflict in developing countries.  He rode with the hope that more children will have the chance to receive healthy meals at school — ”just as he had. “Growing up, many days the only meals myself and siblings had were provided through the school system. Without these meals I do not believe I would have excelled to graduate from high school, as well as go on to Georgia Tech and graduate. I know most definitely the NBA would not have been a part of my future. Now I have a moral obligation to try and help end the world’™s deadliest disease: ”hunger.”

During his journey through the back streets and on the highways, Ivano encountered stares and rebel flags, the symbols used to generate fear and hate in the South. With his past in his heart and Playing For Change “œStand By Me” on his MP3 player, Ivano valiantly faced the negativity and, in turn, left a positive impact on the locals who learned about his cause. With each additional extended hand and offer to contribute, change had taken place — change prompted by Ivano’™s courage, endurance, and faith.

We got the chance to speak to Ivano about his ride and his cause. He told us tragic stories about world hunger, but included inspirational insights into how we can lend a helping hand. He told us how global hunger is the biggest killer in the world, taking the lives of over nine million people each year. He explained to us how food deprivation is used as a weapon, and how warlords keep people down by keeping them hungry. He described to us how “œhunger does not discriminate.” It affects men, women, and children,” no matter your race or religion. He instructed us to view ourselves as united through our humanity, ”to see this issue as one that affects our own. He warned that “a whole generation of our children could be lost. Proper nutrition is vital for any child to excel in school. Serving food at school not only helps alleviate hunger among the world’™s poorest children, it also helps get them into school providing them with an important key to a better future — ”an education.” Despite these dismal realities there is hope; ”hunger is after all a curable disease. This is why as the volunteer co-chair of Friends of The World Food Program Committee of Atlanta, Georgia, Ivano has dedicated his time, his energy, his thoughts, and his prayers to raising awareness and contributing to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).

Ivano wrote to us to let us know, “œWhen I hear ‘˜Stand By Me’™, I think that whatever the problem is, there is a solution to it.” With the faith to make the world a better place Ivano has triumphantly embraced that he IS the solution and we are honored that Ivano took us along on his journey. Ivano, we stand by you as you stand by those who go hungry each day. We are inspired by your determination and energized by your enthusiasm.

Change can be made now. Change can be made today. It can be as simple as a smile to a stranger or as meaningful as lending a helping hand in the global hunger crisis. Ivano wrote to us saying “I know change will come along; ”it really will” We share his faith in all of you and in ourselves. We can all make change if we are brave enough to take action. Ivano took action and that is why we are sharing his story with you. We hope you will continue to share your inspiring stories with us. Thank you for helping us change the world!

Thank You Boston!

What an amazing show it was Thursday night in Boston! The PFC Family took the Orpheum by storm, nearly packing the 2000 person venue. From the moment the first note was struck, there was a palpable energy created in the space between the cheering crowd and the performers on stage. The result was an explosion of sight and sound that has set the bar very high for the rest of our North American tour!

I spent the 6 hour flight from Boston to LA going through photos, and am almost done. I am looking forward to sharing them with you later this weekend, so check back soon– I will post when they are available!

Get ready North America, the Playing For Change Band is on its way!

Bring It On Home

We just got back to the hotel, following another great rehearsal.  The band has put together a version of “Bring It On Home” that you absolutely have to hear!  The song features Grandpa, Titi, Clarence, and Mermans and is an amazingly emotional performance that will hit you right in the heart.

I shot this photo of Clarence and Titi celebrating after their first run through the song this afternoon, and I can’t wait to hear it live at the Birchmere on Tuesday!

Making friends in DC

The band has been rehearsing in DC for the past three days, and they sound great! They have made some really exciting additions for this tour, and I know that each show is going to be an amazing experience!

Tonight after rehearsal a bunch of us went out for a (short) night on the town. We ended up at a West African bar in DC where a local band was performing. About thirty minutes into their set, I noticed a very familiar sound to the song they just started playing. I walked up to the front of the house and instantly realized why it sounded so familiar– Mermans had jumped up on stage and was singing lead vocals!

We didn’t stay long, as we all had to be up for rehearsal tomorrow. But everyone’s energy is through the roof right now, and we can’t wait to get take this show on the road!

 

Welcome Colbert Nation!

We are honored to welcome citizens of Colbert Nation to Playing For Change and appreciate the power of the Colbert Bump you are providing by sharing PFC with everyone you know.

After seeing members of the Playing For Change band perform on Stephen’™s storied stage, we hope you are inspired to “Journey” around the site and discover the hundreds of other musicians who make up our growing music movement.

Make sure to “Join the Movement” for updates and exclusive content offered to our community members including “behind the scenes” footage from our 22-city North American tour this fall.

Click here for tour dates and info.

Thank you for becoming part of our growing Peace Through Music society and for sharing the love with your family and friends.

Mark Johnson and members of the PFC Band on The Colbert Report tonight!

Hello everyone. Just a quick reminder that Mark Johnson will be on the Colbert Report tonight! Mark will also be joined by PFC Band members Grandpa Elliott, Peter Bunetta, Reggie McBride, and David Sancious (former keyboardist and guitarist of the E Street Band) to perform a song or two as well– you won’t want to miss it!

Tune in or set your DVR to Comedy Central tonight at 11:30pm / 10:30c to see the show.

PFC on Tavis Smiley and the Colbert Report!

Hello Playing For Change Community! I want to share some exciting news with you. This Monday, August 10, Mark Johnson will make an appearance on the Tavis Smiley show.

And then, on Wednesday, August 12, Mark will be joined by Grandpa Elliott, Peter Bunetta, Reggie McBride, and David Sancious (former keyboardist and guitarist of the E Street Band) on the Colbert Report! I hope you’ll join me in tuning in to Comedy Central at 11:30pm / 10:30c to see Mark and the guys with Stephen Colbert!

There’s lots more exciting news coming up soon, so be sure to check back frequently– or Join the Movement for regular updates!

PFC on PBS all month long in August!

A 57 minute version of our feature length documentary film, “Playing For Change: Peace Through Music,” is going to air nationally on PBS throughout August– click here for the schedule! Over the course of this film, you will not only have the chance to see and hear new amazing performances from around the world, but you will also get to meet the musicians who make them so special.

Additional screenings are being scheduled by PBS daily, so for the most up to date listing check with your local station. We will also be updating the screening schedule linked above often– this schedule is current as of July 30th right now.

There is no better way to introduce your friends and family to Playing For Change than through this film, so please share this information with your loved ones!

PFC on PBS in August

An abridged version of the feature length documentary film, Playing For Change: Peace Through Music, is going to be broadcast on PBS stations across the United States in the month of August!

In the next couple days we will be posting stations and screening times so that you can find out when this film will be screening in your area. So be sure to check back soon, and tell your friends and family to tune in with you!

PFC featured on ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson

Mark Johnson and the musicians from Playing For Change were just featured as “Persons of the Week” by Charles Gibson on ABC’s World News. It is always exciting to have the opportunity to share this project with fresh eyes and ears who have not experienced it yet, and Charles Gibson did a great job of that tonight.

Living in LA, I don’t usually have the opportunity to share these moments with my family, however I am currently home on vacation, and was fortunate enough to be able to watch this broadcast with my family, which was really special.

If you missed the show tonight, or would like to share it with your friends or family, you can watch it on ABC’s website. (link no longer available)

 

Mark Johnson featured as keynote speaker at TED

Playing For Change and founder Mark Johnson received a rousing standing ovation from the technorati at the TED Convention in Oxford, England. The theme of the conference was œThe Substance of Things Not Seen, but the 600 attendees were moved by the very visible substance of our “Stand By Me” andWar No More Trouble videos. Among those in attendance was actress Cameron Diaz, who showed her appreciation with a hug for Mark.

Click here for a summary of Mark’s presentation.  As soon as TED posts the video feed from Mark’s speech, we will let you know!

Titi Tsira, Welcome to PFC!

I’d like to take a moment to officially welcome a new musician to the Playing For Change Movement: Titi Tsira. We first met this lovely young woman in Guguletu, South Africa, at a concert held to celebrate the opening of the Playing For Change Foundation’s Ntonga Music School in the Spring of 2009. As soon as we heard Titi’s voice, it was love at first sight– or, in this case, love at first sound.

She joined the PFC Band for an amazing performance at the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, and then traveled with the band to New Orleans to perform again with us at Tipitina’s last Saturday.

We are very excited to add her beautiful voice to the Playing For Change Band’s global chorus. Though our Summer Tour just ended, we’re planning a Fall Tour which is going to be out of this world. I hope to see you at one of our shows soon, so you can enjoy Titi and the rest of the PFC Band live on stage– it’s an experience you won’t soon forget!

Farewell For Now

It was a beautiful last day in New Orleans. Spirits were high among the band and crowd. Once the first note was played, I just knew that this show was going to be something special. And it was. The concert at Tipitina’s was the longest show to date. The band played 23 songs during their performance, lasting over 2 hours. It was truly an extraordinary night of music and celebration.

It’s amazing to think that after spending a month on the road, together with the most passionate and talented musicians imaginable, it has come to a close. Still, I thought it was going to be more difficult to say goodbye than it was. I think it’s because it isn’t goodbye forever. It’™s just a break so everyone can go back home, and share some stories with their family and friends. It’™s a time for reflection. It’™s a time for thankfulness. There is something very special happening with Playing For Change. Our family is growing every day and you feel that love permeate everywhere you go.

Grandpa Comes Home

Last night at Tipitina’s, the stage was set for greatness before the first note was struck. For starters, we were performing in a venue with a long and storied history in one of the most amazing cities in the world for live music. The amount of love New Orleansians had for Grandpa Elliott, and the band that had brought him around the world and back this past month was through the roof.

Add to that the fact that the band has gotten consistently better with each passing day. The whole time we’ve been on the road there has been a continually developing synergy among its members. The stage is an environment where you have to be able to know what the people around you are doing without words, and this can only be accomplished by trust and mutual respect for each other.

On top of all this, last night was the first show we’ve had all tour with no curfew. With our initial downbeat at 10:30PM, the band played until almost 1AM– 2 sets and a three song encore totalling 23 songs in all. When the house lights finally came up, the audience was still screaming for more!

After the show, we all stayed backstage in the green room reliving experiences from the past month, and saying our goodbyes. What started at the venue, continued on the bus to the hotel, and finally ended one last time at Cafe du Monde, over 3AM beignets and cafe au lait.

And with that we all hugged our final goodbyes, sending each musician and crew member back to their respective hotel rooms to begin packing and preparing to return to their homes. At least for now…

As I sit typing this now from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, I am both incredibly grateful, and at the same time humbled to have been a part of the PFC Band’s tour this past month. I am already looking forward to this Fall, when we’ll have the opportunity to do it all over again. Until then, stay tuned to playingforchange.com for continual updates.

PFC Band live on 90.7 WWOZ in New Orleans

Mark and the band just finished a great on-air interview and three song set here in New Orleans. The room was tight with all of us crammed into the studio, but no one seemed to mind, as the energy was through the roof! There was a really special moment when Grandpa discussed what it was like to come back to his home town with the PFC Band, and what it meant for him to be a part of this project.

We’ve got a couple of hours for lunch, and then we’re off to rehearse for tomorrow night’s show at Tipitina’s. Everyone is really excited about tomorrow’s performance– I hope to see you there!

Everything Tastes Like Chicken

During set break at one of our shows here in New Orleans, I was grabbing a bite with Francois. He had already eaten, and so I asked him what was good. “The fried chicken is very nice,” he replied. And so I went over to the buffet to investigate.

I was a bit confused when I looked over the food options, and did not see the fried chicken to which he was referring. Then it dawned on me– they must not have fried crawfish in Barcelona.

PFC Band, welcome to New Orleans!

The PFC Band and Crew take the Tonight Show by storm

Thank you to everyone who tuned in last week to watch the PFC Band perform on the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien– it was a truly special day for the whole PFC Family. For this performance, we were thrilled to make a couple of additions to the PFC Band. Long-time friend of PFC, Singer-Songwriter Sara Bareilles joined us on stage, as well as six members from the Zuni People’s Twin Eagle Drum Group (who drove all the way from New Mexico, as their drum was too large to be transported by plane)! As I was walking onto the studio lot, one of the security guards pulled me aside and told me that our band was the largest musical guest they’d ever had (we had 16 performers on stage!)

Following the show’s taping, members of the PFC Band and crew celebrated at Universal Studios theme park. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Clarence Bekker on a few of the rides. If you thought his voice was powerful on stage, you should have heard him screaming on those roller coasters– it’s a wonder I can still hear!

That evening, we all enjoyed sharing each other’s company over the course of an enormous group dinner– close to forty of us, all told. In addition to everyone’s good cheer from the day’s events, we learned at dinner that it was Grandpa Elliott’s birthday! Surrounded by musicians from all over the world, the singing of “Happy Birthday to Grandpa” lasted almost fifteen minutes, and was performed in accordance with South African, Dutch, American, and Zuni traditions! Be sure to check out the video of Grandpa’s Birthday song below:

Grandpa’s Birthday Song from Playing For Change on Vimeo.

It was a truly memorable day by all accounts. Keep sending in your video (or written) responses on this content or anything you would like to share about the Playing For Change Movement, upload them to your favorite streaming video site, and send the links to participate@playingforchange.com. Also, make sure to Join the Movement to get updates and other exclusive content.

The band is currently in New Orleans having a great time and grateful for the tremendous love they are receiving from the Big Easy! There’s plenty more to come, so stay tuned!

I’d like to share an article I wrote for One.org

Three years ago an inspired film crew came to my house in the Mamelodi township and filmed me performing “One Love“, “Stand By Me”, and a few of my originals.

Over the past few years, this same film crew has traveled all over the world– from the Mamelodi township, to Santa Monica, CA to Tel Aviv, to Barcelona, to Northern Ireland and back a few times filming musicians all around the world.

The result is Playing For Change, of which I’™m proud to be a part. The beautiful videos and music that they have created show the power of music and the power to effect peace through music.

Music is a universal language that we can all understand. Visit playingforchange.com to find out about the amazing work they’™re doing in South Africa and throughout the world and to see the beauty of what they have brought to the world.

Vusi Mahlasela

Harmony of Humanity by the Beach

It would be an understatement to say it was a special night for the exceptionally fortunate 10,000 or so people at the Santa Monica Pier for the biggest opening night of the outdoor concert series in its 25 years. The unique mix of pure joy and emotion emanating from those packed on the pier and the thousands of others camped out on the beach below was palpable. I’™ve been attending the free Thursday night concerts over the years and have never experienced anything like it. The ban’™s performance was beyond memorable; it was magical. You had folks of all ages dancing, singing, clapping and cheering with the music showing, once again, the power of music to connect people across boundaries. All on different, yet shared walks through life: enjoying in their own way together; an eclectic harmony of humanity.

In Step Before the Set

I arrived at the pier just as Bushman, a respected reggae band from Jamaica, began their set. I immediately walked back stage, where I joined Clarence Bekker and South African legend Vusi Mahlasela in an impromptu dance session. Within minutes, Grandpa Elliott had joined in with his graceful grooves to which Vusi responded with some swift, smooth moves of his own that brought his knees just inches from the ground. Other band mates and young fans jumped in; the musical moments had already begun and the band had yet to play a single note.

Paying Respect to Roger

Just before the band began their set, Mark welcomed old and new PFC fans alike and poignantly dedicated the concert to Roger Ridley, who used to perform just a few blocks away on the 3rd Street Promenade. As I stood with Whitney, PF’s Co-founder and Foundation Executive Director, and the rest of the crew, we all took a moment to appreciate how far this people-powered movement had come. It was the right moment to celebrate Roger’™s legacy and the impact he continues to have on all us.

Singing in the Streets

After the show, nobody wanted to leave and security eventually asked us to clear out. As we exited, I spoke briefly with Jackson Browne, a long-time mentor and supporter of PFC and even filmed Norman and Grandpa catching up before they booted us. Afterwards, we stopped by the Afro Funke party at Zanzibar and talked about the band’™s recent trip to Glastonbury. Our evening ended with Clarence and I singing “When Doves Cry” A Cappella as we walked the band back to their hotel.

Sharing is Caring

Fortunately, if you weren’™t able to attend, the concert’™s audio was recorded, and Kevin filmed a few songs in HD that you’ll get to experience yourself. Keep sharing episodes and telling everyone you know to “Join the Movement”. Due to your inspired participation, we are truly bringing peace to the world through music.

Thank you for emailing your written reaction or video response to the band’s performance on The Tonight Show. We’re going to do some flip cam filming backstage and will reciprocate with footage of the band’s feelings after the show.

Upload your video, photos to YouTube, Flickr, or wherever and email the links (not the actual media files) to participate@playingforchange.com

Excited to hear from you and share your feelings with the community!

If you didn’t see the performance yet, click Tonight Show . (the video for this performance has since been removed, so this is another recording of it)

Keep checking the blog for stories and experiences from a variety of voices, especially the musicians …stay tuned. Here are some of Jeremy’s photos from the show just posted on the PFC Flickr page.

it’s on to New Orleans…

One Love!

 

Campfire Backstage at Glastonbury

With all the excitement of the performance itself, I neglected to share one of my favorite moments from Glastonbury. This came not during the show itself, but immediately afterward. The whole band and many of our special guests sat around a campfire backstage and were entertained by impromtu a capella performances by Clarence Bekker, Grandpa Elliott, and Vusi Mahlasela.

The three of them took turns, presenting pieces ranging from spoken word prose to ballads, and everything in between. Clarence offered a beautiful tribute to Michael Jackson, who had just passed two days earlier. Grandpa sang an amazing version of “Old Man River,” and Vusi incorporated a sequence of interpretive dance into one of his songs (which is the origin of the above photograph).

By the time anyone had bothered to check a watch, it was already 3AM. Between these three’s exhibitions and the rest of us rehashing stories from our week in London, we had wiled away most of the night. And with that, we all piled back into the bus to begin the 3 hour drive back to our hotel.

PFC Band Headlines the Jazz/World Stage at Glastonbury

It is not often that I find myself at a complete loss for words. Experiencing the Playing For Change Band perform at Glastonbury was one of those rare occurrences.  For this very special concert, Playing For Change musicians Clarence Bekker, Grandpa Elliott, Tal Ben Ari “Tula”Mermans MosengoJason TambaLouis MhlangaReggie McBrideRoberto LutiStefano TomaselliMohammed AliduPeter Bunetta, and Francois Vigui were joined by a number of very special guests.

Traveling from Mali, Tinariwen took the stage with the PFC Band to peform a hypnotic version of their original song “Imidiwan” leading into “War / No More Trouble.” From South Africa, Vusi Mahlasela joined the PFC Band to perform beautiful renditions of his original songs “When You Come Back” and “Letter From Havana.” And bussing their way down from Northern Ireland, Daryl Simpson and the Omagh Community Youth Choir added their beautiful voices to “Imidiwan,” “War / No More Trouble,” “Billy Jean,” “Stand by Me,” and performed their own version of “Love Rescue Me.”

For years our team has been traveling around the world in search of musical inspiration that transcends life’s daily challenges. Looking at that stage and seeing so many musicians– over 50– from such varied backgrounds who had all traveled hundreds, if not thousands of miles to perform together in the name of peace was something I will never forget.

If you were unable to attend this amazing night of music, keep checking the site, as we will be updating it with content from the show when it is available. Also, make sure to check out the PFC Band page frequently, to see when shows are announced in your area!

Seeing Through the Eyes of Grandpa

Playing For Change has always been about the journey we all take together to find great music and connect people through that music. There is always a sense of discovery whenever the Playing For Change crew arrives in a new city or records a new musician.

This past October, Playing For Change was asked to play a concert in New Orleans. It was there that I discovered a man named Grandpa. Our crew had filmed Grandpa for the first time a few years ago, but I did not travel with the crew to New Orleans at that time. I had only seen and heard Grandpa through performances we had filmed and recorded.

Our crew was picked up from the hotel in a shuttle bus and taken over to our rehearsal space. There were musicians from Spain, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Los Angeles, and New Orleans all coming together to help spread the message of Playing For Change.

As we walked into the front door of the rehearsal building, I saw a man with a big white beard and overalls standing quietly in the corner of the lobby. I was certain that it was Grandpa. I walked over to him and said, “œGrandpa?”

“Yes, indeed,” he replied.

Grandpa explained to me that he is almost completely blind and will need help getting around over the next couple of days. I told him, “œI’™m your man.” This was the beginning of my journey in New Orleans with Grandpa.

We kicked off the rehearsal and it was like these musicians had been playing together for years. They all worked together so naturally. It was apparent that every one of them was extremely talented, and that they all had embraced the values of listening to each other and working as a team to achieve the right sound.

Grandpa is a mean harmonica player. He had with him this small side bag that was stuffed to the brim with harmonicas. He must have had 15 harmonicas in that little bag. Grandpa explained how each of them was in a specific spot. He had them organized a certain way so when he’™s performing in the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans, he can do everything himself. If he squinted really hard and held the harmonica about an inch away from his eye, he was able to make out which key was listed on the harmonica. Working with Grandpa, I started to pick up on all of the little things that not having eyesight would make incredibly difficult.

After our rehearsal, Mark Johnson says, “Hey Grandpa, we’™d like to take you out to a nice big meal. Would you like to join us?” Grandpa, with a big grin on his face says,”You bet your sweet bippy!” And off we went.

There must have been 20 of us at the dinner; musicians from all over the world, and the Playing For Change crew eating together in a truly magical city, and celebrating the gift of music and its ability to help heal the world and make it a better place. I remember looking down the table and at the far end of the table was Grandpa. He had such a content look on his face as if he was saying, “these are the blessings that music brings. This is why I love what I do.”

As the meal was wrapping up, I asked Grandpa if he could take tomorrow off from playing in the French Quarter so he could rest up for the show the following night. He told me that he has to be up at 5 AM to get down to the French Quarter in order to secure a seat so he can perform and make a living. I handed him enough money so that he would be able to take the next day off.

Our next rehearsal went off without a hitch. Grandpa had presented the idea of me being his harmonica holder. Our set list at this point left Grandpa having to switch to different harmonica keys several times throughout the show. It was a little shaky at first, but after we ran through it a few times, I felt comfortable with the process.

Showtime. There must have been two thousand people assembled to see the Playing For Change Band perform in the French Quarter. Grandpa took his seat at the front of the stage. He looked so iconic sitting there gazing out over the crowd as if he could see every one of their faces.

When Grandpa and Clarence began to sing a duet version of “Change Is Gonna Come,” it felt like each harmonica note he held made my body bend to the tone. As the band played on there was such a sense of camaraderie going on between the crowd and the band. It was like everyone was thinking the same thing if we all come together through music, we really can spread a positive message throughout the world. Stop trying to build walls between all of us, and instead build bridges connecting with one another and come together as a human race.

As Grandpa left the stage, I walked him out into the crowd. He was a celebrity. Everyone was coming up to Grandpa hugging him and requesting a picture with him. He has such a positive and warm feeling about him. You just feel good being in his company, and it was so evident that it was an experience that many people shared.

As the show came to a close, Grandpa came up to each and every member of the crew and the band and thanked them all for sharing such a special few days with him. After reflecting on the past few days, I shared with Grandpa what I thought about what it must have felt like to go through that experience without having the use of his eyesight. Grandpa came up to me and said, “œThank you for helping me get around my friend. Thank you for helping me see all of the beautiful things we have just shared together.” It was at that point I felt like I was truly seeing through the eyes of Grandpa.

Omagh

The PFC crew has always embraced the spontaneous, and our trip to Ireland was just that. On Christmas day of 2008 the crew got on a conference call and decided that we would head to Ireland on New Year’s Day. We came from all corners of the country and met in Atlanta only to discover our flight was delayed. This gave us a great opportunity to discuss our goals for this once in a lifetime trip.

First, we would make our way to Northern Ireland to meet up with Daryl Simpson and the Omagh Community Youth Choir. This was a very exciting opportunity because of the choir’s history and what it represents to the entire planet. Daryl formed the choir after a horrific act of terrorism due to the Protestant / Catholic conflict that has plagued Northern Ireland. The choir was formed to bring the children of both groups together using music as a bridge to allow these kids to see their similarities and ultimately form a bond and connection that could not be broken by social, political, or religious differences. Additionally, the parents of the singers also came together in an arena that allowed them to open up and communicate with one another. Thus the processes of healing, forgiveness, understanding, and collaboration were able to flourish in an environment rich with love, happiness and unity. The result is a much stronger community that can embrace differences and celebrate connections. This was a community we had to meet and a group of singers we had to collaborate with. If music could bring peace to this community then surely it has to power to affect the rest of the planet. They are an ideal group to represent the lyrics of War / No More Trouble.

Second, we would film and record Bono. More about that later!

We arrived in Dublin, rented a car and drove to Omagh. That night we met Daryl and had a great evening of getting to know each other. The next morning we met the choir at the church where they rehearse and headed out to our filming location. This location was very special. Alexandra Anastasia “Sacha” Hamilton, Duchess of Abercorn, is a big supporter of the choir and the arts and offered us a house that was built on her property. It was a true retreat constructed of beautiful wood with an amazing skylight in the center nearly 30 feet above. We entered to meet a lively group of teens eager to sing. After a moment of reflection to allow each of us to focus, we set up and began the recording session. It is hard to describe the impact of the moment when the first note was sung. The crew just stood in awe, taking in every note and voice, and looked at each other knowing that we had come to the right place and were about to be a part of something very powerful. We admired the smiles and confidence with which the teens sang and realized at that moment that we were surrounded by the music that had brought peace to this community. We could feel the power within each voice, see the connections between the individuals, and hear the wisdom behind each note. We left that evening knowing that we had filmed and recorded one of the most important group of singers this world has ever heard.

Welcome to Our New Website

Welcome everyone to the new Playingforchange.com website. It’s just the beginning—we have lots more planned—but we’re sure you’re going to enjoy exploring the depth and breadth of material here. Visit the amazing locations and meet the wonderful people we’ve met through our journey. At our core we’re filmmakers, so we’re going to continue to publish new videos that chronicle our ongoing adventure. Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends about us! One love, Mark.