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

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.

“Supreme Success Through Perseverance” by Mark Johnson.

The Playing For Change Band just completed its summer “United World Tour” in Europe and one very special show in Beirut, Lebanon. We have toured Europe for many years but this was the first ever PFC Band performance in the Middle East and we didn’t take it lightly. As much as I prefer to avoid the world’s stereotypes of where we can and should travel, I was concerned for the safety of the band and crew as we traveled to Beirut. The US State department clearly warns United States citizens should avoid travel to Lebanon but I remembered my father telling me it was once considered the “Paris” of the Middle East, full of life and culture.16-9-united-tour-thumb

I was determined to discover what life was like in this mysterious and potentially dangerous city. I contacted our local promoter, Amin Abiyaghi, and asked him to help us find some local musicians we could record/film for new PFC Songs Around The World as well as invite them to join our show and add some local flavor to our concert. He was more than happy to help me and so we began production through Skype and email; everyone seemed more than excited to join the PFC movement and support us in any way they could. We received our permits to film in and around Beirut and assembled an oud player, percussionist and female violinist to join us as well as a great Lebanese singer named, Yuri Mrakadi. A small crew with cameras and our mobile recording studio traveled with me a few days before the band was set to arrive from Milan, Italy to Nice, France and then onward to Beirut. I remember my heart was racing as we got closer to our destination as I was so curious about what type of place we would discover…



Since we started traveling the world with Playing For Change over 10 years ago I have personally traveled to about 50 countries but I never lose the excitement of discovering a new city, town or village and seeing it through the lens of their music and culture. Beirut, the Land of the Sun, brought out more emotion than I can remember in quite some time. It was a trip of battling my own internal fear and outward propaganda that demonized a once thriving city and made us feel unsure about our safety. Once the plane landed, it was too late to turn back and so we had to move forward a bit cautious but also full of excitement and determination to connect the world through music.



The next few days in Beirut where full of amazing people, food, music, and life experiences that will forever live inside our hearts and memories. The PFC band features 9 musicians from 9 countries and our Lebanese guests made it 10. The 1,000 plus crowd greeted us with loud applause and cheers as we took the stage and throughout the night you could see smiles, laughter, dancing, and singing—the ingredients essential for positive change and deep human connection. Our differences of religion, race, economics, and politics faded away and the music made us more united as people as we returned to the one group we are all a part of, the Human Race.





Thank you Beirut for your amazing hospitality and more importantly for your reminder that no matter how many things in life divide us, they are never as strong as the power of music to bring us together. We are all “United” people finding our way one heart and one song at a time.

One Love,
Mark Johnson

The PFC Band is headed back to Australia!


This year will mark the fourth consecutive year that the Playing For Change Band will grace the stage at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in Australia. With a stellar lineup including Taj Mahal, Jackson Browne, D’Angelo, Melissa Etheridge and Kendrick Lamar; this year’s Bluesfest is surely one you do not want to miss, plus you never know who just may stop by and join the PFC Band on stage! Be sure to check out one of the band’s shows below and don’t forget to stop by the PFC tent to say “hey” and grab some PFC swag.

Sydney, we have you covered as well. Catch the band in a one-night-only performance in support of the Playing For Change Foundation at The Basement on March 30th! More info here.


Friday, March 25th – Jambalaya Stage – 9:30pm (60 mins)*
Saturday, March 26th – Delta Stage – 11:00pm (60 mins)*
Monday, March 28th – Crossroads Stage – 5:30pm (60 mins)*
 *subject to change

Check out Clarence and Tula at the PFC tent last year:

Grandpa, Tula, and Roberto let loose backstage before their Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 performance:

The fans express their appreciation to PFC band members at Byron Bay 2015:

The PFC Band performs at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 and Super fan Dee reacts with great enthusiasm:

Super fan Jack McLean shares his inspiration about PFC backstage with Mermans Mosengo:

Grandpa Elliott and the band greet an adoring crowd at the PFC booth at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015:

Clarence Milton Bekker speaks with Paul Erickson about his extraordinary contribution to the foundation:

Peace Through Music World Tour 2014 Slide Show

In 2014 the Playing For Change Band played over 75 concerts in 11 countries spreading a message of love, unity and peace through music.

Here are some photos from the road on a slide show over one of the songs that opens many of our shows: “Biendans”, by Jason Tamba.
The creation of the Playing For Change Band has helped us to realize a dream of uniting the musicians we met during our journey on one stage. The result is a unique fusion of influences and talents in constant evolution since the first concerts in 2009. Grandpa Elliott, legendary street musician from New Orleans, sings alongside Clarence Bekker (Netherlands), Titi Tsira (South Africa), Tal Ben Ari “Tula” (Israel), Jason Tamba (Congo) and Mermans Mosengo (Congo). The rhythm section features Louis Mhlanga (Zimbabwe) on lead guitar, Papa Orbe Ortiz (Cuba) on the bass, Peter Bunetta (USA) on drums, Roberto Luti on guitar (Italy) on Keiko Komaki on keyboard and Paulo Heman on percussions.

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.

Australian Tour

The Playing For Change Band has recently finished one of its most amazing tours. For the first time the band hit the road in Australia, opening for Robert Plant in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney and performing 3 shows at the Bluesfest in Byron Bay, among prestigious artists such as Ben Harper, Manu Chao, Carlos Santana, Paul Simon, and Iggy Pop.

The PFC crew came to record for the first time in Oceania in september 2012 through the initiative of our great friend and amazing PFC ambassador in Australia, Maurie Stang who also helped us organize the tour and play at the Blues Fest. During 2 weeks the band performed almost every day, jumping on planes and taking bus rides with a total crew of 20 people, including GrandPa Elliot, Tula, Clarence Bekker and Titi Tsira. The reaction and support of the Australian audience has been really impressive and the band will probably come back soon to Australia to bring the fire.

A booth runt by a few volunteers at the BluesFest in Byron Bay also allowed us to raise more than 25,000 USD for the Playing For Change Foundation and spread the spirit of our global movement. We also had the opportunity to film and record some of the shows during the tour, so get ready to enjoy new live videos of the PFC Band very soon.


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9 shots australia rehearsal BLOG

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A Change IS Coming

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The Playing For Change Band’s 2012 “Back to Our Roots” Tour hits the road this summer throughout Europe and Brazil. Grandpa Elliott has his passport ready and harmonicas in his pockets. One thing I know for sure is that wherever Grandpa Elliott goes, the roots follow. I’ve known Grandpa for many years and he is the King of Conviction. Whenever and wherever he performs he gives it everything he has, and brings so much soul and emotion to every note and every word. The PFC Band feeds off of his spirit, and together with the audience we create a better world, a place where we are going to make it as a human race. Sometimes the music is all we need to be set free. Grandpa may be a blind man, but he sees the light.

For example, check out this live video of “A Change Is Gonna Come” from Folsom, CA. When I watch and listen to this performance I have no doubt that a change is coming and that with music we will all persevere.

There is so much diversity and talent in this band, and together on the stage they create music that breaks down walls and builds bridges. Don’t miss a chance to see Grandpa and the band live this summer and celebrate the “Back to Our Roots” Tour with your PFC Family!!

One Love,

Mark Johnson

Sound Check at the Beacon

The band has just finished their sound check at New York’s Beacon Theatre, and there is excitement in the air! The PFC Band is part of an unbelievable lineup of musicians for tonight’s show– Jackson Browne, Keb’ Mo’, Taj Majal, Patti Smith, Vusi Mahlasela, and many (many) more!

Everyone has come together to celebrate the music, life and vision of John Lennon, and the money raised from tonight’s concert is being donated to the Playing For Change Foundation, an organization building music and art schools in communities around the world.

As I type I can hear Jackson Browne tuning up downstairs. It’s going to be a night to remember, and we look forward to sharing the sights, sounds, and stories with the Playing For Change Community– stay tuned.

Love and Respect from New York!

The Band Hits the West Coast

The Playing For Change band has spent the past few days heading up the west coast, making several stops to bring music to the masses! And not only to folks at shows, but also to incredible kids who got the chance to experience music and the message of peace with PFC.

Playing For Change made a stop at Lennox Middle School in Los Angeles, where the band played a show for the students, who grabbed instruments of their own and joined in the music! The kids were so talented… they played everything from maracas to guitar, and even steel drums! These kids are definitely musicians in the making!

The band also played to an excited group of kids at VSAA, a music and art school in Portland, Oregon that created a curriculum around the Playing For Change movement. The students really connected with the music and were on their feet dancing by the end of the first song! It was great to see such young and energetic kids embrace the idea of change in the world with peace through music.

Bringing that peace to the world takes a lot of work, and no job is complete is without a day off here and there. The band enjoyed a day of rest in San Francisco, taking the time to soak up good food and great sights. Reggie especially liked the crab!

After tonight’s show in Seattle, the band bids the west coast farewell and starts their journey to the opposite coast, stopping along the way to bring music to the people. We can’t wait!

Howdy from Texas!

The Playing For Change Band has spent the past 3 days traveling across the great state of Texas, hitting Dallas, Austin and ending tonight in Houston at the House of Blues… and I must say, Texas likes to dance! The crowds have gotten so into the shows here that they’re up and out of their seats, dancing the whole show!

Earlier today, the band made a stop at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to play for the patients and staff. The center is absolutely beautiful! It was inspiring to see so many people motivate themselves to come see and enjoy the show, despite the hardships they were dealing with. It made us feel very welcomed!

After a long day of travel tomorrow, we’re hitting up Phoenix, and then off to Los Angeles. The southwest has been full of good people, good food and good times. Here’s to a great West Coast welcome!

New Orleans Welcomes the PFC Band!

What an incredible journey! 2 weeks ago, I had the honor of joining the Playing For Change band on their 6 week trip across the country to change the world with peace through music. I have been so blessed to experience the movement that this band is creating first hand. Everywhere we’ve been so far has greeted us with such warmth and love!

We spent a wonderful first week in Park City, Utah, where the band rehearsed and played an incredible first show. Then we flew up to Canada, where we were welcomed by Inn From the Cold, a shelter that provides assistance to homeless families. From Canada we jetted to Atlanta and rocked out at Center Stage. After the Atlanta show, we boarded our tour buses and set off for Asheville, North Carolina, where we played the LEAF festival, which was an incredible and memorable experience! Asheville welcomed the band again at the Orange Peel, where the PFC band performed an outreach for some very excited children! And after a stop over in Birmingham, Alabama to play at the WorkPlay Theater, we come to tonight’s show in New Orleans, where the band is currently playing to a crowd at the House of Blues.

New Orleans is amazing! This is my first time here, and I’ve spent the past 2 weeks listening to Grandpa tell me incredible stories about life here. He was definitely right when he told me about all of the amazing food I’d be enjoying! There are musicians all over the street, playing music for anyone who wants to listen. It’s very humbling to watch people sit on the street and pour their heart and passion into the music they’re playing. You can hear it in every note!

I’m so excited so see what the next 4 weeks brings us. If it’s anything like the past two, it should be full of eye-opening experiences, incredible outreaches, and watching music unite people across this country – and world!

Rehearsal in Park City, Utah

The Playing for Change Band is getting ready to start their North American Tour. This time around, a couple of new players are joining in: from Los Angeles, Luke will grace the keyboards, and from Senegal, Ilemba will be playing the electric guitar. The heart of the band remains the same: Grandpa Elliott, Clarence, Titi, Mermans Mosengo , Jason, Alidu, Peter and Reggie.

With each passing rehearsal here in Park City, Utah, the band is sounding better and better. It is really a privilege to be here experiencing the reunion of these amazing musicians from different cultures playing together, and I cannot wait to witness the impact of them sharing their talents with audiences across North America– beginning this weekend!

PFC Band Fall Tour Ticket Info

Hello Everyone! I have a quick announcement to share. Tickets for the band’s Fall Tour will go on-sale to the general public on Friday, September 10th. Members of the PFC Community will have access to a special pre-sale beginning Friday, August 20th. If you are not already a member of the PFC Community, you can join by clicking here. I hope to see you on the road!

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 [email protected]. 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 [email protected] 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

PFC Band to play the Santa Monica Pier on July 2nd!

We are bringing in musicians from all around the world — Amsterdan (Clarence Bekker), Congo (Mermans Mosengo, Jason Tamba, and Tshotsho Fikisi), Zimbabwe (Louis Mhlanga), Ghana (Mohammed Alidu), Capetown (Titi), and from the ‘States, New Orleans (Grandpa Elliott), Los Angeles (Peter Bunetta), and Detroit (Mr. Reggie Mcbride) — for what will be an amazing performance!

The show will run from 7PM – 10PM in the pier parking lot (on the pier). The concert is FREE! Get there early if you want a spot on the pier, but don’t worry if it’s full by the time you show up, because you’ll have a great show from the sand as well. Dogs are allowed, just please keep them leashed. You are also welcome to bring your own seating– seats will also be available to rent if you like. Opening for the PFC Band will be Bushman, a next generation Roots / Reggae artist from Jamaica.

Spread the word and come on down– PFC is gonna be goin’ off at the Pier on July 2nd, and we hope to see you there!

PFC + Baaba Maal at the Hollywood Bowl

What an unbelievable show tonight at the Hollywood Bowl! I have had the privilege of seeing the PFC Band perform at venues all over the world, but there was something truly magical about seeing them perform tonight at the bowl. When they took the stage in front of a crowd of over 10,000 fans, a wave of emotion ran through me that I was wholly unprepared for. I remembered the experience of taking Jason Tamba and Mermans Mosengo on a tour of LA and looking down at the Hollywood Bowl from high up in the hills. “It won’t be long before you two are performing there,” I told them. They looked at me somewhat nonplussed and smiled it off. And tonight, seeing them share a stage with Baaba Maal in front of such a crowd was a special moment– one that was made all the more memorable when Baaba Maal invited us all on stage to close out the show!

The band is headed to Europe in the next few days– if you are anywhere near any of the cities they are playing in, I highly suggest you check out their show!

Success in San Diego

It seems like Playing For Change keeps getting better and better as the days go on. Two days ago, the band and crew flew out to our next destination, San Diego, where everyone could relax after a long six-hour flight. I was unpleasantly surprised at how cold it was in June in southern California though. The night air whipped through my cotton tank top as I thought about the thick humidity and unbearable heat in New York City. And that was before the recent heat wave!

After a good night sleep, everyone woke up ready to play at the Belly Up down the block from the hotel. Clarence and I took a walk to the nearby beach where the sandy brown cliffs hung over the crashing waves. They seemed to swallow up more and more of the beach as they exploded onto shore. These were not like the waves I was used to in New Jersey. I kept my eyes peeled for great whites, but the only wildlife I saw were the seagulls. I’™ll take it.

Later on that day, we all made our way to the venue. Everyone was feeling quite nice and comfortable in the place. It had a good vibe. The stage was not too big and it was just the right amount of people for the band to really rock. More members of the PFC family showed up: Jeremy and Joel Goulder, as well as the Road Rebel crew, and some local friends of the artists.

The show itself was magnificent. It was the first time I ever got to see Louis really rip on his guitar, and I was floored. I have never seen someone pluck those strings the way that man does. It was like the instrument was an extra appendage, something like an extension of his body that had been there since the day he was born. His fingers lightly grazed each string as he referenced his mental fret board. The band played memorably well and the crowd could not seem to stop dancing. It was a great success.

I have been to concerts and shows time and time again. Of all the bands I have ever seen, no one has shaken me like Playing For Change does during their performance. Audience members cry at every single show. There is never a dull moment with a nine piece band of musicians from all around the world. The music is uplifting, the energy is unconventional, and the performance is unsurpassable. It is not hard to have a life changing experience with Playing For Change.

Change Came in NYC

The Big Apple welcomed the Playing For Change Band to the Summer Stage in Central Park, New York City last night. After traveling from upstate Kingston, New York, the band was anxious to play yet another impressive performance for all of their eager fans.

The city seemed innocent and delicate in the early morning as I woke up to grab myself some breakfast. The Empire Hotel conveniently located on Broadway and 69th was an African themed high rise with comfy beds and an elegant rooftop lounge. Grandpa did not have to see the hotel to know that it was going to be a challenge to be frugal at a place like that. After I ordered some room service he asked, “Is there a tissue box around here?” I answered, “Sure. Are you feeling sick” He simply replied, “œI’™mma need to live in it after I pay this room service bill.” A booming laugh followed thereafter that bounced off the walls as loud as thunder. His laugh is unforgettable.

After staying a couple days in New York and getting better acquainted with the town, the Playing For Change Band was ready for their show in the park. It was a large stage that the band would play on for an hour and fifteen minutes before Babba Maal got up for his performance. Although they were opening for another artist, they were still excited to get playing time and exposure. A large crowd of roughly 2,000 people showed up on an outside AstroTurf field under the night sky.

Performances from both Playing For Change and Babba Maal sounded terrific! I overheard an audience member say that Playing For Change left him wanting more. The band would be very happy to know that! There was not only a good turn out of fans, but also a hefty amount of people backstage who help support the Playing For Change Foundation. And luckily for the band, there was an after party thrown for them at a nearby club, which everyone said was a good time

Something very special happened the night of the show at the Summer Stage. Among those 2,000 people in the crowd, my parents stood with proud eyes. Both of them came out to support me, but they had not spoken to each other in 17 years. I do not know if there was something in that New York City air that night, or if it was just the music of Playing For Change that brought a miracle to my family. My parents actually shared a laugh with each other that night. They even came to an agreement about legal financial matters, which I had never seen happen in all of my childhood years. Playing For Change brought change to my life before my very own eyes. I am forever grateful to the music of Playing For Change.

Today we travel to sunny San Diego, California for a show at the Belly Up. California shall be fun! Goodbye East Coast!

No Worries in Woodstock

Wow, what a week it has been! Rehearsals in Kingston, New York at the Clubhouse studio could not have gone better and the show was great. Everyone is excited to be back on the tour, just playing music and working towards putting on the best performances an audience could ask for!

While the Playing For Change musicians worked on adding three new songs to their repertoire, the summer sun set over the rolling fields and lush green trees in the backyard of the barn house studio. Some of the band members lived at the studio; equipped with a full kitchen, living room area, a handful of well-decorated bedrooms, and a fully stocked live and control room. Ranging from equipment like a Neve 8058 MKII Vintage Recording Console, a 1960s Ludwig drum kit, and a selection of Telefunken Tube Microphones, the band sounded unbelievably clean. Personally, my favorite part of the studio was the two old pooches holding down the fort accompanied by a mischievous kitten who licked the steal my chair every time I got up.

Rehearsing at the studio was a great experience for everyone in the band. It was easy to relax and take in the picturesque surroundings. I do not know if it was the mountain air or just the summer wind, but the creative juices were flowing like the wine! Paul Antonell, the studio owner, hired a talented chef that cranked up the heat with some appetizing dinners and delectable desserts. With bellies full and minds at ease, the band laughed the nights away.

The nearby town of Woodstock is beautiful! It is a quaint old place, but the music scene still lives on in the town named after one of the most memorable music festivals in history. Local street musicians gather in the Village Green, a small cement center of town with a few benches and flowerpots. Mom & Pop shops line the winding roads, advertising organic foods and local artwork. It was a town full of musicians, which made the band feel right at home. It also brought a band member, Peter Bunetta, back to the days when it was his home. He told us stories of how he traveled to Woodstock to be a drummer for his friend’s band, and how rent was much cheaper in 1970. I enjoyed listening to his stories.

Time flew and our days slowly dwindled until the travel day, when some members of the band took the train and others drove down to New York City for the Central Park Summerstage show. Our stay in upstate New York was unforgettable. Thanks Clubhouse Studio, Bearsville Theater, and Woodstock, for giving such a warm welcome to the Playing For Change Band!

Thank You, Madrid!

Last night was a night to remember– but of course we all knew it would be long before the show started. Beginning the moment we all hopped on the bus, everyone could barely contain their excitement. Sinamuva began a song as soon as the bus pulled away from our hotel, and they were quickly accompanied by an improvised percussion ensemble. Peter hopped down into the stair well and pounded on the side of the bus; Venkat began playing the ceiling with his knuckles; Mermans began to yell; People all around me began clapping; And before long half the bus was banging on something– the rest of us were singing, laughing, or filming the fun.

The 20-minute bus ride began in the rain, but by the time we arrived, the sun had come out. As we pulled up, we noticed a rainbow arching down directly above the venue. We all thought it was a great omen for the show but Mark was quick to counter that if anything, that rainbow had shown up to recharge its energy at our show. And he was right…

The Caja Magica was packed to the gills (over 8,000 people were in attendance!), and by the end of the show it felt like the place was going to blow. The band put together a set list of 25 songs (our longest list to date, I believe), and performed for well over two hours. Guest artists Nena Daconte and Kiko Veneno joined the band for a number of songs, and were greeted by raucous applause. Even our own Enzo Buono hopped on stage to harmonize (and dance!) with Tula during Chanda Mama. The addition of Sinamuva to the band rounded out the sound beautifully, and brought our total musician count to nearly 20!

It was an amazing evening, and I want to thank everyone who was with us, both in body and in spirit. I would also like to thank Acciona and Ademas for making this event possible, and also our Tour Manager Erika Duffee, who has lead this group of Peace Soldiers across North America and Spain these past two months.

I’m on a plane bound for New York City (currently experiencing a fair bit of turbulence) as I write this, and it is a bittersweet moment for me. I’m heading home for the first time in a month, and am looking forward to seeing my family for the Holidays, yet at the same time I am leaving my other family behind. But I know before long we’ll all be together, back on the road again. But for now…

Peace and Love from 30,000 feet!


Welcome to Madrid, Sinamuva!

With the arrival of “Sinamuva”, the South African choir from Umlazi, our band is now complete. Everyone was overjoyed as all the musicians met each other for the first time, and that energy spilled right over into today’s rehearsal. The bus ride was one massive jam session, with the choir singing and the rest of the band playing improvised percussion ranging from hand claps to banging on the ceiling– the ball bearing curtain rods even became a make-shift shaker! The energy of the whole group is off the charts and I know that tomorrow’s show is going to be an unbelievable experience.

After rehearsal we all piled back into the bus and took over an Indian restaurant. The food was delicious and the company could not have been better. It feels like one big family vacation here in Madrid, and we’re looking forward to sharing the experience with a few thousand more members of the PFC Family tomorrow night at La Caja Magica.

Peace and Love from Madrid!

Welcome to Madrid, Tula!

Today was a long day for all of us, but an amazing one! It started early with a round of interviews for half the band. The other half of us went to a little club in downtown Madrid called Marmara, where we sound checked for a gig we’d have there later that night. After the press stop and sound check we all met back up at the hotel and hopped in the bus for rehearsal. We were joined at the venue by a number of guest artists– a pair of vocalists, an accordion and a trumpet– and together we worked through the set for Thursday’s show.

We had a two hour break before we had to get to our gig at Marmara, and almost all of us met up for dinner in the hotel restaurant. Over dinner we were all thrilled to discover that Tula and Whitney had arrived, and would be joining us at the club. After our meal we all loaded the bus and were about to pull out when suddenly Erika, our tour manager, stood up and asked “Is Clarence on the bus?!” Mark informed us that while we were all eating he decided to take a power nap… Erika sprinted into the hotel and returned 5 minutes later with our groggy, but excited vocalist, and we were off.

It was a 10-minute drive to the club, and Erika spent that time working with Clarence to put the set list together. During this time Clarence had a conversation with Mermans Mosengo that set the tone for the evening:

Clarence: “Mermans, what songs do you want to play tonight?”

Mermans: “How many people are going to be in the club?”

Clarence: “About 150.”

Mermans: “Yo, let’s blow them up then. We’re gonna play all the fire songs my brother!”

And with that, the band put their heads together and built a set list of all our favorite songs. Clarence gave the list to Erika and told her that (much to the chagrin of our sound engineer) they didn’t know what order they were going to play them in, but they’d begin with a jam and figure out the rest on stage.

And so passed the evening. The stage was small (Steve’s keyboard wouldn’t even fit!), the band was tight, the club was packed, and the audience was full of fire. The band’s set was only supposed to be an hour long, but they played well into a second hour. Tula hopped on stage for a couple songs, including Pierre’s “Don’t Worry,” and spent the rest of the set dancing. It was Hugo’s birthday, so Clarence inserted an impromptu version of “Happy Birthday” into the set to celebrate. When the band finished performing, we all stuck around for quite a while singing and dancing the night away…

After an indeterminate amount of time, we heard Erika’s voice rise above the din of the club “Playing For Change, the bus is leaving… Really, I mean it. The bus is leaving now!”

And thus ended a very long day. We all loaded the bus and rolled back to the hotel. We have a day in the studio booked for tomorrow– with so many amazing musicians all in the same place we couldn’t resist the temptation to record something! But for now, my bed is calling…

Peace and Love from Madrid!


Madrid: Home Sweet Home (for the week anyway…)


We have a busy week ahead of us between rehearsals and a number of small promotional performances, but everyone’s spirits are high and we’re all looking forward to putting on a terrific show Thursday. We walked through the venue today and let me tell you– it is big! It’s an indoor football (American soccer) arena with three levels of seating. All told it holds ~6,000 people, which will make it our largest indoor performance.

We rehearsed for a few hours today, but the guest artists who were scheduled to practice with us ended up having to push a day so we wrapped early. Before we left, Titi decided she would teach a quick African Dance lesson. The picture at the top of this posting shows Pierre, Mermans and Mark joining in the fun!

Peace and Love from Madrid!


A Magical Evening in Seville

What an unbelievable night of music, dancing, and good vibrations we all shared last night in Seville. The venue was packed to capacity– it was standing room only (or more appropriately, dancing room only!) for the crowd, but no one seemed to mind getting a bit cozy with the people next to them for the two and a half hours the band performed.

We could feel a tangible energy in the air as everyone took the stage. All the planning, promotion, rehearsing, traveling, and excitement of the past few months had lead up to this exact moment, and it was so palpable you could practically taste it. Grandpa was the last musician to make it to his place, and as soon as the crowd caught sight of him they all began to cheer “GRANDPA! GRANDPA! GRANDPA!” in chorus. In that moment the smile that lit up his face told a beautiful story of perseverance and grace.

The show was absolutely electric. Though the musicians that just toured North America hadn’t played together for three weeks, they sounded just as tight last night as they did at the end of the tour in Vancouver. The addition of Roberto, Stefano, Pierre, Francois, and Hugo to this group took something that was already great and elevated it even further. And with Mr. Reggie McBride slinging the bass again, all these amazing musicians were in lock step with each other. The PFC Band was joined by a number of local favorites as well, including Pitingo. What a show!

We’ve just checked out of our rooms in Seville, and are about to board the bus to Madrid. Though it’s a long ride, I am sure the time will fly with all of us together– I look forward to filling you in from Madrid, and will post photos from the show soon.

Peace and Love from Seville!

Performance Tonight in Seville, Spain

The band spent most of the day yesterday rehearsing at the venue here in Seville, and everyone is geared up and ready to put on an amazing show tonight. Roberto (slide guitar), Francois (percussion), Pierre (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Stefano (sax) have fit right into the band’s groove, and the whole group has come together like one big (and growing) family. The show tonight is at El Fuerta de Isla Magica (which is a beautifully cavernous stone venue), and if you are in the area I hope to see you there!

Our last show for the year will be next week in Madrid. Tula and members from Sinamuva (the Zulu choir from South Africa) will be joining us for that show– a PFC first! So come if you can and spread the word.

Peace and Love from Seville!

Goodbye Mali, Hello Seville!

It was a whirlwind trip to Mali for the Playing For Change crew, but what an amazing experience– and what unbelievable music! We were only in the country for a total of 48 hours, but in that time we accomplished more than we could have possibly hoped for. Our first morning in Mali we traveled to the Griot village of Kirina and were met by a reception the likes of which none of us were prepared for (Mark Johnson will post about this experience in the next few days). Crena will be the site of the Playing For Change Foundation’s next music school, and development is set to begin in the end of January!

The Foundation’s work in Mali is being coordinated by Mahamadou Diabate, who is a beautiful man and a very talented percussionist. Our first night in Mali he introduced us to his brother, Toumani Diabate, who is arguably the best kora player in the world. For our team it was off to the races from there.

Toumani invited us out to dinner and we discussed the project and our dream of adding him to one of our Songs Around the World (which we did!). The next day Toumani invited us to stay at his home and arranged for us to record a symphony of coras. Later that same day Mahamadu organized a performance by his percussion and dance troupe that was out of this world. And to commemorate the occasion, Toumani made a very generous gift to the Playing For Change crew of a sheep (who we lovingly nicknamed “Little Jon,” in honor of Jonathan Walls).

But that was yesterday. Now, four countries, three flights, a pair of taxis, and a train ride later we find ourselves at the first Playing For Change Band rehearsal for our upcoming shows in Spain. Joining the group that just finished a tour across North America are Tula, Roberto Luti, Stefano Tomaselli, Hugo Soares, Pierre Minetti, Francois Viguie, Venkat“Sinamuva”
(the beautiful choir from Umlazi, South Africa), and the incomparable Reggie Mcbride.

After 24 hours of straight travel we were all tired, but the energy we were greeted with when we walked in the door to the rehearsal space an hour ago gave us such a boost that no one is thinking about sleep (although a shower does still sound nice). We have a show in Seville on the 11th and another in Madrid on the 17th. Everyone’s spirits are soaring, and the energy is through the roof. If you have any friends in Spain, spread the word that these two shows are not to be missed!

Peace and Love from Seville!


Thank You Vancouver!!

We just performed our last show in North America, and oh what a night it was! We played the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, and everything about the venue was fantastic– the venue was beautiful, the lighting was perfect, the sound was right on, the (sold-out) crowd was full of energy, and the band has never been better.

From the moment the first note was struck the crowd was on their feet and dancing. As the night went on the band’s energy kept rising in tandem with the crowd– back and forth and back and forth until it felt like the roof was going to blow right off the house!

One of the highlights was the band’s encore performance of Billy Jean. It featured amazing solos by Louis, Grandpa, Peter, Reuben and Alidu. Clarence busted out his moonwalk, and–not to be outdone– Grandpa got up and showed off some of his moves while Louis transported everyone in the venue to another planet with the most outrageous guitar solo I’ve ever heard him play (which is saying something)!

There were a number of moments over the course of the show that I had to put my camera down and just take in everything that was going on. It was truly a night to remember… And the best part of the whole thing is that we filmed the whole show!

It has been an amazing 6 weeks on the road. Thank you so much for all the support and love you have given us along the way. We could not do any of this without you, and we cannot wait to do it all again!

Welcome to Seattle!

We hit the road after an amazing show in Portland last night, and rolled into Seattle at 4AM this morning. After a few hours rest in our hotel we all loaded into one of the tour buses and headed to Starbucks Headquarters for a short three-song set. The Playing For Change Band is featured (along with U2, Dave Matthews Band and John Legend) on a special (RED) release being distributed through Starbucks this holiday season. It’s a gift to their customers who spend $15, and for each CD distributed they are donating $1 to the Global Fund fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa.

As soon as we got back to the hotel we grabbed gear and walked a few blocks to the Moore Theatre for tonight’s concert. The 100-year-old venue is absolutely beautiful, and we can’t wait to put on another amazing show for the Playing For Change Family here in Seattle. Following tonight’s gig we’re heading to Vancouver for our last performance in North America– at least for this tour!

Tuning up at the Aladdin

Much of the PFC Crew remained behind after the band left Los Angeles a few days ago so that we could prepare to film these last few shows. This morning Mark JohnsonWhitney KroenkeJonathan WallsKevin KrupitzerEnzo Buono, myself, and our new friend Juan hopped a crack-of-dawn flight to meet up with the band in Portland.

It was wonderful to see them all again– everyone’s energy is through the roof as we roll into these last three shows of our North American Tour. We’ve said goodbye to California (and the sunny weather!) and are setting up at the Aladdin in Portland right now. While the weather may be a bit dreary, our spirits could not be higher.

We’re playing in front of a sold-out crowd tonight, and are all looking forward to sharing another beautiful evening of music with so many members of the Playing For Change Family!

California Dreaming

The guys just wrapped up three absolutely amazing shows in California. They kicked things off in Los Angeles with a bang, joined on stage by Ziggy Marley and Toots Hibbert (of Toots and the Maytals)! This show was also a benefit for the Playing For Change Foundation, and was hosted by Whitney Kroenke, Mark Johnson, and Norman Lear! The occasion was too great an opportunity to pass up, so we filmed the whole event, and are looking forward to sharing it with the PFC family– just as soon as  Jonathan Walls has time to edit it all, that is. I had a great view of all the action from the pit, and am still sorting pictures. I am looking forward to having some time do so so on the long bus ride north to Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, and will add them to our flickr page as soon as I finish.

The band followed up their performance in Los Angeles with a pair of shows in Anaheim and San Francisco that had everyone smiling, dancing and hugging the night away. After a month on the road the guys have never sounded better. Spirits are high, the music is amazing, and we cannot wait to share it with a few more cities before it’s all over (for now!).

Next stop, Portland!

The PFC Band is in St. Paul!

Hey all you Minnesotans– do you recognize this statue? That’s right, the PFC Band has just arrived in St. Paul, and are getting ready to put on an unbelievable concert at the O’Shaughnessy tonight. There are still tickets available, so call your friends and roll on out to the show if you can– I know you will not be disappointed!

Next stop, Kansas City… we’re headin’ west and hope to see you at a show soon! To see when we’ll be performing in a city near you, check our Fall tour schedule.



Start Spreadin’ the News

While I’m not currently on the road with the guys, I just got an update from their road manager. It sounds like last night’s show in Albany was one of the best ones yet! Everyone is beginning to settle into the rhythm of the road, and really learning to feed off of each other’s energy and musicianship on stage. Keb’ Mo and Reggie McBride were able to attend, and Keb’ even joined the band for the opening song of the second set– Mo’ Faya’!

With four shows now under their belt, the band is rolling into New York City, and is preparing to blow the lid off the Town Hall. There are still tickets available– if you’re in the area, get on out to the show!  As much fun as it is to read my updates, please believe me when I say that words and photos do not do this group justice– get out there and see them in action!

Live at the Birchmere!

We finished sound checking at the Birchmere an hour ago, and the house is starting to fill in. From the looks of things, we’ll be playing to a sold out crowd in about 20 minutes. We all rode here in style, having been picked up by a pair of 12 passenger sleeper coaches.

One thing is for sure, when you’re traveling with a group of a dozen musicians plus crew, you don’t go anywhere incognito. Even so, none of us were prepared for the paint job that the lead bus would be sporting– it was completely decked out in all things Playing For Change!

My batteries are charged and my cards are cleared, and I can’t wait to get out and shoot this show. I look forward to sharing some of the photos I take tonight with you all through PFC’s flickr page… stay tuned!

Mr. Bekker Goes to Washington

The PFC Band and crew have had a great week here in DC. Rehearsals couldn’t have gone better, and everyone is excited to get this tour officially rolling tonight. Yesterday morning Clarence and Mermans Mosengo  requested a tour of some of the sites, so Greg and I drove them to the national mall. They were excited to see the White House, awe-struck at the size of the Washington Monument, humbled at the Lincoln Memorial, and had an amazing conversation with a veteran at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that reminded all of us what this project is truly about– coming together.

I woke up this morning to see the PFC Band performing live on the Fox Morning Show and they’ve never sounded better. I can’t wait to see them at the Birchmere tonight! If you have friends and family in any of the cities we’re playing in the next four weeks put the word out, because this is not a show anyone will want to miss!

Getting Ready for a Great Fall Tour!

Hello Everyone,

We’re a month from kicking off the PFC Band’s Fall Tour across North America, and there is a palpable sense of excitement in the air. Tickets are going fast, but there is still availability for all 22 shows of the tour. For a complete list of dates and venues and to order tickets, check out the PFC Band’s page or browse the shows via Facebook Events.

There is truly no better way to experience the energy and love of Playing For Change than through seeing the PFC Band perform live. Please spread the word about these shows among your friends and family, and I hope to see you at an upcoming performance soon!

PFC Band Fall Tour Dates Announced!

I am thrilled to announce that the Playing For Change Band will be taking to the road this Fall for a month of performances in the U.S. and Canada!  We’ve got 22 gigs slated between October 20th and November 19th.  For a complete listing of dates and venues, and to purchase tickets, click here (link no longer available). Through this link, you’ll also be able to access our pre-sale, available exclusively to our community members! (Tickets for some gigs are not yet on sale– please keep checking back at for updates on ticket availability.)

I know there are a lot of excited people out there that would love to see this band, but do not live in North America.  Thank you all for your amazing support of this global movement.  We are already starting to plan a follow up tour in other countries, so stay tuned– there is more to come!  In the meantime, I hope to see you at one of our gigs sometime soon!

Sound Check at Tipitina’s

The PFC Band showed up at Tipitina’s Uptown about an hour ago, and we’re now about midway through sound check. After almost a month on the road, tonight is our last performance for this tour. Being on the road together, we’ve all gotten a lot closer, and it’s going to be hard to say goodbye to everyone tomorrow morning. But there’s still a lot of great music to create between now and then!

Everyone’s in great spirits for tonight’s show. We’ve got a nice long performance planned for tonight– two full sets– and we’ve even worked in a couple of new songs for the occasion. Again, if you’re not able to make it in person to Tipitina’s tonight, it is being webcast live beginning at approximately 10PM CST. Just hit up (link no longer available) and turn your speakers up loud!

Check back soon for more pictures and video from New Orleans– we’ll be putting them up on our website and Facebook page just as soon as… well, as soon as I finish shooting them. Until then…

Live Webcast of Tipitina’s Performance!

I just received word that our performance in New Orleans this Saturday, July 18 is going to be webcast live from Tipitina’s website! So, if you’re not able to make it to the show, you can check it out online at (link no longer active) beginning at approximately 10PM CST.

The band’s rehearsing at the Music Shed in New Orleans right now– literally as I’m typing this, and they sound so good! I hope you’ll tune in Saturday night– hearing these guys perform live is truly a special experience. And please pass the above link around to your friends and family!

PFC claims a piece of the Tonight Show’s wall at Universal

Hello PFC Family! The PFC Band just finished taping an amazing performance here at the Tonight Show. While the rest of the crew was packing up to leave, I decided to swing by the green room one last time to make sure all our gear had been collected.  On my way there, I passed by a massive mural of signatures from former Tonight Show guests. Out of the corner of my eye, I was thrilled to see a number of autographs from Playing For Change staking claim to a previously undecorated portion of the wall. Mo’ Faya!

And now, we’re off to celebrate Grandpa Elliott’s birthday. More to come…

PFC Band to Headline the Jazz/World Stage at Glastonbury Festival

With the momentum of Playing For Change building around the world since the release of Hear Music — two-disc CD/DVD Playing For Change –“ Songs Around the World, the project has taken another leap forward. After a Top 10 debut on Billboard Pop Chart in the US and a strong start throughout Europe, including a top 20 chart position in Spain, the Playing For Change band has been confirmed to headline the Jazz/World stage at Glastonbury Festival in the UK on Saturday, June 27, one of the three major open air stages with a crowd capacity of approximately 25,000 people. Word of mouth spread among other Glastonbury acts that Playing For Change was confirmed on the bill and several musicians expressed interest in joining the band on stage. This resulted in Gabrialla Cilmi, Tinariwen, The Magic Numbers, Vusi Mahlasela and Baba Maal confirmed to make guest appearances with the band at Glastonbury!

We hope that all our friends and fans that are in the neighborhood will join us at Glastonbury on Saturday, for what will be an unforgettable night of music and inspiration from around the world.