PFC Artist Spotlight | Vasti Jackson

With decades of experience to show for it, Vasti Jackson‘s love and admiration for the blues is undeniable. Throughout his vast career, he has shown himself to be a true “Bard of the Blues,” telling stories of the genre’s roots, teaching audiences about the struggle from which the blues was born, and carrying on the soulful tradition for new generations to grab a hold of.


Vast-Eye

Born in McComb, Mississippi, Vasti Jackson was bound to be indoctrinated into the blues. First by family, and then through his surroundings, he gained invaluable experience growing up surrounded by the influence of the Delta blues. With a strong attraction to the guitar, Vasti began performing at local churches and juke joints while studying music at Jackson State University. As his artistry developed, Vasti was employed as a session musician working for various labels until he was named musical director for the television show, Blues Goin’ On. Throughout this period, he continued to perfect his craft, moving effortlessly from blues to soul to jazz to funk to gospel to pop, and more.

The early 90’s is where Vasti would find his rhythm, writing many songs from his life, releasing his debut album Vas-Tie Jackson, and partaking in recordings with other notable musicians such as B.B. King. In 2012, Vasti was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, forever leaving his mark on the Mississippi Delta Blues.

“As an artist, Vasti is known for sweat-drenched, soul-ripping performances marked by some of the most stunning and innovative guitar playing in Blues today. Vasti’s talent has been enlarged by an amazing array of musical experiences over 35 years of his vibrant career. Jackson’s Recordings “No Borders to the Blues”, “Live In Nashville” and “Mississippi Burner” present audio buffet of Vasti’s limitless energy and boundless imagination. It spotlights his talents as singer, and composer, and his utterly thrilling guitar mastery.”

VastiJackson.com

Wherever he goes, the blues seems to follow, and wherever the blues are, you’re sure to find Vasti.


Career with PFC

For more than 5 years, Vasti Jackson has been involved with the Playing For Change Movement, first through live performances with the PFC Band, and eventually joining in a few Songs Around The World as well. With his wealth of knowledge and boundless musical talent, his contributions to Playing For Change have impacted the lives of thousands of supporters, as well as students from across the world.

Image result for vasti jackson morocco

Recently, Vasti traveled to the Saharan Desert with the PFC Foundation to visit the Joudour Sahara Music Program. Meeting with local musicians from the M’Hamid el Ghizlane region of southern Morocco, Vasti and Maya Kyles, a young drummer also from Mississippi, taught lessons and performed together, working to find the connection between blues from the two continents.


Play Production

When he isn’t traveling the world, Vasti Jackson continues to educate audiences on the history of the blues and African culture in America. From January 29th through February 10th, Vasti served as musical director and a performer in the Marcus Gardley story, “Hell in High Water.” This play relives the account of the Great Flood of 1927. Set in Greenville, this story follows the social, economic, and political realities of an entire city of people who are subject to the powerful will of the Mississippi River.

Along with his fellow cast mates, Vasti recently hosted a PFC live stream while on set:

Carrying on with his stage performances, Vasti has just headed back to Germany to continue his role as Ike Turner in the musical “Simply The Best – The Tina Turner Story.”

As a musician who continuously pushes himself beyond borders, across cultures, and into the lives of new world audiences, Vasti Jackson is the embodiment of our mission to connect the world through music. We look forward to reuniting with him again soon, and encourage you to keep your eye on Vasti.

One Love,

PFC

Putting the Power of Music to the Test | Part 1 of 2

       A Brother’s Fountain and their Journey to South Africa

The Playing For Change Movement grew from the belief that we are all connected through music, and it is the universal language that is able to cross borders, cultures, and continents, uniting us as one human race. As we continue our mission to inspire peace through music, we are thrilled to share the journey of Colorado-based folk group, A Brother’s Fountain, as a few of their members embark on an adventure to South Africa to put the power of music to the test!


Beginning January 24th, A Brother’s Fountain will set out for South Africa. Bringing with them no food or money, they will be relying on their instruments and the kindness of others to support them throughout their month-long stay. During their journey, the band will travel along the coast from Durban to Cape Town, stopping in Gugulethu to visit the Playing For Change Foundation’s Imvula Music Program along the way.

When we asked what inspired them to take on this adventure, their response was:

“To write an epic story for ourselves, and not to do it in a manner that is necessarily traditional or comfortable. To be taken into a foreign environment with little resources or local knowledge so that we could see if we could truly connect with people and survive through music.”

-A Brother’s Fountain


The Band

Composed of seven members and countless collaborators, A Brother’s Fountain has developed “a folk-inspired genre that you’ve always wanted to hear, but never knew existed” (A Brother’s Fountain). Beginning on the street corners in Fort Collins, Colorado, this group of friends and musicians discovered a shared passion for music, community, and nature, inspiring them to spread their message and experiences with people from around the world.

The band features Ryan Guillen, Roel Calvillo, Bret Rindt, Graham Good, and Chris More, and was founded by brothers, AJ and Justin Fountain, (hence, A Brother’s Fountain). Relying on a variety of instruments, from drums and guitars, to the mandolin, cello, banjo, and some sweet sweet saxophone, the brothers bring a soulful balance to these sounds with their unified voices and meaningful lyrics.


The Mission

Heading to South Africa will be Justin, AJ, and Chris, along with Christopher Burkholder, a fellow musician, videographer, and friend. Together, the four had some hopeful plans and perspectives to share for the trip ahead:

Day 1, upon arrival, where do you go?

We arrive in Johannesburg and then we’ll take a domestic flight down to Durban which is where our journey will begin.  From there we will likely walk around town to get a lay of the land. We’ll scope out some good places to busk, and probably ask around for spots we could camp on the outskirts of town.  We do have a couple of connections in other parts of South Africa, but none in Durban yet, so it should be an interesting start to the journey for us! 

What instruments will you be bringing?

We were graciously donated instruments from Guitars For Glory and Sweetwater.  We have an alto saxophone, a mini guitar, a baritone ukulele, some harmonicas and a slew of improvised and hand held percussion instruments.  We’re excited to see what sort of new sounds we can create with this arrangement!

How do you plan to meet new people?

We hope to meet people by playing music and being friendly.  We love people and hearing people’s stories, so we’ll try to engage with strangers every day. Busking on the streets and smiling a lot is going to be our best ticket to meeting new people.

Do you hope to be recording any particular songs of yours?

Yes, we hope to record 5-10 songs from our journey which would include songs already written and songs that we anticipate being birthed on the trip.

Where do you plan to visit? Any destinations in mind?

We’re most excited for the towns that are a little more off the beaten path with a slightly slower pace of life.  We’re also really stoked to visit Cape Town and connect with some folks there.

We’re excited that you will be visiting the Playing For Change Foundation’s Imvula Music Program, what do you hope to learn and accomplish at the school?

We’re are beyond thrilled to be visiting the Playing For Change music school in Gugs!  We’re so appreciative of this connection. The biggest thing we hope to accomplish there is to just have fun with some South Africans at the school.  We’d love to help out wherever we can, and it sounds like we’ll be able to play some music and possibly teach a class with the people there which is awesome.  We also can’t wait for the opportunity to learn a little bit more about the music culture of South Africa and witness it all in action at the school!

What will make this trip a success in your eyes?

Success in our eyes is coming home having learned about life from each other, from God, and from the South Africans. Judging by the fact that we haven’t even left yet and have already learned a lot means we’re already poised for success! We’re a group of normal dudes who really want to squeeze all the juice out of life and who want to become better, more loving humans every day -that is ultimately “success” to us. We think this trip will help us do exactly that.

 

And before you go…

Will you be giving any updates during your journey for people to keep tabs on?

We will be uploading pictures, videos, and stories to our band Instagram throughout the journey. Our band Instagram is @a.brothers.fountain

But most of our documentation will be in video form for a short film documentary that we’ll put together after the trip.


The Music

If you’re interested in hearing more from A Brother’s Fountain during their hiatus, check out these videos below:

You can also visit their YouTube channels, A Brother’s Fountain, as well as Stoked Ember Productions.


…Part 2

Upon their return, we will be reconnecting with A Brother’s Fountain to learn about their travels, the people they met, and the experiences they had. Until then, we wish the band safe travels and good luck for the adventure awaiting them.

One Love,

PFC

 

PFC Member Sneak Peek | Seeds of Freedom

“Seeds of Freedom”

Hello Dear PFC Members!

This Friday, we’re excited to share an all-new Song Around The World with you, “Seeds of Freedom,” written by our friend Manu Chao. The powerful message of this song —that everyone is connected and has the power to plant the seeds to a better future for all human beings—resonates with us and we hope it does with you as well.

A word from PFC co-founder and producer Mark Johnson: 

About ten years ago I was recording and mixing the music for The Henry Rollins Show in downtown Los Angeles which featured amazing musical guests ranging from Ben Harper to Slayer, but one guest I will never forget is Manu Chao. I had met Manu a few times before and he had performed on our PFC version of Bob Marley’s “One Love” around the world.  Since the moment I met him I have always admired him and his conviction in both music and life to what he believes is right for the world.  He is a voice for so many without a voice and his music doesn’t shy away from reality. Instead, his music, like that of Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, allows you to confront injustice and find positive paths forward for all of humanity.

I’ve learned many lessons from Manu throughout the years, but one lesson I learned way back when in the studio recording him for The Henry Rollins Show and listening to his rare interview for the program stands out.  The producers of the show asked Manu if he thought music could change the world and his response (from what I remember) was: “Yes, but our planet is so desperate that we need everybody. We need the school teacher, the fisherman, the taxi driver, everyone. The musician has the microphone. So, what are they going to do with it!”

Musicians can use the microphone to represent the people who have no voice and also as a tool to educate their audience about what is happening in this world.

This new PFC Song Around The World, titled, “Seeds of Freedom” with Manu Chao, speaks to what he taught me way back when—music is not passive and neither is change.  Music can plant the first seed of freedom but it will take all of us to make it grow into positive things for the good of everyone.  Let’s plant the seeds of freedom for all of humanity.  This is our time and the world is our family.  Thank you, Manu and all the great artists who inspire us to be the change we want to see in the world.

One Love,

Mark Johnson

 

Take a look at some of the musicians from around the world featured in this video:

 

Guitarist Wayu performing in Kathmandu, Nepal.

 

Bassist Bakithi Kumalo performing in Soweto, South Africa.

 

Sister duo Rising Appalachia singing and playing banjo.

Percussionist Surendra Shrestha playing the madal drums in Kathmandu, Nepal. 

Songwriter and musician Manu Chao performing in Barcelona, Spain.

Keep an eye out for the video releasing THIS FRIDAY to see these amazing musicians in action, plus more!

 

Congo to the Mississippi | Afro Fiesta’s Global Goal 🌍

Introduction

“This song was co-written by Mermans Mosengo and my brother, Greg Johnson, a few years ago while we were on tour with the PFC Band.  The simple message and anthemic chorus made me really excited to record it as a PFC Song Around The World. We started under the hot African sun in the village of Lukala in the Congo and we added musicians wherever we traveled for the past few years until we finally added the final piece with Grandpa Elliott playing the harmonica solo in New Orleans. Someday we’ll all be free, until then, music is our ammunition.”

-Mark Johnson


Afro Fiesta

It has been twelve years since the Playing For Change crew and Afro Fiesta first crossed paths in Cape Town, South Africa in 2006. Although the band’s roots are drawn from many different regions and nations throughout the world, the heart of their heritage lies in the Congo, where Jason Tamba and Mermans Mosengo of the PFC Band both grew up.

Both men have been committed to a life full of music from an early age. With decades of experience and performance now behind them, they speak the language of music just as well as any of the other languages in their arsenal, all of which are utilized in Afro Fiesta’s variety of songs. Yet, within this arsenal of creative ability, the band moves on the offensive, using Music as their Ammunition. Having great pride in their country, Jason and Mermans sing of the pain in their nation’s past, the beauty in its people, and the dreams they have for a free world.

Playing together for years has helped the two PFC musicians develop a special chemistry that is present whether they are performing in a 12-member band or just jamming out with each other. Their ever-present sound draws equally from both band mates where some songs partner Jason’s melodic French/English/Lingala lyrics with Mermans’ skill in percussion, while others rely on Mermans’ dense and deep vibrato and sharp strumming, backed by Jason’s rhythmic guitar and gentle vocals. The genre’s they draw from are a mix of Roots Reggae, Makossa, and Congolese rumba, with Latin and Rasta influence as well.

In tune with our most recent release, Afro Fiesta’s “Congo To The Mississippi” harnesses nearly all of these harmonious characteristics into one song, taking listeners on an audiovisual journey from the Congo and onward, all in pursuit of people living free.

In their own words:


Jason Tamba

Jason tells us a wonderful story of how he built his first guitar:


Mermans ‘Mo Faya’ Mosengo

Mermans sharing some truth about the Congo’s past and the meaning behind “Music is my Ammunition”:


Quote of the Day

“When the fans listen to our music they will feel hope. The struggle continues, ‘a lutta continua a Victoria e serta’ fighting alone will get you tired but fighting in a group will get you into a rhythm. I want my people to know we are together in the fight for the Congo.”

Mermans Mosengo, Afro Fiesta


Photo of the Day


Afro Fiesta is just one of the many bands in the world finding new ways to fight war, pain, and poverty. Why fight fire with fire when you’ve got an abundance of love to share? Just as Jason and Mermans are willing to step forward and lead in the push for peace through music, so too will there be those willing to join them and play by their side. From the Congo to the Mississippi, an endless array of people, cultures, and countries exist, each bearing their own unique languages, customs, and borders. Our greatest tool to connect this world is music, “because music goes where people cannot go, music goes” (Mermans Mosengo).

Thank you to Jason Tamba, Mermans Mosengo, Greg Johnson, and every PFC musician and supporter out there!

One Love,

Playing For Change

Ahoulaguine Akaline | Exiled Electric Extremism

 

“I do not see my guitar as a gun but rather as a hammer with which to help build the house of the Tuareg people.”

With over 1400 years of deeply rooted historical and cultural context in a single song, “Ahoulaguine Akaline” comes from a different breed of rebel rockers. Kel Tamasheq, known commonly as the Tuareg people, are an ancient society of nomads and herdsmen that exist across the Western Sahara desert, spread into regions of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Libya and Algeria. For the Tuareg, the desert has always been their home, but this home has come at a great cost to its people. Throughout the 19th century, colonial imposition cut borders across the Sahara desert, dividing the Tuareg into any of these five neighboring nations. Due to the Tuareg’s powerful resistance of French control, their governance and territory was overwritten by colonial rule, while other less threatening nations arose in cooperation with European expansion. From this division came even more violence as the Tuareg community clashed with their new hosts and governments. Yet, as these nations fought for control over the region, so too did the Tuareg continue their fight for autonomy, seeking independence from the powers that they never wished to be a part of.

In this endless rebellion, death, discrimination, and exile had become all too common for the Tuareg people. So, in hopes of returning to an era of peace, many veterans of the rebellion have put down their guns in exchange for guitars, taking to music to celebrate their life, culture, and to bring about an end to this century-old struggle.


Bombino

One such rebel who has gained international recognition for his remarkable talent and career is Omar “Bombino” Moctar. Born in Niger in 1980, Bombino is a Tuareg rock ‘n’ rebel who learned guitar at a young age, citing Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler as his greatest influences. Dubbed, “The Sultan of Shred,” Bombino has long been recognized as one of the world’s most talented guitarists, but while his career has gained considerable attraction in recent years, his home life has been all but predictable. In the early 90’s, Bombino’s family was forced to flee to Algeria to escape conflict that arose against the Tuareg. It was during this exile that Bombino was first introduced to the guitar, and years later upon his return to Niger, he would join a band where he first received the nickname, “Bombino,” which is a variation of the italian word for, “little child.”

Despite returning home, building his career and shaping his path, Bombino was forced into exile once again when Tuareg rebels clashed with the Nigerien government in 2007. Along with Tuareg soldiers, the government also labeled Tuareg guitarists as enemy’s of the state, due in large part to their rebellious lyrics and opposition of Nigerien control.

It wasn’t until 2010 that Bombino would return to his hometown of Agadez. In celebration of the peace treaty between the government and the Tuareg, Bombino was granted permission by the Sultan of Agadez to host a live performance in the center of town, an event that would have been unthinkable just a few years prior.


Ahoulaguine Akaline

The title of this song translates to, “I greet my country,” and it was originally written by another Tuareg rebel, Intayaden, and was later re-imagined by Bombino on his album, Agadez. Though simple in structure, it is in its simplicity that it captures the powerful sentiment of pain and sorrow felt by Bombino, the Tuareg, and all those who understand the context in which it is being sung. Truly, “Ahoulaguine Akaline” is an acknowledgment of the hardship endured by all Kel Tamasheq, but its purpose lies in its ability to connect the people of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Libya, and Algeria together through its music.

“I greet my country where I left my parents
I greet my country
I greet my country where I left my love
I greet my country
I greet my country where I left my community
I greet my country
You know that I am suffering from it
I greet my country”

In collaboration with Playing For Change, “Ahoulaguine Akaline” is the embodiment of our mission to connect the world through music, and this song, in particular, shows us the power of a single song to unite those separated by borders. In the words of PFC co-founder, Mark Johnson, “The unity of musicians around the world playing on this song is a statement that music is part of the foundation from which we rebuild our humanity and our world together”. With thanks to Bombino, the PFC team, and the many musicians who made this newest release possible, please enjoy our rendition of “Ahoulaguine Akaline,” featuring the world.


Quote of the Day:

“Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.”

Jimi Hendrix


Video of the Day:

This video is from Bombino’s 2010 return to Agadez, mentioned above.


Photo of the Day:

Mark Johnson pictured with Bombino in Los Angeles, July 17th.

One Love,

Playing For Change

The results are in. You did it !

Music education creates powerful change.

A recent comprehensive evaluation of PFC Foundation programs shows evidence of success, and we are inspired by the positive feedback from program participants. We are pleased to share with you some of what we heard and observed: the change in action.

When you support Playing For Change Foundation, you are making this kind of change possible for students around the world, and the communities they live in. Thank you so much!

Here’s what the students surveyed had to say about their experience in PFCF music programs:

 

See the change in action:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One love from Playing For Change and PFC Foundation!