Music That Fills You Up

This month we reconnected with AJ Fountain from the Colorado based folk jam band A Brother’s Fountain to talk about the next installment of their Only Music series — a collection of experiments involving the power of music. We last spoke to  AJ and the band in 2019 when they went on a musical expedition to South Africa with no money, food, or outside support whatsoever. All they had were their instruments, the clothes on their back, and an unbreakable spirit and determination to put the power of music to the test. They even stopped by the Playing For Change Foundation’s Imvula Music Program in Gugulethu along the way. Check out more about that trip here.


The Fill Me Up Tour

This next installment of the band’s Only music series is called the “Fill Me Up Tour” which will take the band on a road trip into the Southwest USA from May 7th until June 5th, 2021.

What fills you up? This is a question we asked ourselves after a long and lonely road that COVID-19 put us all through. Now, the world is opening back up, and we want to be filled back up, and know there are many who could also use a pick-me-up. This road trip will be filled with all of our favorite people (insert: best friends, strangers), activities (insert: climbing, rafting, backpacking, camping, busking), and some good old fashioned spontaneity (insert: costumes, random acts of kindness, pranks). 

-AJ Fountain, A Brother’s Fountain


What’s the purpose of the “Fill Me Up Tour?”
The concept was based on the premise of us wanting to explore our friendship in an intentional way and in the 1979 RV we had bought. We didn’t really want to pursue this trip in the traditional tour sense, with gigs lined up, so we had the crazy idea to play a pop up show every time we would need to get gas for our rig we affectionately call Ole’ Boy Georgie.  All along the way asking ourselves and others what actually fills us up in life?  And furthermore, are we actually filled up right now, because we found a lot of us are a little off with the Covid epidemic happening across the world.

How did you come up with that name?
It was the perfect mix of what we actually had to do, loads of fill ups on our 28 foot gas guzzler, and what we wanted to ask ourselves and others, what fills us up in life?

Why did you all decide to take this tour across the Southwest USA?
The Southwest USA was the perfect spot for us on this trip because we are at least vaguely acquainted with some of the areas after having lived in Colorado for 10+ years and taking voyages to explore the surrounding states.  We knew a bit of the epicness of places like Zion, Taos, the Grand Canyon, and Flagstaff, and were eager to explore more.

Where in the Southwest USA will you be traveling?
The trip is mostly outdoor recreation based as this is what we love.  We’re hitting New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah.  So cities like Taos, Santa Fe, Flagstaff, and Moab. Basing our destinations largely around the most accessible places for our rig, and great places to camp, hike, backpack, raft and climb.

How will you decide where to stop to participate in activities and/or perform a pop-up concert?
We have an approximate itinerary that details all of the stops we’d like to hit and how many miles we need to go on each day, but we are definitely looking to stay open to opportunities to busk on the streets, play in local establishments, or jam with other musicians, in addition to our pop up concert at every gas station stop.  Also trying to leave ample time for stops to see various vistas and roadside attractions.

What instruments will you be bringing?
We have our Ovation guitar and bass which are durable and awesome.  A djembe, briefcase kick drum, and whatever instrument the different bandmates bring as they come for different portions, which will include a banjo, mandolin, saxophone and cello. We will do one battery powered amp for the bass, but the rest acoustic at the gas station concerts.

What do you hope to take away from this tour?
I’d like to stay open to what all could be learned from the journey, but foundationally I’d like to grow closer with my best friends and bandmates, play music for people pumping their gas and try to brighten their day a bit, and explore the beautiful landscapes and nature we are blessed with in Southwest USA.

How can we follow your journey?
We’ll be doing stories and going live on FB and Insta to keep folks updated.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/abrothersfountain
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/a.brothers.fountain
www.abrothersfountain.com


Be sure to follow A Brother’s Fountain on their journey and join us next month as we follow up with them to hear all about their trip. In the meantime, tell us, what fills you up?

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

 

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