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 Artist Spotlight | Luke Winslow-King

Born to Cadillac, Michigan in 1983, Luke Winslow-King has always held his heart in New Orleans. With a love for tradition, soul, and vintage blues and jazz, Winslow-King has earned his place among a new generation of musicians carrying on the New Orleans sound into the 21st century and beyond. First arriving in Louisiana at the age of 19 while on tour with a Woody Guthrie tribute band, fate saw fit to see their van and equipment stolen, stopping the trip in its tracks. Despite their misfortune, Winslow-King soon found a longing to stay in the city, and committed the next 15 years of his life to playing, learning, and observing everything he could about the old sound that still lives there. Since then, Winslow-King’s commitment to Louisiana’s roots has only strengthened, and as he embarks to take on the larger international music scene, he makes sure to keep his sound tethered to the music he loves.

Run In With PFC

Having forged friendships throughout New Orleans, one of Winslow-Kings’ most notable partners is Roberto Luti, a longtime member of the Playing For Change movement and PFC band member. Since then, Winslow-King has made his fair share of contributions to the movement, the most significant being his song, Everlasting Arms, which became a PFC Song Around The World, and is featured as the second track on our most recent album, Listen To the Music.

Blue Mesa

Just this past May, Winslow-King released his sixth studio album, Blue Mesa, which draws from several of the genres that he has mastered since his earliest entry into the New Orleans music scene. Although closely intertwined with the Louisianian musical culture, the album was actually recorded across the world in the Tuscan village of Lari, Italy. Collaborating with keyboardist, Mike Lynch, drummer Chris Davis, and of course, Roberto Luti, Blue Mesa is Winslow-King’s most refined work to date, proving his preparedness to take on a larger international audience.

Tour

Next month, the band plans to hit the road, kicking off a European in the Netherlands on October 18th which will eventually lead them to Spain, Germany, France, and a final return to the Netherlands. To conclude the year, the group will come back to the U.S. to play two more shows in November in Winslow-King’s home state of Michigan. For information on upcoming Luke Winslow-King tour dates, please visit our PFC tour schedule page here: https://playingforchange.com/events/. You can also access Winslow-Kings’ tour schedule by visiting his PFC Musician page here: https://playingforchange.com/musicians/luke-winslow-king/.

 

Everlasting Arms

“You can lean on me brother, I can see you’ve carried too long…” This lyric is something we can all relate to. Sometimes life gets to be too much or too hard and we need somewhere positive to put our troubles so we can move on. Music is one of best places to put your problems and lay down your burdens, and when you hear Luke Winslow-King, Vasti Jackson, Dr. John, and the Roots Gospel Voices of Mississippi sing these words you know everything is going to be alright.

 

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

Just A Little Bit more… | A Closer Look At The Artists Behind PFC’s Latest Release

A Long Awaited Collaboration

On June 1st, Playing For Change posted the music video to “Natural Mystic/Just A Little Bit”, making it the sixth song from Listen To The Music to be released in video. While the video is just under 5 minutes long, this collaboration is actually 5 years in the making, and spans 6 different countries, featuring 16 different artists. Whether you haven’t seen the release yet, or you’ve been watching it on repeat for the past two weeks, it’s always worth the watch, check it out below.

This collaboration shows two sides of the same world:

“The original idea for this Bob Marley Song Around The World was born back in 2013 when the PFC crew first visited the Congo.  Mark asked himself, ‘How can we live in a world that allows people to live like this, with virtually no food, no money, and no hope?’ The lyric, ‘Things are not the way they used to be…one and all got to face reality’ came to mind as he looked out into the river of garbage running through the city. ‘Natural Mystic always felt so deep in its groove and lyrics and it seemed as important and urgent as what I was seeing all around me,'” says Mark.

We need to rise up and make the planet a better place right now for ourselves, our children, and all living things. ‘Just a Little Bit’ written and performed by Paula Fuga was added as a medley to ‘Natural Mystic’ to take the music from minor key to the major key—from the darkness to the light.”

The musicians featured in this video come from all over the world, like drummer Courtney “Bam” Diedrick from Jamaica and ATD Horns from Burkina Faso, to Lee Oskar in Seattle, Washington and Yu Hatakeyama from Tokyo, Japan. Despite every conceivable difference that separates each of these performers, this video has been made possible by the one unique commonality shared by all people. They all share the internal resonance that is music.

Along with new artists to the PFC family like Donald KinseyMike Love, and Irie Love, “Natural Mystic/Just A Little Bit” was made possible with the help of a few familiar faces as well, including Jason TambaMermans Mosengo, and Roberto Luti, all of the PFC Band. Currently, the band is just coming off an amazing adventure in Colorado, USA, where they played four shows from Colorado Springs, to Denver, and a two-day stay at Vail for the GoPro Mountain Games Festival. Beyond the band, past PFC collaborators like Jack JohnsonPaula Fuga, and even Washboard Chaz all make heartwarming appearances in another video once again, showing their remarkable talent and continued support of the movement.


Paula Fuga

Image result for paula fuga

If you didn’t already know, Paula’s performance on “Natural Mystic/Just A Little Bit” is an extra-special collaboration, as it unites Bob Marley’s 1977 song with her own original composition. Written for her two nieces, “Just A Little Bit” is a beautiful melody that encourages strength, perseverance, and just a little bit more joy throughout all the hardship in life. Where “Natural Mystic” acknowledges the pain, suffering, and the truth that is bound to come, Paula gives us the will to carry on just a little bit longer.

Last featured in Island Style – ‘Oiwi E, Song Across Hawai’i, Paula is a cherished singer/songwriter and ukulele player, praised for her soulful and honest vocals, as well as her commitment to her community and culture. Growing up in a difficult environment surrounded by the wrong influences, Paula recognized the value of her role models, particularly her grandparents, and has taken it upon herself to use her talents and her spirit to reach out to those in need.

“Fuga relentlessly strives to inspire youth across the world, sharing her story of perseverance and hope. She makes countless efforts to participate in various community projects focusing on protecting the environment and spreading the fundamental values of her native Hawaiian culture. Fuga is an artist on a mission and music is her vehicle.

Whether she’s playing at Madison Square Garden, the White House, or a beach in Hilo, Paula’s purpose is the same—to uplift her community, cherish her culture, and enjoy every minute of it. Paula’s story is certainly that of a woman on a mission to connect the world through music, and we are honored to have shared in this collaboration with her, as well as with every other musician that makes this movement possible.


The Update:

As the Summer rolls on, be on the lookout for our next release, Rasta Children, coming early this July. Along with each Summer release, we will continue to post more artist spotlight blogs such as this one to show our appreciation for the voices behind the music, and the people behind the movement.

Quote of the Day:

“Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.”

-Elton John

Fan Photo of the Day: Special thank you to @hershe_june for this wonderful ‘Chaz’ inspired artwork. Click the link for similar drawings.

Throwback Video of the Day:

Finally, check out this video of the PFC Band playing live back in 2012.

One Love,

Playing For Change