Music That Fills You Up | Part 2

At the end of May, we chatted with our friend AJ Fountain from folk jam band A Brother’s Fountain who was embarking on a road trip across the Southwest USA with his bandmates in their 1979 RV, performing pop concerts along the way. Read “Music That Fills You Up | Part 1” here. The trip took them across New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah with the mission of reconnecting with each other and spreading the power of music. This trip, called the “Fill Me Up Tour,” was a success and we recently caught up with AJ to learn about the band’s experience…


Walk us through a typical day on the road during your “Fill Me up Tour?”

No two days were the same out on the road as we were often waking up somewhere new.  One thing that was really impactful was every day we would start with a morning “devotion”, where someone would lead us into an intentional discussion followed by solo quiet time, and then we would come back and all chat about our experience.  It was really powerful to press into intentionality with each other and our friends on the road who joined us.  After our morning time we would generally make a plan for the day, where we needed to get to, any gas station shows we would be doing, who’s driving, etc., and then go get after it.  

What was your favorite place you visited and why?

It’s really hard to say one spot considering the amount of beautiful Southwest America we experienced so I’ll name a few.  Flagstaff welcomed us in with open arms, and the high elevation made it a welcome respite from the desert heat.  We loved Southeast Utah as well.  We got to play a show at a steakhouse in a tiny town called Mexican Hat with a population of 14. Considering about 7 people were there watching us, that’s half the town that showed up! Moab never ceases to take our breath away with the beautiful pink and orange rocks and meandering Colorado River running through it.  Northern New Mexico was also a dream, filled with mountains, rushing rivers and friendly people. 

What were some of the things you learned that fills people up?

We were able to meet lots of great people along our journey and ask them what filled them up in life.  There were some really great answers.  People mentioned meeting new people, jamming out and making music, travelling, pressing into relationships, camping and seeing new places.  A whole lot of things we couldn’t do during Covid lockdowns.

For example we met one guy at a gas station outside of Las Vegas who was 20 years old, quit his retail job in Arkansas and was roadtripping north to Montana to start a new life.  He was also a musician and graced us with the most beautiful couple of songs in a gas station parking lot.  His answer was fitting in that he was filled up by the freedom to start fresh in life, exploring new and wild places and the ability to keep playing his music.  

How were you filled up on this tour?

We were able to participate throughout our tour in a number of things that fill us up in life.  We got the opportunity to do things we love like rafting down the Colorado River for four days, going on a 5 day backpacking trip in Zion National Park, and witnessing loads of epic desert vistas camping along the way.  We were also filled up by the jams, meeting new people, exploring new places, and pressing into our own friendships. What we found that was interesting is that we can often be filled up the most when we put ourselves in challenging situations.  

Were there any challenges that you faced along your journey? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?

O yes, there were plenty of those, as any good adventure should have.  We were challenged by the sheer magnitude of 4000 miles of driving in an old 1979 RV throughout a desert with no AC and a loud hot engine constantly humming by our feet.  We were also challenged by the concept of playing music for little to no people at gas stations, forcing us to examine if we could get as excited about playing our music without the fans present as we did when they were there.  We were also challenged by the daunting task of filming the whole thing.  Any time something important was happening we had to be the one’s to get the cameras rolling and in focus as there was no film crew there to assist us.  Lastly, living in an RV for a month with a group of guys can be a lot of “life on life” as we say, and very little alone time, so we had to work through relational challenges throughout the journey.  Any one of those tasks is a tall order, but doing all of them at the same time was definitely exhausting and pushed us to overcome together in tremendous ways.  

One of your hopes for this trip was to grow closer to your best friend’s and bandmates. Was this accomplished and if so, in what ways?

Waking up and going to sleep together every day there was a lot of time in between to press into our friendship in various ways.  Whether it was sharing some of the hardest belly laughs at silly situations, or problem solving logistics and relational friction every day.  But we’re proud of the way we did it, staying humble, quick to forgive, and always willing to have a laugh.  The morning’s intentional times allowed us to talk about what was going on in ‘real life’ back at home and off the road, and we ended up getting very vulnerable with each other, it was incredible.  The times we spent together out there were beyond special and we’ll hold them in our hearts the rest of our lives. 

What was the greatest highlight of the trip? What did you learn?

I think the greatest highlight of the trip for me was the connections formed with people.  Connecting with the friends and family who joined us for various legs, and also the complete strangers who we met along the way who quickly also became like  friends and family.

We learned that it pays to ask people how they’re truly doing and listen.  We learned how to give and take, living on top of each other for so long.  Lastly, we learned how to turn on our flashers and wave people around who were interested or able in going faster than we were.  

Is there anyone or anything that truly made this trip a success in your eyes?

This trip was a success because of a lot of different people and factors.  Without our individual and brand sponsors we couldn’t have pulled this trip off, so a thousand thank you’s to them.  I would say the amount of hours we put into planning how this trip could be legendary ahead of departure has to be mentioned as well, without that intentional forethought the trip just wouldn’t have been as epic.  Of course having the best friends and bandmates anyone could ever ask for has to be mentioned as a reason for some of the success.  Last but not least we have to thank God for the safety, depth and provision he provided throughout the journey.  

When will you be releasing the documentary about this trip and where can people watch it?

The release of the Fill Me Up Tour films will likely be in 2022.  We’re planning to release them as a series of episodes with a fun vlog style incorporated.  You can stay updated on the release by following along on our Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or website.  

What’s next for A Brother’s Fountain?

Right now we are working hard to release our third album which we are beyond stoked about.  We are also finishing up our Only Music // South Africa film in the next few months so look out for that on the horizon. 

Of course we’ll get back out somewhere around the world for our next Only Music tour and plan to make it as saucy and spicy as all our last one’s.


Where would you like to see A Brother’s Fountain go on their next adventure? Be sure to follow them on their social media pages to stay updated on this amazing band and see how you can join us all in connecting the world through music. One love!

Music That Fills You Up | Part 1

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

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

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

Harmonic Conversations with Lee Oskar

We’d like to introduce you to our friend, partner, and honorary PFC Band member, Lee Oskar, who’s a world-renowned harmonica virtuoso, composer, producer, visual artist, musical explorer and harmonica manufacturer. As a founding member of the funk/jazz group WAR, Lee toured globally exposing the harmonica to many people and countries where the musical instrument was not part of the culture. He then went on to found Lee Oskar Harmonicas—available in various keys with standard and altered tunings—which allow musicians to play a wide range of musical genres and styles.

Learn more about this unique instrument from the virtuoso himself in a series of short videos we’ve titled Harmonic Conversations with Lee Oskar. Check out the first episode below and look out for our future episodes being released soon.

(8/1/18) Episode 1:  Lee explains how anyone can play the harmonica.

 

(8/15/18) Episode 2:  Lee talks about playing the Chicago blues.

 

(8/29/18) Episode 3: Lee explains the difference between the major diatonic harmonica and his signature “Melody Maker” harmonica.

 

(9/12/18) Episode 4: Lee talks about using his “Melody Maker” harmonica to play reggae and African music.

 

(9/26/18) Lee discusses the natural minor harmonica and how harmony, melody, and rhythm work together.

 

(10/10/18) Lee discusses playing “international blues” with the harmonic minor harmonica.


WIN A LEE OSKAR HARMONICA!!!

Congratulations to our July winner, Michael. Enter below for a chance to win a Lee Oskar harmonica of your own.

“Listen to the Music: Songs Around The World” Harmonica Giveaway!

Sponsored by Lee Oskar Harmonicas, Playing For Change is happy to announce our new monthly giveaway sweepstakes! Each month, a new lucky winner will be selected to receive a Lee Oskar Harmonica, tuned to your favorite Playing For Change song, or key of your choosing. Winners will also receive educational information for your new Lee Oskar Harmonica, and by becoming a PFC member, you can enter the grand prize giveaway held twice a year!

Monthly Winners are notified via email, so don’t forget to check your inbox.

You can also boost your chances of winning by doing the following:

-Confirm your email entry

-Copy & Share YOUR lucky URL to earn more chances to win!

-Your entry points will be included in each month’s drawing, until you win!

ENTER NOW