PFC Artist Spotlight | Larkin Poe

Larkin Poe, a sister duo raised in Atlanta and based out of Nashville, are a rising southern roots and rock group that has a bit more connection to their roots than you’d expect. Receiving their name in honor of their great-great-great grandfather, Larkin Poe, cousin of Edgar Allen Poe, both Rebecca and Megan Lovell are carrying on the family legacy of artistry, one stunned crowd at a time.


Background

Boasting their strong southern harmonies, gritty guitar riffs, and endlessly rhythmic vocals, Larkin Poe have developed their personal brand of blues throughout countless collaborations with premier musicians, ranging from Elvis Costello to Gary Clark Jr.Keith Urban and even Steven Tyler. Beginning their career as teenagers in 2005, the girls had formed a trio with their third sister, Jessica, calling themselves The Lovell Sisters. For four years, the sisters toured, wrote new music, performed at festivals like Bonnaroo, and self-released two albums of their own, all while honing their talents and refining their abilities. When the trio disbanded in 2009, Rebecca and Megan joined together to form Larkin Poe, and since then, have developed a masterful wheelhouse of old blues ballads and their own new-age Americana sound.

      

During their first three years as a duo, Larkin Poe released five independent projects and two collaboration albums. In 2013, the sisters managed to sign their first record deal with RH music, and immediately began their first full-length album, Kin. Following its release, the pair went back on the road, making appearances at Lollapalooza, Glastonbury (twice), and another stop in at Bonnaroo. In 2016, Larkin Poe contributed to Steven Tyler’s solo debut album, We’re All Somebody From Somewhere, and just last year, they were invited to perform with Don Henley and Jackson Browne at the Tom Petty Tribute performance in Los Angeles. Along the way, Larkin Poe has managed to release three additional albums, with their latest arriving just last week, November 9th, titled, Venom and Faith.


“Larkin Poe are not only highly professional, nearly perfect musicians, they also manage to add a new passion, modernity, and elegant coolness to the genre of Rock.”

– Vogue


Run In With PFC

We first heard about Larkin Poe through our friendship and collaboration with Robbie Robertson of The Band and his son Sebastian. They are both fans of Larkin Poe and once we checked them out, we too became fans for life. We were able to meet up with the sisters in Venice Beach, California, to record them performing a Live Outside rendition of Robert Johnson’s, “Come On in My Kitchen,” which was also featured on their 2017 album, Peach:

“We’re two southern sisters: born in Tennessee, raised in Georgia. Having grown up in the south, the blues has always been a huge part of our musical upbringing. In the past few years, we’ve been inspired to strip it back to our roots and pay tribute to the music that raised us… And “Come On in My Kitchen” was one of the first blues tunes we ever learned how to play.” – Larkin Poe


Tour

Currently, Larkin Poe is in the midst of a tumultuous tour with tickets still available for shows throughout the U.S. and Canada, U.K., Germany, Italy, Spain, and Australia among many more locations worldwide. They will be traveling throughout spring, with shows booked until the end of April, and their full tour schedule and ticket locations are available on their PFC musician profile.

We are grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with such an inspiring and impressive pair as Larkin Poe, and are excited to see what more will come from the soulful southern sisters.

One Love,

Playing For Change

Stand By Me – 10 Years Later

“My name is Roger Ridley and I’m in the joy business, I come out here to be with the people…”

Roger Ridley performing “Stand By Me” at the Santa Monica Promenade.

These were the words I heard in my first interview with Roger Ridley before he sat down to perform “Stand By Me” for the small crowd on the Santa Monica promenade back in 2004.  Neither one us could have imagined or even dreamed that this particular performance would be the catalyst to so many people seeing the world in a new and brighter way.  It was, of course, our first ever attempt at creating a Song Around The World—a song created by us traveling with a mobile studio and cameras to record and film each musician in their natural environment as they each add a new layer to the track. We had no expectations but just a strong will to see if music can unite the world.

10 years later, after witnessing over 100 million people watch “Stand By Me” on YouTube across about 195 countries, I reflect on this performance with Roger and 25 other musicians performing together around the world.  A great song, soul, and talent have proven to be one of the great unifiers in this divided world and I believe this is something Roger Ridley knew every day of his life.  He didn’t just come out on the streets to be with the people; he came out there to connect them in a deeper way, with a song, as his heroes had done before him.

Grandpa Elliott performing in New Orleans

I also reflect on Roger’s soul brother, Grandpa Elliott, who was the second singer on “Stand By Me” around the world.  I remember him as this beautiful character with a red shirt, blue overalls, and the Santa Claus beard.  When I met him he had been performing on the streets of New Orleans for over 50 years!! Roger and Grandpa share a powerful musical quality in the conviction of what they do.  The audience doesn’t just hear the song; they feel it in their soul.

Bhakani Memela

The journey creating “Stand By Me” was full of searching for soul around the world and we found it everywhere we went.  A friend introduced me through email to Bhakani Memela in Umlazi, South Africa who was the musical director for a vocal group named Sinamuva.  I had first heard this type of singing with their local legends, Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

When the crew and I arrived in the township to work with Sinamuva we heard these amazing voices coming from a small shack in the dark behind Bhakani’s house.  They were singing the choruses of “Stand By Me” in their native Zulu Language and it blew us all away!! The group was about 10 singers in total and their voices merged into a sound so full of love and power that I knew at that moment we were discovering something special with this attempt at a Song Around The World.

Clarence Bekker performing in Barcelona

The final singer on “Stand By Me” is the great Clarence Bekker from the Netherlands.   We met him in Barcelona after asking around the city for the best soul singer in town.   He agreed to perform on the Song Around The World and added his powerful voice for the second verse,

“If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall,
Or the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry, no I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me.”

It’s amazing to look back at his performance and realize he is singing as if the sky is tumbling and the mountains are crumbling and somehow some way we are going to make it as a human race.  We will stand by each other no matter what!!  That’s what I feel when I hear him sing and I imagine many others around the world feel the same way.  No matter how many things in life divide us they will never be as strong as the power of music to bring us back together.  This is one of the lessons I learned traveling the world recording and filming “Stand By Me.”

Mark Johnson with kids in South Africa

The one group we are all a part of is humanity and the music will always be there to re-connect our hearts and our souls. Everyone out there, this is YOUR SONG, it was made just for you.  Thanks for sharing in this journey with Playing For Change and thanks to all the musicians who made it possible!

One Love,

Mark Johnson

PFC Artist Spotlight | Taimane

In a vast world brimming with genuine talent, Taimane Gardner is among the most remarkable and awe-inspiring performers to take on the ukulele, breathing life and energy into her music that can only be described as a true force of nature.


Beginnings

Receiving her name from the Samoan word for “Diamond,” Taimane is a Pacific Islander herself, born in Honolulu, Hawai’i to a Samoan mother and European-American father. In tune with her name and heritage, Taimane cannot help but shine in the spotlight, pursuing her passion for music and expression of sound to its fullest extent throughout her 15 year career. By the age of 5, Taimane was learning and practicing the foundations of the ukulele, but soon found herself reaching far beyond the instrument’s traditional capabilities by introducing a wide range of genre’s and play-styles that were fueled by her inner rockstar. As her talents grew, this young and inspired musician soon caught the attention of many well known ukulele masters, and at the age of 13, she was invited to join Don Ho as part of his show at the Waikiki Beachcomber. Through this opportunity, her investment in her music soon became intertwined with a new passion for performance, and just as her technical abilities would grow, so too would her powerful stage presence become an impressive facet to her music.

“With the fierceness of a rocker, and the grace of a dancer, Taimane and her music are wowing ever-larger audiences.” 

Taimane, Bio


Career

From Bach to rock, flamenco infernos to tribal hymns, Taimane focuses her songwriting and performances on bringing feelings and visions to life. Sharing her music with fans across the world, Taimane continues to tour extensively throughout the Hawaiian Islands, still finding time to play shows in Australia, Germany, Japan, France, China, and mainland U.S. among other locations abroad. Three years after her first show with Don Ho, Taimane would debut her first album, Loco Princess, and has since completed four additional album’s, the most recent of which, Elemental, released in 2018.

On Elemental she celebrates the energy of each element with songs entitled water, fire, air, earth, and ether. Recognizing her connection to the strength and beauty of nature, she possesses a unique ability to translate the objects our environment into audible energy, with soft finger-plucking to mimic the repetitive sounds of flowing water or dark and densely rhythmic strumming to simulate the violent storms of Mercury. Coupled with this enigmatic approach to the ukulele, Taimane can also be found shredding through covers of AC/DC, System of a Down, and “Stairway To Heaven” by Led Zeppelin.

Here is Taimane performing “Bodysurfing” at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California:

The vibrantly expressive nature of Taimane’s ukulele is in many ways a response to the limitations that were put on her as a young girl with a big dream. She wanted to disprove the assumptions of how a true ukulele virtuoso looked and sounded, and in doing so, she has expanded the possibilities of the instrument for a new generation of musicians to learn from. Yet, as a renowned composer, performer, and masterful musician, Taimane’s impression of her music is much more lighthearted.

“The ukulele, although maybe underestimated, can definitely blow some minds”

-Taimane, TEDxMaui


Run In With PFC

In August of last year, Taimane and the PFC team first met at a BBQ at Mark Johnson‘s house prior to her performance at The Mint later that night. Upon meeting, both parties found an immediate connection, and spent the evening eating, talking, singing and playing together until Taimane had to leave for her show. In the months following this introduction, we were able to coordinate two Live Outside performances with Taimane and her fellow musicians, Jasmine “Jazzy” Skurtu (guitar), Windy Weather (violin), and Jonathan Heraux (percussion).

Here is their performance of “The Moon,” filmed in Kualoa Ranch, Oahu:


Looking Forward

Taimane also has a history of playing with other PFC favorites, Jack Johnson, John Cruz, Paula Fuga, and Lopaka Colon Jr., all featured in our Songs Across Hawai’i series. While truly dedicated to her local Hawaiian community, Taimane’s talents have certainly not gone unnoticed, as she is currently on the Grammy ballot seeking a nomination for Best World Music Album. Heading into the future, Taimane will be releasing two new music videos later this year from her Elemental album, as well as a new song about her love of Yoga. She will also be writing and recording three songs for an indie feature-film being shot in Hawai’i in 2019, and is preparing for tour dates in the U.S., Israel, and Europe for the coming year. To learn more about her upcoming projects, please visit her website here.

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

Audio-Technica: PFC’s Exclusive Global Sponsor of all Headphones and Microphones

LOS ANGELES, CAPlaying For Change (PFC)—the global movement that was created to connect the world through music by recording, filming, and distributing musical performances—is proud to announce its new sponsor, Audio-Technica, will supply microphones and headphones to all international PFC-related events. Additionally, the Playing For Change Band and the Playing For Change Foundation will receive donations of microphones and headphones as well as technical support from Audio-Technica.

Reflecting on their future relationship, Playing For Change CEO/Co-Founder Mark Johnson offers, “We have been using Audio-Technica headphones for years and are excited to have them joining in on our ongoing mission of connecting the world through music. Much of what PFC does involves getting audio in the field—a task to which Audio-Technica microphones and headphones are well-suited. Audio-Technica also understands that music is about people, that it’s our global language and heritage, and it must be preserved and cherished. We look forward to a long-lasting relationship with Audio-Technica and together, show that great sound is everywhere.”

Playing For Change represents the ways in which music unites us around the world,” adds Audio-Technica US President/CEO Phil Cajka. “We are proud to support their endeavors and we look forward to serving as an advocate for their efforts throughout the year.” That shared mission will result in Audio-Technica’s sustained presence in all PFC ventures as the organizations work together.

In addition to PFC Day events, PFCaffiliated concerts, and the Playing For Change Band directly benefitting from the Audio-Technica sponsorship, students from around the world who participate in any of the 15 Playing For Change Foundation music programs will also receive headphones, microphones, and Audio-Technica technical support.

For more information, please visit audio-technica.com.