PFC Communications Director and Producer J. Marie Jones caught up with Rocky after his visit to learn a bit about his trip:
J. Marie: What inspired you to visit the students at the Bizung School?
Rocky: I have always wanted to visit the Playing For Change Bizung School in Tamale because I am also from the northern part of Ghana. My collaborations with Playing For Change made it something that I needed to eventually do. I had travelled to my native village of Bunbon while on my way back the opportunity came for me to meet up with Alidu Muhammed and visit the school while doing press in Tamale for my new EP “Voice of Bunbon, Vol. 1”
J. Marie: Did you perform for and/or with the students? If so, what songs?
Rocky: I got the opportunity to listen to the student showcase some of their original compositions which are based on indigenous local styles. I then collaborated in a jam session with the students which was wonderful.
J. Marie: Please describe your experience at the school?
Rocky: I was very impressed by the dedication of the students. I had the rare opportunity of having a deep conversation with them about the trials of choosing music as a life path especially in such a musically conservative environment. I also shared with them my own personal stories and how I overcame similar situations with the sheer force of my determination, dedication and love of music.
J. Marie: What was the highlight of your visit at the school?
Rocky: The highlight of my visit to Bizung School was when I jumped on percussion and started jamming with all of the students who were playing xylophones along with Alidu Muhammed on percussion. We created a beautiful piece together.
J. Marie: Why is it important to share music with the younger generations?
Rocky: Music is an important tool to create generational connection. Music also allows the transference and sharing of ideas. Ultimately, music serves as a tool to inspire all of us to be better at what we do.
All of us here at Playing For Change and our partners at the Playing For Change Foundation want to send a big THANK YOU to Rocky and his manager Cary for making this possible. The community at the Bizung School will cherish this day for years to come! To find out how you can support music schools and programs such as the Bizung School, please visit playingforchange.org.
What are the impacts and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of African descent and their communities?
On Thursday 23 July, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem was joined by government and civil society leaders and other experts to discuss this question in the latest Nairobi Commitments/ICPD25: What’s Next? Global Thought Leadership Conversation. Participants reflected on how we can build a better world, one that breaks the cycle of systemic inequalities and brings us unequivocally toward equal societies, free from discrimination, marginalization and racism.
The virtual moderated event featured music and other performances by people of African descent and the African diaspora and Playing For Change co-founder Mark Johnson joined the conversation to share some exciting news!
Promote the conversation on your social media channels using the hashtags #ICPD25 and #WhatsNext4Women so we can engage a large global audience and continue our march for change.
“The global unity in the Playing For Change concept is phenomenal.Collaboration in music is everything and this is the epitome of that.”
– Robbie Robertson
In honor of it’s 50th anniversary, Playing For Change has partnered with Cambria® to bring you The Weight, our newest Song Around The World, featuring Robbie Robertson of The Band. Released in 1968, the song was written by Robertson, and has since survived the decades as an uplifting and uniting classic, engrained in our global musical history. The Weight is a song that reminds us of our humanity, connects us in our individual struggles, and teaches us to be kind to one another. With lessons like these, we learn that we are one human race, connected through music, and that we are all alike in our hardships we face.
This Song Around The World is dedicated to The Band, with special thanks to its members; Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, and Robbie Robertson.
To help us celebrate this monumental moment for The Weight, we recorded musicians from all over to share their weight with the world. The video features longtime greats like Ringo Starr and Robbie Robertson himself, PFC’s own Roberto Luti, Keiko Komaki, Mermans Mosengo, and Robin Moxey. Additionally, we’re thrilled to welcome both old and new faces alike, including John Cruz and Lukas Nelson.
The humble son of Willie Nelson, Lukas is a soulful and inspiring country artist as well as the latest musician to join us in the movement to bring peace through music. Recently, we met with him in Venice, CA to record this song.
While new to the movement, Lukas has continually done his part in breathing new life into timeless songs from our past. In collaborating with Playing For Change, he had this to say about the power of music and the people who listen:
“I’m honored to be a part of this community of good humans doing good things… music is a connecting force that spans cultures and brings them together .. may we continue to learn about each other through the rhythms and the notes we play.”
– Lukas Nelson
Great songs can travel everywhere bridging what divides us and inspiring us to see how easily we all get along when the music plays. Spanning 5 continents, this song is yet another example of the special connection we all share through music, and the seamless way in which we can unite across borders and barriers that stand between us.
Special thanks to our partner Cambria® for helping to make this possible and to Robbie Robertson, Ringo Starr and all the musicians for joining us in celebrating 50 years of this classic song.
On June 11th, Playing For Change co-founders Whitney Kroenke and Mark Johnson accepted Sweden’s Polar Music Prize alongside hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash and German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm.
Polar Music Prize
Regarded as one of the foremost honors throughout the international music community, the Polar Music Prize is bestowed annually to influential individuals, artists, and organizations who break down musical boundaries and bring together people from all the different worlds of music. First awarded to Sir Paul McCartney in 1992, there have since been more than 50 laureates, including such greats as Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, B.B. King, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and many more. Laureates from a wide range of countries, cultures, and continents have received the Prize in Stockholm from the hand of His Majesty, King Carl XVI Gustaf.
According to the Polar Music website, the prize is “awarded for significant achievements in music and/or musical activity, or for achievements which are found to be of great potential importance for music or musical activity, and it shall be referable to all fields within or closely connected with music”. This qualification has taken many forms, from rewarding individuals for outstanding musical innovation, to acknowledging significant careers in music and performance within local, national, and global communities, as well as honoring those for their service to humanity in leading positive change through music.
Each year, the Polar Music Prize Committee organizes the event in coordination with Sweden’s Royal Family, hosting various live performances, onstage “Polar Talks” with each of the Laureates, a red (pink) carpet and banquet, award ceremony, and additional pre and post-ceremony celebrations.
In their acceptance speech for the Polar Music Prize, Whitney said:
“Everyone here knows the power of music. That it can not only heal, but motivate. That it can not only give opportunity, but lift us out of that which holds us down. We see it every single day in the work we do with Playing For Change. By using their culture, their community, and their own history to strengthen next generations and build success and happiness. All it takes is music. All it takes is one spark.”
To view their full acceptance speech, click below.
Playing For Change
For Whitney Kroenke and Mark Johnson, the honor of accepting the Polar Music Prize on behalf of the Playing For Change Movement cannot be understated. Yet, to them, the accomplishment goes far beyond their work as co-founders, and is a reflection of the worldwide support and appreciation that has fueled the organization for the past 15 plus, years. Playing For Change could not have become what it has without the generosity of thousands of musicians, the dedication from countless individuals and partners, and the belief from millions of human beings around the world that we are all connected through music.
In speaking with the co-founders about the Polar Music Prize award and ceremony, they had this to say.
Whitney: To have a music movement, a music project, honored alongside heroes of ours that inspired us and Playing For Change was really, really humbling…. to me it means that the “small” musicians are being seen and heard, and being recognized, and that is SO exciting because it means people are paying attention to each other!
Mark:I felt proud for all the people and communities who have worked so hard to support our project around the world and I was especially honored for PFC to be in the company of so many legends and musicians who have inspired us in so many ways.
Are there any notable past laureates that you are honored to share the stage with?
Mark: So many of my musical heroes are included, too many to list but my new favorite is Grandmaster Flash!
Whitney: YES!!! All of them! But I was especially blown away by being in the company of Bruce Springsteen—I’m a huge fan!
What does the Polar Music Prize mean to you?
Mark: During our first trip recording and filming street musicians in New Orleans back in 2001 we met a percussionist named R1 who told us “Music gets to the sentiment behind the words…” and I always loved that perspective of music as a window into something deeper. The Polar Prize is similar as they are recognizing the sentiment behind the process of making music and spreading music education. It explores a deeper understanding of where we are coming from and where we are going with Playing For Change.
Can you describe what took place at the ceremony in Sweden?
Whitney: It was incredible! First, we walked the Polar Prize “red (it was pink this year!) carpet outside the Grand Hotel. Upon entering, we were ushered to a room for private cocktails where we met the Swedish Royal Family. After the pre-ceremony cocktails, we were escorted into the theater, where we were seated in the front row along with Grandmaster Flash and Anne-Sophie Mutter (the other laureates). The awards ceremony took place, a video of our work was shown and then we accepted the award for PFCF on behalf of all of the musicians, staff, program coordinators, friends who have been a part of our work for the past 18 years. It was extremely emotional, and very surreal, to accept this award from the King of Sweden! And in a room filled with such a rapt, passionate audience.
As an organization dedicated to changing lives and connecting the world through music, how do you hope to double down on your mission following this international achievement?
Mark: Fortunately for us Playing For Change was always a combination of a big global idea combined with a mission to make deeper personal connections and focus on one person, one child at a time…This rhythm gives us a chance to expand what is working and continue to grow our project while also maintaining deep personal connections with everyone we meet along the way.
How will the Polar Music Prize award support the Playing For Change Foundation and organization as a whole in the years to come?
Whitney: Well, first of all, the cash award of 100K is going to be a massive help in sustaining our current programs. We are excited to put the award funds to work immediately to guarantee that the work we have been doing in each program will be continued through the next several years. We will also be using the international platform of the Polar Prize to leverage new relationships into expanding our reach globally.
To Mark and Whitney, thank you for your years of dedication to Playing For Change. To all those who love and support the Playing For Change Movement, thank you for helping to make their dream a reality for all of us.
In April, the members of the Playing For Change Band made their 6th appearance at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in Australia. This was the festival’s 30th year anniversary, and it featured a lineup of renowned world musicians such as Iggy Pop, Norah Jones, George Clinton, Mavis Staples, and Gary Clark Jr., as well as some PFC favorites like Jack Johnson, Keb’ Mo’, and Larkin Poe.
Byron Bay Bluesfest
From humble beginnings, the Byron Bay Bluesfest has grown to become one of the world’s largest venues for live blues music. The festival has attracted international attention by featuring some of the biggest names in music, routinely drawing in global audiences numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
In the past, Bluesfest has been headlined by the likes of Bob Dylan, BB King, John Mayer, John Legend, Angélique Kidjo, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, and many more outstanding artists. It has also led rise to the annual Boomerang Festival, a ground-breaking Indigenous arts festival for all Australians featuring an array of music, dance, theatre, comedy, and film, all to celebrate the heritage of first nations people.
As the Byron Bay Bluesfest continues to grow, its yearly celebrations of music, culture, and community have grown far beyond their blues, jazz, and roots beginnings, becoming a world stage home to Australia.
Playing For Change Band
For the past 6 years, the PFC Band has been honored to connect with international audiences on one of Australia’s greatest stages. Although the band has seen many new faces and friends throughout the years, the mission to “connect the world through music” has always remained the same.
With Titi and Tula, Mermans and Tamba, Keiko, Roberto, Robin, Chantz, and more, the band was in full swing by the time they arrived in Byron Bay, having just played together in Bahrain a few weeks prior. They also managed to play a second show while in Sydney that same weekend, sharing the music with as many people as they could.
At the heart and soul of the PFC Band, we were overjoyed to see Grandpa Elliott make his way down under, gracing the Australian audiences with his profound bellowing voice and uplifting harmonica chimes.
In anticipation for the band’s 6th appearance at the Byron Bay Bluesfest, organizers wrote:
“Playing for Change is back to share their powerful live performance with everyone at Bluesfest this Easter 2019. The unique fusion of influences and music from more than seven countries allows for an extremely special performance. United in purpose and in chorus, everyone is touched by music’s unifying power!“
From an Iowa farm girl to the Berklee College of Music, and finally beyond as “Lady B”, bass queen of the Florida Keys, Claire Finley has amassed a wealth of experience in her time as a professional musician. Now, she has started a new chapter as lead bassist for the Playing For Change Band, touring in Bahrain, Brazil, and recently arriving in Australia for the upcoming Byron Bay Bluesfest this weekend.
To formally introduce our newest member of the PFC Band, we asked Claire to share her story.
Although a bassist at heart, Lady B’s first connection to music was through the piano, which she started “plunking out melodies” on by the age of four. From then on, Claire made the plunge into performance, practicing-traveling-and-competing her way in classical piano, knocking down 11 consecutive superior ratings by her senior year of high school. Beyond piano, Claire tried her hand at nearly every other instrument and opportunity she could, “playing violin in orchestra, electric bass in jazz band, bass drum in drumline/marching band, French Horn and percussion in concert band and electric guitar“. As a driven musician from a young age, she notes that she has her parents to thank for supporting her ambition and busy schedule.
Picking up the bass in fifth grade, Claire had discovered an entirely new medium for expression through the instrument and began playing in the church band and the middle school jazz band immediately.
“The Bass seemed to give me an outlet that the classical piano didn’t offer. My place in the classical world was about perfection….carefully emulating famous works by renowned composers and being judged on my interpretation of what was notated on the page. Although I had appreciated the meticulous and detail-oriented nature of the style, I knew there was another musical world out there where self-expression was welcomed and encouraged.“
It was only once Claire discovered her love for the bass that she came to the realization that music was going to be her life. She says, “I had finally found an instrument that resonated with my idea that music should be joyful, creative, and fun“. Since then, she has lived a musical life that is just that. She has always gone with where the music takes her, and as of most recently, it has brought her to new countries, new audiences and new experiences in her role with the Playing For Change Band.
When did you first hear about Playing For Change?
I first heard about Playing For Change several years ago, having seen a couple of the viral videos being shared by friends online. However, I didn’t realize these very moving videos were also part of a non-profit to raise money to support the creation and sustainment of music schools around the world. I remember being brought to tears, seeing so many different people from all over the world with different beliefs and cultures coming together to play the same song. A genius idea to promote world peace through music.
How did you eventually get involved with the PFC Band?
I was invited to attend and perform at the wedding celebration of my friend and PFC advocate, Savannah Buffet and her fiancée, Joshua. The special weekend finally came and there were lots of late-night jams with all the musicians in attendance during the celebrations. That’s when I ended up meeting Mark Johnson and Raan Williams and jamming with Robin Moxey, one of the producers and guitarists in the PFC band. We all hit it off immediately and musical magic was in the air!
Five months later, this incredible weekend morphed into the PFC crew coming to Key West, Florida to film and record ME for my very first appearance in a song around the world. I will never forget the feeling I had when we were setting up at my favorite beach with the recording gear and film crew. I felt like this was it…I finally found what I was supposed to be doing with my music. The idea that music is the only international language had always resonated with me…but this was a project that could actually prove visually and sonically that this theory was true.
Is this the largest band you’ve ever been a part of?
The Playing For Change Band is definitely one of the largest musical collaborations I’ve been a part of. While at Berklee, I participated in many performances with large groups but they were always one-off shows for special occasions. The difference from these experiences is that the Playing For Change Band is a family. It’s about creating a foundation of support to continue spreading the word of the movement throughout the world. Being a solid band unit allows us to build on this foundation and learn from each other constantly. Everyone hears and performs music differently. The opportunity to be surrounded by so many talented international musicians, all with different stories to tell, is truly a dream come true.
As an artist who routinely performs with many different groups, is there anything unique/special about the PFC Band that you haven’t experienced anywhere else?
Absolutely. Playing music for such a good cause, using my musical powers for the greater good of humanity, is an amazing feeling. The memories we are able to create while on the road are memories I will cherish forever. Even outside of the music our friendships are strong and we are there for each other. Having the opportunity to hone in on the African, Latin, Reggae, Blues, and other styles of music we play are very exciting. We are all learning together and teach each other. I’m pretty sure Mermans Mosengo knows everyone’s’ parts! If I ever forget or have a hard time with a bass line or rhythm, he is right there showing me the way. I’ve already learned so much in the short time I’ve been in the band!
What’s been the highlight of performing with the band so far, and is there anything that you’re most looking forward to in the coming months/year?
Since I joined PFC in October, I’ve already had the opportunity to travel to two places that I always wanted to go, Brazil and the Middle East. Now, Australia! Travel has always been a huge passion for me so being able to combine this with music and great people fills me with joy. I am thrilled and looking forward to continuing this adventure, traveling to even more places I’ve never been, and musically connecting with as many people as I can across the globe.
We heard that you recorded one of your songs with Mark Johnson and the PFC Band. Can you tell us more about “Run”, and what it was like to perform/record your song with the whole group?
‘Run’ was a song that I wrote with my friend Jason Lamson in my living room in Key West Florida. Feeling inspired to write more after a successful songwriting visit from Robin Moxey, I called up Jason and asked if he wanted to get together to brainstorm and try to write a song. He swung by with his notebook and showed me a lyrical melody idea he had, “I’m gonna run, as fast as I can”. That line inspired me. How cool would it be to write a song that focuses on running towards the good instead of away from the bad?
Robin helped me come to the realization during his visit that I had a story to tell and needed to tell it, so I did and it turned into ‘Run’. The lyrics of this song resonate with the feelings of fear and longing that I’ve experienced living the life of a musician and always striving to get to that next level. In order to pursue this dream, I needed to give up the comforts and financial security of the wedding band business, which scared me. But, there was something else out there. It was finally time to run towards all those positive opportunities and take a chance for something even better, which ended up coming to complete fruition when I became a part of the Playing For Change Movement.
First hearing the song performed live by the band was an overwhelming and emotional experience. To have created something that has the chance of inspiring others to “dream big and take chances” fills me with such joy. Another big moment for me was when we were at 2 Seas in Bahrain working on the official studio version. Titi Tsira and the rest of the band put their magic touch on the track and just blew me away. Even down to Merman’s perfectly timed vibra-slaps. Hahaha… it was a moment I will never forget.
What does Playing For Change mean to you?
The entire Playing For Change Movement resonates in a huge way for me. Our musical voices are so much stronger together than alone. United, we have a much better chance of actually being heard by the rest of the world. The opportunity to SEE the change, and BE the change with such an incredible group of people is an honor that I will never take for granted.
Are you working on anything else right now that you’d like to share with us?
Currently, in between PFC adventures, I try to fill my life with experiences that will help facilitate creativity and inspiration to write more songs! The life of a musician is never boring! ; )
Thank you Claire for sharing a glimpse into your life, and thank you for everything you bring to the Playing For Change Band!
The last time we spoke to A Brother’s Fountain, they were gearing up for 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.
Now that they have returned from the journey of a lifetime, we’ve reconnected with these explorers to document the experiences they had, to learn about the people that made their mission a success, and to discover what is next for the band with their newfound faith in the power of music!
Can you tell us about your average day while busking through South Africa?
The unique thing about this trip was that every day brought something completely new, and we never really had an average day. One thing we always did, was when woke up we would all get together, make some coffee, and then have some quiet time before the day started. This was pivotal as it gave us an opportunity to chat through how we were feeling with each other, and also get some crucial alone time to meditate and pray to reset ourselves and be grateful for each day.
From there we would make a plan and go do it. Music was our currency and connection tool so most days revolved around music. Mornings after quiet time we might research and call places we could play. Then we would go out and play music on the streets, for people we stayed with, at a pub, or in a hostel.
Tell us about the people!
The South African people were some of the kindest we’ve met in the world. So open to meeting someone new, and always down with some live music. We felt really privileged to meet South Africans from a lot of different backgrounds and walks of life and still felt so welcomed by them all. We were also blown away by the hope shown to us by the South African youth! Every kid of any age we met was always kind, engaging, and genuine towards us and each other. Looking us in the eye, asking us about our trip and always encouraging us in our musical journey.
The Playing For Change Foundation’s Imvula Music Program in Gugulethu
On one of the many stops for A Brother’s Fountain, the band was able to connect with the students and teachers at the Imvula Music School in Gugulethu, South Africa.
To top off a stellar performance and a memorable experience for all, the band chose to donate their instruments to the students, leaving a lasting impact on the Imvula Music School and demonstrating their own generosity granted through the power of music.
“We can’t say enough great things about the people of Gugelethu and the Playing For Change Foundation music school. We were welcomed with open arms and had such a good time playing music and hanging out with the kids and adults there. The connection in Gugs was the perfect icing on the cake for the journey. We were so happy that we were able to give them a few nice instruments to help keep the music alive and thriving there amongst the youth. We can’t thank them enough for welcoming us with such open arms.”
-AJ Fountain, A Brother’s Fountain
Were you able to perform with any new friends and fans?
We did have a few magical moments with other musicians. We had a great sunset beach jam in Cape Town with a South African saxophonist and an Argentinian ukulele player who we also met down by the beach. The feeling is indescribable to look out over the ocean and watch the sun setting with the sand beneath your toes as you play your heart out with total strangers who feel like best friends.
What did you learn in your travels?
The greatest highlight of the trip was having nothing. The feeling of waking up with no idea where each day was going. It made every day a grand adventure and every little blessing seem like a miracle from God.
We learned to not let them tell you it can’t be done, to dream bigger. We learned to never underestimate the power of a stranger. To stay grateful for every little thing and life will become so much more magical. We learned to keep the faith to make your story epic and worth telling.
Would you recommend more musicians go on similar adventures to test the power of music?
Absolutely we would. It is such a raw, invigorating and renewing experience to have nothing but your instrument to get around. The weird thing is although we played every day, and sometimes multiple sets a day, we never really got sick of the music. Playing music gave us a purpose, it allowed us to provide something to those who helped us, and it was tied in with surviving as our main focus every day. This reshaped how powerful music is to ourselves and others. It was our expression of who we were and what we were about, and our ability to bring down walls and bare our soul. It was such an honor and gift to play under those circumstances, and I’d definitely recommend it to any musician.
When will we be able to experience the trip with you? Will you be creating a documentary of your adventure?
Follow along for teasers at ABrothersFountain, but hold tight because it might be around 6 months of intense editing before the full short film will be coming out. This trip was so special that we want to make sure the short film about it is done right, so we can’t rush the process.
[UPDATE] The first teaser has been released. Check it out:
Next for us is to take these lessons we learned and apply them into our day to day lives in the states. We fell in love with the concept of ‘Only Music’ and are now planning on continuing in that theme with more trips and episodic content. This could include traveling internationally again, but we’re also looking to go out on some tours in America with only our instruments.
In the next couple months, we’ll be finishing up another documentary similar to Only Music / South Africa which we’re calling Only Music / Alaska. It features my brother, Justin Fountain, who hitchhiked up to Alaska from his house here in Fort Collins about six months ago, with nothing but a backpack and a mini guitar, again bringing no money and no food to start his journey. What happens is epic and magical and we can’t wait to show that journey to the world soon.
Until then, we’ll just have to wait. For now, we encourage you all to stay close to A Brother’s Fountain as they continue on their musical journey, crossing borders, bridging divides, building relationships, and connecting the world through music. This band has embodied the mantra of their mission, to not only survive, but to THRIVE through music. We are excited to see what’s next for ABF, and we grateful for their willingness and openness to share the songs and stories from their travels. Hopefully, their faith and trust in the power of music is something we all can learn from.
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.
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, Vastiis 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.”
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.
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.
When he isn’t traveling the world, VastiJackson 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:
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.
We are humbled, honored, and grateful to announce that our Playing For Change Foundation is a 2019 Polar Music Prize Laureate along with hip hop pioneer Joseph Saddler, known as Grandmaster Flash, andviolinist, Anne-Sophie Mutter. The Polar Music Prize is an award that crosses musical boundaries; celebrating the power and importance of music by internationally recognizing excellence in the world of music. Past laureates include Sting, B.B. King, Yo-Yo Ma, Miriam Makeba, Metallica, Elton John, Dizzy Gillespie and more.
To every musician and their communities, and everyone around the world who’s supported the Playing For Change Movement, THANK YOU!!! This award is not just our award, it belongs to us all.
Through the power of music, we can continue to change the world; one heart and one song at a time!
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
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.
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.
If you’re interested in hearing more from A Brother’s Fountain during their hiatus, check out these videos below:
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.”
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”
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:
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.
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 recentalbum, Listen To the Music.
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.
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/.
“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.
“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.”
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 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!
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
LOS ANGELES, CA—Playing 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, PFC–affiliated 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.
“One evening, a few years ago in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, the PFC crew and I were waiting for an 80-year-old cuica player to perform on a Song Around The World. I remember it seemed to take forever for him to make it down the hill, as he would stop off in every bar along the way for a drink and some conversation. As we waited I looked and saw a Rastaman walking across the street with his acoustic guitar in hand. I waved to him and he came over to see what we were doing with all our equipment. I told him about Playing For Change and he agreed to play a song for us while we were waiting. The result was an incredible, spontaneous performance of Dennis Brown’s ‘Rasta Children.’ His voice reminded me of Peter Tosh and he sang with so much soul that we realized this could be an amazing Song Around The World. Just one man and his guitar playing on the street set the tone for this song and we added a worldwide band of roots musicians around him. ‘I and I deal with humanity…'”
– Mark Johnson, PFC Co-Founder
Rasta Children’s Roots
“Rasta Children” was released in 1979 by Dennis Brown, who was known as The Crown Prince of Reggae. One of Bob Marley’s favorite singers, Brown led a prolific career having recorded more than 75 albums throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. It was actually in Brazil where his journey would end—falling ill with pneumonia in 1999 and dying of a collapsed lung days later. Yet, while his physical journey on this earth would come to a close, his musical legacy continues to live on years later thanks to a chance encounter in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.
With help from 16 different musicians across 6 different countries, PFC’s rendition of “Rasta Children” is a beautiful melting pot of talent. Of course, the Rastaman mentioned above is Paulo César “da Luz” Pereira, whom we met back in 2011. As he was the true inspiration for this Song Around The World, we are lucky considering all of the forces that allowed our paths to cross. Had it not been for the popularity of the 80-year-old cuica player, we may never have been able to capture such an organic and truly special performance, nor could we have gone on to share it with musicians and supporters around the world.
This meeting shows us the beauty in the world just waiting to be discovered, and the chance encounters that bring these moments to reality. One such story is that of another musician in this collaboration, Brushy One String, who began his career many years ago as a street musician in Jamaica. With an uncanny similarity to PFC’s earliest beginnings, a filmmaker named Luciano Blotta was leaving a Jamaican recording studio when he noticed a man on the corner playing an old acoustic guitar with only one string. After recording his song, “Chicken in the Corn,” Blotta left Jamaica only to find the video blow up on the internet with thousands of people suddenly showing their love and support for Brushy. Since then, he has led a full career performing in places like France, Argentina, Japan, and the U.S., while continuing to play throughout Jamaica. It seemed only fitting, then, that Brushy join with PFC to record “Rasta Children” in his hometown of Ocho Rios, and continue to promote a life dedicated to peace and unity through music:
“If we can change the words and melodies and bring back the love, we can have a balance between God and man,” Brushy reflects. “That’s what we need to put the world together.”
Very much in frequency with Rasta Children’s nature sits Nattali Rize, a roots-rock-and-reggae rebel queen who has earned international fame as a singer/songwriter and social activist. Beginning as a street percussionist in Byron Bay, Australia, her career has grown through her dedication to an urban roots collective, Blue King Brown, and on to building her own band, changing her name from Natalie Pa’apa’a to Nattali Rize to reflect Bob Marley’s lyrics for “Rise Up.” With an emboldened attitude, Nattali Rize’s performances are praised for their, “epic, high energy, thought-provoking and uplifting live performances,” (Nattali Rize). Another featured musician in “Rasta Children” that deserves just as much credit to the success of Nattali Rize is Carlo Santone, a bandmate, manager, and partner of Nattali’s, who has worked with her since 2004.
Currently, Nattali Rize is just coming off a West Coast California tour, and will continue performing her latest album, Rebel Frequency, throughout France until the end of August. The full album is available by following the link above, and it boasts just as much of its Rastafarian roots while blending her own New-Era style and humanitarian message.
“Never forget, we are one human family and no one, man or woman or child, is illegal. We are the pioneers of a paradigm change and creators of a new world!”
We are introducing a new feature on the Playing For Change website. Now on musician pages, along with photos, featured videos, and related links and musician accounts, we will also be promoting individual tours and shows happening around the world. You can view our entire musician tour schedule by following the musician tour dates link above, as well as access individual events by searching for your favorite artists’ PFC page.
While this is an ongoing process, you can expect more tour information to be uploaded and updated regularly as we are always collecting new and amazing musicians. One of our longtime friends, Roberto Luti, will be performing in Denmark with Luke Winslow-King this August. Find more information about these events by following the link provided.
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!
At 12:00 a.m. ET, June 20th, our friends at peacechannel.com will be launching a 24-hour live stream webcast in honor of World Refugee Day 2018. The webcast will feature “music, news & views honoring the resilience of 65 million people forced to flee their homes by violence and disaster – the largest displacement in human history.”
Peace Channel is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting peace and hope around the world by streaming the best of humanity. Their mission is as follows: “We offer motivating music from the planet’s leading artists, empowering advocacy from leaders in sustainable peace and prosperity, and surprising stories about ingenious individuals around the planet who are tackling humanity’s most urgent challenges — and winning!”
We are proud to promote the efforts of other like-minded organizations spreading peace and positivity throughout the world, and are happy to contribute to this day of global recognition for the millions of people displaced from their homes and countries. As with the many others in support of this initiative, we are honored to stand #withrefugees.
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 Kinsey, Mike 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 Tamba, Mermans 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 Johnson, Paula Fuga, and even Washboard Chaz all make heartwarming appearances in another video once again, showing their remarkable talent and continued support of the movement.
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.
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.”
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.