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!
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.
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.
Los Angeles, CA, August 22, 2017 — Playing For Change, the multimedia company responsible for the popular ‘Songs Around The World’ video series, has announced it will host WE ARE ONE, a concert benefitting the Playing For Change Foundation and celebrating 10 years of positive change through music. Official partners for the event include Los Angeles’ premier rock radio station 95.5 KLOS, LA Weekly, and Japan-based music app Nana. The concert will take place on Tuesday, October 3, at the historic Mayan Theater in downtown Los Angeles and feature performances from The Doobie Brothers members Tom Johnston, Patrick Simmons, and John McFee; as well as Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett from Little Feat; The Playing For Change Band, that features 10 respected musicians from 10 different countries; world-renowned drummer James Gadson; The Ambassador of Soul, Ellis Hall; legendary harmonica player Lee Oskar; and more. Ticketing options include an exclusive VIP experience with a pre-show meet and greet reception with The Doobie Brothers and musicians, bar offerings, a priority seating area, and VIP gift bag which includes a commemorative poster. Tickets are on sale now athttps://tickets.alistixs.com/event/weareone
Playing For Change has garnered much success over the years by combining musicians from all walks of life, all over the world and showcasing music’s unifying power. Their videos have more than 450 million total online views, with their first ‘Songs Around The World’ video, “Stand By Me,” accumulating more than 100 million views on YouTube since its release in 2008. Artists such as Keith Richards, Bono, Jack Johnson, David Crosby, Jimmy Buffett, Sara Bareilles, Manu Chao, and many others have participated in these multi-cultural videos performing songs such as Bob Marley’s “One Love” and “War/No More Trouble,” Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Playing For Change’s new record, being released next year, features The Doobie Brothers along with more than 20 musicians from across the globe in a Song Around The World version of the band’s iconic hit song, “Listen to the Music.” The video for this song will be premiered at the show on October 3rd.
The Playing For Change Foundation, a separate 501(c)3 organization, was established in 2007 in order to give back to the communities of the musicians met while filming these videos. Now embarking on its 10th year, the foundation has developed 15 music programs in 11 countries including South Africa, Rwanda, Nepal, Thailand, and Argentina, and serves more than 1200 children. All proceeds from the WE ARE ONE benefit will support free music education as well as supplemental primary educational support, and life enhancement services provided by the Playing For Change Foundation and assist in its effort to serve even more communities.
“When one thinks of the thousands of children around the world positively impacted by the Playing For Change movement, gaining free access to music education in their own homelands, the love over a decade is simply immeasurable,” said John McKenna, Executive Director of Playing For Change Foundation. “What better place to celebrate than right here where it all started? We look forward to an unforgettable evening of joy, celebration, and recommitment to the children everywhere, through united love and song.”
“This concert represents 10 years of traveling to over 50 countries connecting the world through music. From the streets and villages to the stage to the hearts of the people, Playing For Change,” states Mark Johnson, Co-Founder of Playing For Change.