The Weight | PFC Song Around The World

“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


The Weight

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.


The Musicians

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


The Message

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.

 

One Love,

PFC

PFC Member Sneak Peek | Seeds of Freedom

“Seeds of Freedom”

Hello Dear PFC Members!

This Friday, we’re excited to share an all-new Song Around The World with you, “Seeds of Freedom,” written by our friend Manu Chao. The powerful message of this song —that everyone is connected and has the power to plant the seeds to a better future for all human beings—resonates with us and we hope it does with you as well.

A word from PFC co-founder and producer Mark Johnson: 

About ten years ago I was recording and mixing the music for The Henry Rollins Show in downtown Los Angeles which featured amazing musical guests ranging from Ben Harper to Slayer, but one guest I will never forget is Manu Chao. I had met Manu a few times before and he had performed on our PFC version of Bob Marley’s “One Love” around the world.  Since the moment I met him I have always admired him and his conviction in both music and life to what he believes is right for the world.  He is a voice for so many without a voice and his music doesn’t shy away from reality. Instead, his music, like that of Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, allows you to confront injustice and find positive paths forward for all of humanity.

I’ve learned many lessons from Manu throughout the years, but one lesson I learned way back when in the studio recording him for The Henry Rollins Show and listening to his rare interview for the program stands out.  The producers of the show asked Manu if he thought music could change the world and his response (from what I remember) was: “Yes, but our planet is so desperate that we need everybody. We need the school teacher, the fisherman, the taxi driver, everyone. The musician has the microphone. So, what are they going to do with it!”

Musicians can use the microphone to represent the people who have no voice and also as a tool to educate their audience about what is happening in this world.

This new PFC Song Around The World, titled, “Seeds of Freedom” with Manu Chao, speaks to what he taught me way back when—music is not passive and neither is change.  Music can plant the first seed of freedom but it will take all of us to make it grow into positive things for the good of everyone.  Let’s plant the seeds of freedom for all of humanity.  This is our time and the world is our family.  Thank you, Manu and all the great artists who inspire us to be the change we want to see in the world.

One Love,

Mark Johnson

 

Take a look at some of the musicians from around the world featured in this video:

 

Guitarist Wayu performing in Kathmandu, Nepal.

 

Bassist Bakithi Kumalo performing in Soweto, South Africa.

 

Sister duo Rising Appalachia singing and playing banjo.

Percussionist Surendra Shrestha playing the madal drums in Kathmandu, Nepal. 

Songwriter and musician Manu Chao performing in Barcelona, Spain.

Keep an eye out for the video releasing THIS FRIDAY to see these amazing musicians in action, plus more!

 

50th Anniversary of (Sittin’On) The Dock of the Bay | Otis Redding

In the 50 years since its release, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” has become a timeless classic of Otis Redding‘s and a permanent landmark in our world’s musical history. By the age of 26, his music had reached the heights of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, and touched the ears of millions of listeners from across the world. Despite his passing at an early age, Otis Redding left a legacy of music that will continue to span the generations as songs like “Dock of the Bay” retain their relevant nature and timeless touch.


Background

As a young artist, Otis Redding was already bursting with talent. He began as a gospel singer in the Vineville Baptist Church choir where he also picked up the guitar and the piano, and later, drums. By age 10, he found weekly employment singing on WIBB radio in  Macon, Georgia, and later, compete in a radio talent show called, “The Teenage Party,” which he would go on to win 15-consecutive times. Having left school at a young age to support his family, Otis Redding‘s future was now beginning to reveal itself, and upon leaving his home in Georgia, he and his sister, Deborah, would make the move out to Los Angeles where he could officially begin his career.

It did not take long before Otis found his rhythm, first through his recordings of popular ballads, and later by writing, recording, and performing his own songs. Some of his greatest work includes, “These Arms of Mine,” “Try A Little Tenderness,” “Respect” (yes, that Respect), “Mr. Pitiful,” and “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” At the height of his career, “Dock of the Bay” would become Otis Redding‘s most successful song, with its final version recorded just days before his untimely death at the age of 26. “Dock of the Bay” marked a transition in Otis’ career that was highlighted by his masterful expression of soul, coupled with the gentle despair of the blues. Throughout his career, Otis Redding maintained an articulate simplicity in his songwriting, filling the space with just as many words as emotions, once saying:

“There is beauty in simplicity whether you are talking about architecture, art or music.”

-Otis Redding


50th Anniversary

At Playing For Change, our appreciation for the work of Otis Redding goes back to the very beginning with Roger Ridley‘s unforgettable performances of “Stand By Me” and “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” In honor of his influence within our organization, and in light of the impact his legacy has had on connecting the world through music, we partnered with the Otis Redding Foundation and Princess Cruises to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “Dock of the Bay” with its very own Song Around The World. Featuring artists Jack Johnson, Corinne Bailey Rae, Aloe Blacc, Otis Redding III, Dexter Redding, Otis Redding Foundation Students, and more; this video takes you from the San Francisco Bay to the streets of Barcelona to the seas of Jamaica and beyond.

“This was such a wonderful way to celebrate 50 years of ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,’ and certainly an appropriate and heartwarming way to honor and remember the legacy of my husband.”

-Zelma Redding, President of Otis Redding Foundation


Peace Through Music

With special thanks to all those who participated in the 50th anniversary tribute to Otis Redding‘s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,”  we are proud to announce that the proceeds from this video will benefit the Otis Redding Foundation and the Playing For Change Foundation. Both organizations support youth empowerment through music education, and further our mutual dream to bring peace through music.

One Love,

Playing For Change

Stand By Me – 10 Years Later

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

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

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

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

Grandpa Elliott performing in New Orleans

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

Bhakani Memela

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

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

Clarence Bekker performing in Barcelona

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

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

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

Mark Johnson with kids in South Africa

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

One Love,

Mark Johnson

PFC Artist Spotlight | Luke Winslow-King

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

Run In With PFC

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

Blue Mesa

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

Tour

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

 

Everlasting Arms

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

 

One Love,

PFC

Congo to the Mississippi | Afro Fiesta’s Global Goal 🌍

Introduction

“This song was co-written by Mermans Mosengo and my brother, Greg Johnson, a few years ago while we were on tour with the PFC Band.  The simple message and anthemic chorus made me really excited to record it as a PFC Song Around The World. We started under the hot African sun in the village of Lukala in the Congo and we added musicians wherever we traveled for the past few years until we finally added the final piece with Grandpa Elliott playing the harmonica solo in New Orleans. Someday we’ll all be free, until then, music is our ammunition.”

-Mark Johnson


Afro Fiesta

It has been twelve years since the Playing For Change crew and Afro Fiesta first crossed paths in Cape Town, South Africa in 2006. Although the band’s roots are drawn from many different regions and nations throughout the world, the heart of their heritage lies in the Congo, where Jason Tamba and Mermans Mosengo of the PFC Band both grew up.

Both men have been committed to a life full of music from an early age. With decades of experience and performance now behind them, they speak the language of music just as well as any of the other languages in their arsenal, all of which are utilized in Afro Fiesta’s variety of songs. Yet, within this arsenal of creative ability, the band moves on the offensive, using Music as their Ammunition. Having great pride in their country, Jason and Mermans sing of the pain in their nation’s past, the beauty in its people, and the dreams they have for a free world.

Playing together for years has helped the two PFC musicians develop a special chemistry that is present whether they are performing in a 12-member band or just jamming out with each other. Their ever-present sound draws equally from both band mates where some songs partner Jason’s melodic French/English/Lingala lyrics with Mermans’ skill in percussion, while others rely on Mermans’ dense and deep vibrato and sharp strumming, backed by Jason’s rhythmic guitar and gentle vocals. The genre’s they draw from are a mix of Roots Reggae, Makossa, and Congolese rumba, with Latin and Rasta influence as well.

In tune with our most recent release, Afro Fiesta’s “Congo To The Mississippi” harnesses nearly all of these harmonious characteristics into one song, taking listeners on an audiovisual journey from the Congo and onward, all in pursuit of people living free.

In their own words:


Jason Tamba

Jason tells us a wonderful story of how he built his first guitar:


Mermans ‘Mo Faya’ Mosengo

Mermans sharing some truth about the Congo’s past and the meaning behind “Music is my Ammunition”:


Quote of the Day

“When the fans listen to our music they will feel hope. The struggle continues, ‘a lutta continua a Victoria e serta’ fighting alone will get you tired but fighting in a group will get you into a rhythm. I want my people to know we are together in the fight for the Congo.”

Mermans Mosengo, Afro Fiesta


Photo of the Day


Afro Fiesta is just one of the many bands in the world finding new ways to fight war, pain, and poverty. Why fight fire with fire when you’ve got an abundance of love to share? Just as Jason and Mermans are willing to step forward and lead in the push for peace through music, so too will there be those willing to join them and play by their side. From the Congo to the Mississippi, an endless array of people, cultures, and countries exist, each bearing their own unique languages, customs, and borders. Our greatest tool to connect this world is music, “because music goes where people cannot go, music goes” (Mermans Mosengo).

Thank you to Jason Tamba, Mermans Mosengo, Greg Johnson, and every PFC musician and supporter out there!

One Love,

Playing For Change

Rasta Children | Of Roots & Reggae

“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.”

Brushy One String


Nattali Rize

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!”

Nattali Rize

Nattali Rize has embraced her deeply rooted rebel nature but continues to deliver her work with a refreshingly new style and feel that is unique to her world and her mission.


New Feature: PFC Musician Tour Dates

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.

Roberto Luti’s Tour Schedule: https://playingforchange.com/musicians/roberto-luti/


Quote of the Day:

“Playing For Change, man all my life I’ve been putting out love, but not like that.”

Grandpa Elliott


Photo of the Day: Bo Hème, @boheme.69

Special thank you to Bo Hème for this amazing portrait of Grandpa Elliott and for your continued support of the Playing For Change movement and its members.


Video of the Day: Happy Birthday Grandpa Elliott!

Please enjoy this glimpse into the amazing life and journey of Grandpa Elliott, one of the longest standing PFC musicians, and the closest to our hearts.

One Love,

Playing For Change

Listen to the Music Contest | nana music

Playing For Change is proud to join our partner, nanafor the “Listen to the Music” Contest!

Collaborate with musicians from around the world using official Playing For Change tracks exclusively available on the nana app. Nana will carefully hand-select 20 finalists from all submissions and the PFC team will choose the “Best Collaboration” and “Outstanding Collaboration” to win some special prizes.

DOWNLOAD THE APP

 

STEP 1: Learn the original song

STEP 2: Choose which track you would like to collaborate on and record

>Check out the official tracks by Playing For Change

>Go to the track you want to collaborate on and Hit the Collab button to add your sounds

For Singers: You can sing solo or sing with the backing chorus. You can also add some harmony or ad-libs to it.

For Musicians: You can play your instrumental tracks and build on sounds.

STEP 3: Post with hashtag #nanaPFC

NOTE:

Posts without the hashtag above will be disqualified.

Posts without any singing voice or instrumental sound will also be disqualified.

PRIZES

Best Collaboration

>1 year PFC membership including an audio digital download of the “Listen to the Music” album and access to PFC’s entire music library

>PFC Shop e-Gift Card (worth $50 USD)

>Receive a special shout-out on PFC social media

Outstanding Collaboration

>3 month PFC Membership

>Receive a special shout-out on PFC social media

 

http://nana-music.com

About nana music

Music social app “nana” is a social community where you can “record & post,” “collaborate & share,” whenever and wherever you are with your smartphone. Since its release in August 2012, more than 6 million registered users across the globe are collaborating and enjoying a global music session. Learn more about nana.

“Supreme Success Through Perseverance” by Mark Johnson.

The Playing For Change Band just completed its summer “United World Tour” in Europe and one very special show in Beirut, Lebanon. We have toured Europe for many years but this was the first ever PFC Band performance in the Middle East and we didn’t take it lightly. As much as I prefer to avoid the world’s stereotypes of where we can and should travel, I was concerned for the safety of the band and crew as we traveled to Beirut. The US State department clearly warns United States citizens should avoid travel to Lebanon but I remembered my father telling me it was once considered the “Paris” of the Middle East, full of life and culture.16-9-united-tour-thumb

I was determined to discover what life was like in this mysterious and potentially dangerous city. I contacted our local promoter, Amin Abiyaghi, and asked him to help us find some local musicians we could record/film for new PFC Songs Around The World as well as invite them to join our show and add some local flavor to our concert. He was more than happy to help me and so we began production through Skype and email; everyone seemed more than excited to join the PFC movement and support us in any way they could. We received our permits to film in and around Beirut and assembled an oud player, percussionist and female violinist to join us as well as a great Lebanese singer named, Yuri Mrakadi. A small crew with cameras and our mobile recording studio traveled with me a few days before the band was set to arrive from Milan, Italy to Nice, France and then onward to Beirut. I remember my heart was racing as we got closer to our destination as I was so curious about what type of place we would discover…

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Since we started traveling the world with Playing For Change over 10 years ago I have personally traveled to about 50 countries but I never lose the excitement of discovering a new city, town or village and seeing it through the lens of their music and culture. Beirut, the Land of the Sun, brought out more emotion than I can remember in quite some time. It was a trip of battling my own internal fear and outward propaganda that demonized a once thriving city and made us feel unsure about our safety. Once the plane landed, it was too late to turn back and so we had to move forward a bit cautious but also full of excitement and determination to connect the world through music.

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The next few days in Beirut where full of amazing people, food, music, and life experiences that will forever live inside our hearts and memories. The PFC band features 9 musicians from 9 countries and our Lebanese guests made it 10. The 1,000 plus crowd greeted us with loud applause and cheers as we took the stage and throughout the night you could see smiles, laughter, dancing, and singing—the ingredients essential for positive change and deep human connection. Our differences of religion, race, economics, and politics faded away and the music made us more united as people as we returned to the one group we are all a part of, the Human Race.

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Thank you Beirut for your amazing hospitality and more importantly for your reminder that no matter how many things in life divide us, they are never as strong as the power of music to bring us together. We are all “United” people finding our way one heart and one song at a time.

One Love,
Mark Johnson