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!“
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.
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.