Sunday, March 22, 2009

Playing For Change – The Movement

his is a project that caught my eye late last summer but I was reminded of it recently by a friend who showed me that over 8 million people have viewed the "Stand By Me" video on YouTube from a remarkable cultural movement - Playing For Change.

Created by Mark Johnson, has also produced a remarkable documentary about the simple but transformative power of music: PLAYING FOR CHANGE: PEACE THROUGH MUSIC.

The film brings together musicians from around the world — blues singers in a waterlogged New Orleans, chamber groups in Moscow, a South African choir — to collaborate on songs familiar and new, in the effort to foster a new, greater understanding of our commonality.

Johnson traveled around the globe and recorded tracks for such classics as "Stand By Me" and Bob Marley's "One World" — creating a new mix in which essentially the performers are all performing together — worlds apart. Often recording with just battery-powered equipment, Johnson found musicians on street corners or in small clubs and they would in turn gather their friends and colleagues — in all, they recorded over 100 musicians from Tibet to Zimbabwe.

The unique composition of the film which has musicians playing together yet in their own traditions, made Johnson think anew about what world music means:

Just thinking what would it be like when you get unique instruments to juxtapose against each other that had never been heard before: a talking drum and a tabla, they're very similar but they never really come together, or a sitar and a dobro, very similar but how often do you hear them play together? The idea was to go to places that would have some sort of instruments that they could add to the spectrum of the global music that we were trying to find.

The Playing For Change Foundation provides resources (facilities, supplies, educational programs, etc) to musicians and communities around the world. The foundation is working with South African poet Lesego Rampolokenga to build the Mehlo Arts Center in Johannesburg, South Africa and building and supporting the Ntonga Music School in the South African township of Guguletu. In addition, Playing For Change is working to enhance and rebuild Tibetan refugee centers in Dharamasala, India and Kathmandu, Nepal. You can find news about their benefit concerts and programs, and listen to additional songs, on their Web site:

PLAYING FOR CHANGE: PEACE THROUGH MUSIC is the second film directed by Mark Johnson and Jonathan Walls. Their previous film, titled PLAYING FOR CHANGE: A CINEMATIC DISCOVERY OF STREET MUSIC was released in 2005, and is currently available on DVD and through Netflix.

Music and video content from PLAYING FOR CHANGE: PEACE THROUGH MUSIC, featured on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL, will be available through Playing For Change's online store in early 2009, and released on CD and DVD in the Spring of 2009 through Hear Music.

If you have any questions regarding this project, please email

If you are not moved by this video, check and see if someone transplanted your heart with a brick or a cold piece of steel.

As we say, Rational Appeal Audiences believe that math is the only true language of humans, I live on the Emotional Appeal side of things... Music is the universal language that binds us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An easy way to get involved with this inspiring movement is by joining the Online Street Team of Playing for Change! Do your part and make a difference by going to the link:

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