Apr 17, 2009

Playing for Change...

A couple of days ago I received an email from my friend Garry Howell. It was titled "Amazing Music." The only thing in the email was a link to a Website. After I was blown away by the music, I noticed the reference at the end of the video to http://www.musicforchange.com/. Naturally I had to find out what this was all about. It's really fascinating.

Last October, Bill Moyers, on his show, "Bill Moyers' Journal," sat down with Mark Johnson, the producer of 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.

As Moyers describes it, "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 in my mind... what would be 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: Playingforchange.com."

On the video that I first saw, Ben E King’s oldie, "Stand by Me," the following musicians took part:
Roger Ridley – Santa Monica, California
Grandpa Elliot – New Orleans, Louisiana
Washboard Chaz – Louisiana
Clarence Bekker – Amherst, Netherlands
Twin Eagle Drum Group – Zuni, New Mexico
Francois Viguie – Toulouse, France
Cesar Pope -Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Dimitri Dolganor – Moscow, Russia
Roberto Luti – New Orleans, Louisiana
Geraldo & Diorision – Caracus, Venezuela
Junior Kissangiva Mbouta – The Congo
Pokei Klaas -Guguletu, South Africa
Django Degen – Barcelona, Spain
Sinamura Umlazi – South Africa
Stefano Tomaselli – Pisa, Italy
Vusi Mahlasel -Mamelodi, South Africa
I've ordered the video and can't wait for it to arrive. In the meantime, I'm enjoying a number of the collaborative samples of music that have been posted on YouTube. Just do a YouTube search on "playingforchange." Enjoy. And Peace. And Love.

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