Thursday, November 05, 2009

Playing For Change

“Music is the universal language of mankind”
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"As a human race we come together for birth, we come together for death. What brings us together in between is up to us. Stop and listen to the universal language of music and bring that positive energy with you everywhere you go"

-Mark Johnson, director of the Playing for Change project

I don't think I need to explain the quotes above. It's part of why I write this blog. It's part of why you come here to find new music. Music is everywhere, in every form. It speaks to the very young, it speaks to the very old. Man. Woman. When NASA launched the Voyager spacecraft in 1977, they included a golden record which included songs from around the world and which was inscribed with "To the makers of music — all worlds, all times."

The Playing For Change Foundation believes that, too. In their own words, they are "dedicated to connecting the world through music by providing resources (including, but not limited to facilities, supplies, and educational programs) to musicians and their communities around the world." In an effort to bring that message to people everywhere, they have recorded a ten track CD of music played by musicians from around the globe. They sing songs of weight. Songs of power. Songs of import. Stand By Me, One Love, Biko, Talkin' Bout A Revolution, the hopeful A Change Is Gonna Come, and others. And they play with passion, a passion that is true to their mission. Many of the songs here you've heard before, but never quite like this. They convey that belief in music in genuine terms.

Accompanying the music CD is a DVD with the full length documentary Peace Through Music. Here's how they describe it:
"A co-production of Timeless Media and Engine 7 Films, Playing For Change: Peace Through Music, is a story of hope, struggle, perseverance and joy. The version included here contains an additional 26 minutes of never-before-seen narration and performance, with scenes filmed in Nepal , India , New Mexico and Barcelona . The filmmakers traveled the globe with a single minded passion: to connect the world through music. Their ambitious journey took them through a myriad of cultures and visually stunning locations including post-apartheid South Africa , the ancient sites and conflicted regions of the Middle East, the remote beauty of the Himalayas and beyond. Using innovative mobile technology, the Playing For Change crew filmed and recorded more than 100 musicians, largely outdoors, in parks, plazas and promenades, in doorways, on cobblestone streets and amid hilly pueblos. The film, broadcast nationally on PBS this summer, spawned the intensely emotional video clip “Stand By Me,” featuring 37 musicians from around the world including now famous Grandpa Elliott, Roger Ridley and Clarence Bekker. It has been viewed by more than 30 million people to date on sites like YouTube and Vimeo sparking the global Playing For Change movement, one of 2009’s most unlikely and inspiring cultural phenomena."
The film opens with the song that started the project (and which you can hear below), Stand By Me. Mark Johnson explains how he heard a street entertainer, Roger Ridley, singing the song while walking down a street in Santa Monica, CA and how it gave birth to this project. Eventually, over 35 musicians from all over the world would contribute to this one song (although they never met in person), providing a model that would be followed in many of the songs on the album, and serving as a concrete example of the universal reach of music. Over the course of the album, you'll hear musicians from Nepal, Zimbabwe, India, Italy, Argentina, Congo, Cuba, South Africa, Ireland, Palestine, Isreal, Ghana, New Orleans, and many other places.

I'm not exagerating when I say that within the first five minutes of the film I had butterflies in my stomach from its power. Although the music on the CD was incredible, the film really brought home the fact that this is something bigger than just instruments and the notes they make. Something bigger than human voices and vocals. When you buy this album (don't consider it an if), make sure to watch the movie at least once. You won't regret it.

Hopefully I don't need to tell you what a worthy cause this album supports or why you should order this now. Music is something that all should have access to, regardless of class or color. Buy this album. Heck, buy a bunch and give them away as Christmas presents and you'll do double duty - sharing great music and spreading awareness. Buy the deluxe version of this powerful release and you'll also get a 24 page booklet which shares pictures of the artists as well as the background information for each song.

For more information on this amazing organization, visit the Playing For Change website, where you can read about the projects they are supporting. Or, catch the Playing For Change band on tour to experience the power of their music in person (dates below).

Visit the Playing For Change website and Concord Records.

Upcoming Tour Dates

11/06/09 Minneapolis , MN O’Shaughnessy
11/07/09 Kansas City , MO Uptown Theatre
11/08/09 Denver , CO Paramount Theatre
11/09/09 Santa Fe , NM Lensic Performing Arts Center
11/12/09 Mesa, AZ Mesa Arts Center
11/13/09 Los Angeles, CA Club Nokia
11/14/09 Anaheim , CA The Grove of Anaheim
11/15/09 San Francisco , CA Palace of Fine Arts
11/17/09 Portland , OR Aladdin Theatre
11/18/09 Seattle , WA Moore Theatre
11/19/09 Vancouver , British Columbia Commodore Ballroom

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