For the next chapter of Playing For Change’s improbable journey, founder and architect Mark Johnson assembled a band with musicians from around the globe, many of whom appeared in the now ubiquitous "Stand By Me" video (which has been viewed on the internet more than 30 million times). What started as a simple concept to virtually bring musicians from different cultures together via technology for the common purpose of promoting peace through music, resulted in a bonafide cultural phenomenon; but no one was quite sure what would happen when they all gathered for the first time for a special performance at Austin’s SXSW music conference in 2009. Sure, the Playing For Change story had captured imaginations around the world and their inspiring mix of togetherness, positivity and sterling musicianship had undeniably created a movement and surprised the music industry. But what would happen when they were actually on tour together? Could the Playing For Change idea live and breathe in the here and now?
The result was astonishing. After sold-out shows, critical acclaim and the smiles of thousands of new fans, the questions have been answered. On June 15th, Playing For Change Records/Concord Music Group will release Playing For Change Live – a special two-disc CD/DVD containing a ten-song audio CD and a fourteen-track DVD, documenting the Playing For Change Band’s triumphant 2009 world-tour.
On Playing For Change Live, the PFC band is captured all over the world including riveting performances from the U.K.’s Glastonbury Festival, Vancouver, Madrid, Los Angeles and the Santa Monica Pier where the project’s extraordinary journey began. The band’s incredible energy and brilliant musicianship is evident on Bob Marley’s “One Love,” a medley of 4 Non Blondes’ and Bobby McFerrin’s ‘What’s Up”/“Don’t Worry Be Happy”, the 1959 American R&B gem “Fannie Mae (with Keb’ Mo!) and original band compositions like Titi Tsira’s “Fela ngaye” and Louis Mhlanga’s “Children Of The World” just to name a few. Guest appearances also include reggae legends, Toots Hibbert on the Otis Redding classic “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember” and Ziggy Marley on his own “Love Is My Religion.”
The DVD also contains the 90-minute film “On The Road With the PFC Band” chronicling the band’s improbable story of strength, support and harmony. The video log’s remarkable backstage, behind-the-scenes, performance and interview footage includes personal insights and inspiring moments from touring members: percussionist Mohammed Alidu (Northern Ghana), vocalist Clarence Bekker (Amsterdam), drummer Peter Bunetta (Los Angeles), vocals/harmonica Grandpa Elliott (New Orleans), vocals/percussionist Mermans Kenkosenki (Kinshasa, DR Congo), guitarist Louis Mhlanga (Zimbabwe), bassist Reggie McBride (Detroit), guitarist Jason Tamba (Kinshasa, DR Congo), vocalists Tal Ben-Ari “Tula” (Israel), Titi Tsira (Gugulethu, African township in the Western Cape) and PFC founder Mark Johnson. Along the way, we get to know the musicians and discover the emotional stories of perseverance and hope that enabled them to take part in this globally celebrated effort.
With its stirring call for reconciliation and cross-cultural unification, the global music collaboration/multi-media project; Playing For Change has struck a deep and powerful chord worldwide. Founder, filmmaker, and Grammy winning producer Mark Johnson was looking for musicians for his film, Peace Through Music when he captured a mesmerizing performance of the Ben E. King classic “Stand By Me” by legendary street singer, Roger Ridley in Santa Monica. Mark then took the show on the road. In New Orleans, he put headphones on beloved local street performer, Grandpa Elliott, who harmonized with Ridley’s soulful rendition of the song and he was on his way. Using innovative mobile technology and traveling the world, he filmed and recorded more than 100 musicians, largely outdoors, in parks, plazas and promenades, in doorways, on cobblestone streets and amid hilly pueblos. Each performance created a new mix in which the artists are all performing together, albeit hundreds or thousands of miles apart.
In April of 2009, Hear Music/Concord Music Group released the CD/DVD Playing For Change – Songs Around The World and shocked the music world when it debuted in Billboard’s Top 10. The accompanying documentary Playing For Change – Peace Through Music, was broadcast nationwide by PBS that summer.