Monday, December 22, 2008

Street musicians playing for peace

A friend sent around this video over the weekend as her way of wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season. I was moved and wanted to know more about the folks who are in it and those who are behind it. That led to the discovery of Playing For Change -- a Multimedia Movment whose mission is to promote peace through music.

Among other things, the foundation produces documentaries reflecting its mission. Director Mark Johnson wrote the following piece to describe his first film, "Playing For Change: Peace Through Music" which was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2008.(GW)

The Music of Inspiration

By Mark Johnson
Playing for Change

When trying to document music, art and heartfelt dialogue, we found that inspiration and an open mind are essential factors. The driving force for this film is to find a way to inspire the planet to come together as a human race. We wanted to focus on our connections rather than all of our differences. We believe music can break down the walls and barriers between cultures and raise the level of human understanding and connection.

Here are some direct examples of what I am talking about. We traveled to New Orleans shortly after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The city felt sad and desolate, yet the music never stopped. The street musicians and music in the clubs kept the city alive and gave it a sense of hope. When we share the struggle of New Orleans with other parts of the world in the context of song, it becomes something that everyone on the planet can understand and be a part of. The same is true in South Africa. When we visited South Africa and witnessed the pain of the aftermath of Apartheid, we saw that through music we can raise the issue to a human situation rather than one of race and economics. The South Africans marching down the streets singing in groups of thousands did more to effect positive change than all the guns and weapons ever did. One of the musicians we recorded in South Africa, named Bhekani Memela, offered us this quote, "Because music knows no races, knows no boundaries, it is possible for music to bring peace around the world."

Everywhere on this planet, people play music. Some may play to celebrate life, some may play to stay as far away from the grave as possible. The reasons for playing music may differ everywhere you go, but the human impact it has on all of our souls is something we share. I believe that when people watch this film, they will feel more connected to the human race and more inspired to help each other. Perhaps nothing can do more do connect a planet so divided by war, economics, religion and race than MUSIC!! As Bob Marley said, "One great thing about music: When it hits, you feel no pain."

Playing for Change: Peace Through Music is a documentary film which demonstrates that MUSIC will change the world and help bring us all peace. The film features more than 100 musicians and includes live performances, from native Indian reservations to South African Townships to the Himalayan Mountains. Music has always been an integral part of the identity and expression of various cultures on this planet. However, music's greatest power is its ability to transcend cultural boundaries and connect us as a Human Race. -MPM

Mark Johnson is a Grammy Award-winning producer/engineer and award-winning film director. For the past decade, Mark has worked with some of the most renowned musicians and producers in the music, film and television industries. As co-founder of the Playing for Change documentaries, Mark has been perfecting an innovative, mobile technique for recording musicians outdoors, all over the world, and combining the recordings to create "Songs Around The World." Mark is also chairman of the board for the Playing for Change Foundation, and has dedicated his life to connecting the world through music.


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