Mark Johnson launched Playing for Change as a global project to bring together musicians from many musical traditions and genres to collaborate in a song. “We can do a lot more together than we ever can apart,” Johnson says. “We have to inspire each other to come together as a human race.”
He began on the streets of Santa Monica, California filming a street musician named Roger Ridley singing “Stand By Me.” As he filmed others doing the song the project grew into a global movement that featured 35 musicians. As the project grew they added many other songs such as Bob Marley’s “One Love.” He features musicians from the U.S., Congo, South Africa, Italy, Israel, India, Nepal, Ireland, Haiti, France, Russia, Brazil, Venezuela, Jamaica, Mali, Senegal, and the list goes on.
Johnson videotapes the performers then edits them into a tightly woven music video that goes from country to country, laying over the different sounds in a internationally blended performance. His videos spread virally across the Internet, attracting millions of viewers.
Some of the musicians featured in Playing for Change videos, such as Grandpa Elliot from New Orleans, one of the original “Stand By Me” musicians, joined together for a “Peace Through Music Tours. Their website posts upcoming tour dates and venues.
A feature length documentary was produced “Peace Through Music.” In keeping with the grassroots nature of the movement Johnson envisioned, the movie is mainly screened at local house parties. Discussions are encouraged as the music flows.
“Stand By Me”:
Bob Marley‘s “War/No More Trouble”:
“Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones:
In this special collaboration of Cuban musicians from across Cuba and even from around the world, Playing for Change presents the poem “Guatanamera” by the Cuban poet, nationalist, and philosopher José Martí with music of uncertain origin but popularized around the world by Pete Seeger.