Testing please ignore

Grandpa Elliott
Photo by Leo Reynolds (Flickr)

By Minette van der Walt

To be moved by music is a wondrous feeling. Whether you are moved to
feel, dance, sing, or play, there is something about music that
reverberates through each of us. And even in a world feeling lost and
frightened in the face of global changes, music is one thing that can
bring us together.Playing for Change[1]: Songs Around the World,
produced by American Mark Johnson, might just ignite this emotion.

The Playing for Change: Songs Around the World album is part of a
multimedia effort to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world
through music. Using a mobile recording studio, Grammy award winning
producer/ sound engineer Johnson and his Timeless Media Group
travelled wherever the music took them. This is not a political or
spiritual mission, but an artistic one with the goal of helping people
see that music can unite us as people regardless of ideology,
location, or religion.
Older music fans have always grumbled about new developments in
recording technology, and sometimes it?s hard not to agree that they
might contain a point, yet it is just as hard not to get excited about
some of the incredible things that new technology has made possible.

Stemming from a documentary detailing the travels of Johnson and his
crew, this amazing multimedia project took a magnificent 10 years to
complete. Building from a love for the sounds of buskers they spent a
decade recording more than 100 street musicians and entwining their
talents. Most of them were recorded outside, in the streets or in the
fields of their home countries, then stitching the performances
together carefully to create a sort of all-star collaboration, without
the stars.

The project’s first single Stand by Me, began with a Santa Monica
street performer named Roger Ridley (now deceased). The crew travelled
the world, recording more and more musicians. All of these versions
were considered for mixing a pastiche final version. The project’s
Stand by Me video has been popular online, with over 25 million hits
on YouTube.

The music included on the soundtrack is generally the more developed
artists with fuller sounds and harmonies, rather than the
stereotypical solo banjo player. The recording quality is exceptional
for outdoor recordings in a boisterous environment. There’s roots
rock, gutbucket blues, rock, R&B, bluegrass, and more here. Worth a
listen more for the music than the novelty, but if it’s the novelty
that gets you in the door, be sure to listen for the music once you’re

Amongst others they found musicians from the Netherlands, Russia,
Spain, Venezuela, France, Brazil, the USA, Congo, South Africa, Italy,
India and Israel, and recorded them live using their mobile equipment.
In the same breath is the impressive variety of music instruments used
to create these unique and thrilling sounds. The instruments includes;
drums, a cello, sitar, banjo, washboard, flute, tavil drums, a veena,
pandeiro, didgeridoo, bouzouki, acoustic guitar, alton sax, violin,
congas, shaker, guiro, electric guitar, harmonica and last but not
least the triangle played skilfully by?? Django “Bambolino” Degen.

The overall quality of the musicians represented here, is
breathtaking.?? Each of the artists who performed added a piece of
their energetic spirit to the songs. From Santa Monica street
performer Roger Ridley to Israeli singer Tula, from Congolese drummer
Junior Kissanrigwa to Grandpa Elliott[2] singing and playing his
harmonica in New Orleans, almost no one artist stands out from the
pack. In fact, if there?s a real star here, it?s Johnson, who took
recordings and made them sound like the work of a band playing in the
same living room.

The CD contains ten tracks (first released in 2009) which is majorly
iconic covers ? songs that were most likely selected in order to
establish a familiar ground between the far-flung performers. This
works well within the context of the album?s stated goal.?? In
Johnson?s words this goal is ?to find a way to inspire the world
to come together. To stop the hate. To see the commonality we
share?. These are elevated ideals and they?ve been promoted by so
many charity projects that it?s easy to write them off as airy-fairy
nonsense whenever we hear them, but Playing for Change surely make
them seem within reach. Hearing performers collaborate from across the
globe on the classic Ben E King Stand by Me, Bob Marley?s One Love,
Peter Gabriel?s Biko, Tracy Chapman?s Talking bout a Revolution,
U2/ Bob Dylan?s Love Rescue Me and the Hindi song Chanda Mama, is
nothing short of profoundly, deeply moving.
Track number five on the album titled Don?t worry, was written by
French Pierre Minetti especially for the project and for this he
deserves much credit. Israeli singer Tula and Indian veena player
Rajhesh Vaidhya make attention-grabbing contributions to this track.??

Playing for Change?s power is highlighted by the included DVD,
which intercuts footage of the musicians as they perform a selection
of tracks from the album. Not taking away the value of the music, but
the actual video footage might be the highlight of the entire project.
Each of these videos is a work of art that faithfully weaves the
lives, passions and music of the artists into a tapestry of sight and
sound. Irish singer Bono, collaborates on War / No More Trouble and
the American singer Keb’ Mo’ on Marley?s One Love, it is noticeable
how these internationally acclaimed musicians are portrayed exactly in
the same way as any of the other street buskers. The DVD also contains
a three-minute trailer of the documentary filmPeace Through Music[3].

Even in the midst of poverty, war, or famine, the Playing for Change
Foundation aims to share more than the music of the many musicians
they have met during the course of their travels. They are building
music schools so that these gifted artists can pass along their skills
and passion to the next generation so this precious resource is not

Pedantry aside, Playing for Change really is one of the most moving,
most entertaining compilations you are going to find, and Mark Johnson
deserves to be highly praised for his efforts no matter how many times
it is re-issued. If you missed this the first time, don?t repeat
your mistake. We?ve already seen a number of charity compilations
this year, and we?ll surely see plenty more, but if you?re only
going to buy one (whether for musical or philanthropic reasons) make
it Playing for Change.

[1] http://www.playingforchange.com/
[2] http://www.amazon.com/Sugar-Sweet-Grandpa-Elliott/dp/B002QECIDK
[3] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1202573/


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