HIGH LIFE: Playing For Change Spreads Love Through Music

The following post is part of an ongoing series entitled HIGH LIFE. ELEVATION regularly presents multimedia profiles of inspiring individuals who are achieving great things and working hard toward a better future. In this series, we will explore fascinating vocations, passions, and ways of life in diverse places around the globe.

The people of the world are at a crossroads. The global coronavirus pandemic has converged with civil unrest related to police killings in the United States to engender a period of intense fear, anger, and uncertainty. However, as peaceful justice protests spread throughout the United States and, indeed, around the world, people everywhere are sensing the possibility of positive change. It is a time of great hope for millions upon millions of human beings.

In this setting, it is with profound joy and honor that ELEVATION has the opportunity to promote the beautiful and life-affirming work of Playing For Change. Playing For Change (PFC) is an international, multicultural movement created to inspire and connect the world through music, to harness the great power of music to to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people.

The movement was founded in 2002 as a shared vision of Los Angeles-based co-founders Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke. Johnson is a Grammy award-winning music producer and engineer. Kroenke is a longtime arts advocate and humanitarian. Their aim was to record and share with the world the music of the unheralded – street musicians, indigenous musicians, and others. They assembled a group of video and audio professionals and embarked on a journey to capture the beauty and spirit of little known musicians from rich cultures around the globe.

Songs Around The World

PFC’s first “Song Around The World” was the 1961 classic “Stand By Me,” by American singer-songwriter Ben E. King. The performance, which now has 146 million views on YouTube laid the foundation for many more uplifting collaborative international music videos. The movement has featured world-renowned songs including “The Weight”, “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay”, and, most recently, “Chan Chan”. Participating artists include American blues legend Buddy Guy, Malian kora master Mamadou Diabaté, legendary Cuban singer Teté Caturla Garcia, Irish U2 frontman Bono, and countless others. Please visit the PFC YouTube channel to enjoy them all.

The Playing For Change Foundation

In 2007, the movement gave birth to the Playing For Change Foundation, which works to create positive change and empowerment through music and arts education. Kroenke serves as the president of the Foundation’s board of directors, which includes Johnson. To date they have established 15 music schools across the developing world, from Bangladesh to Argentina to Rwanda. Every week more than 2,000 young people attend free classes in dance, instruments, languages and musical theory, all taught by qualified local teachers. The Foundation’s projects also provide essential aid such as food, clean water, medicine, clothes, books, school supplies, solar energy, and computers. Please click the button below to contribute to this effort.

The PFC founders were kind enough to share with ELEVATION some words of unity and hope during this time of crisis. Please enjoy the video below, which is set to one of the movement’s greatest “Songs Around The World” – “One Love” by Bob Marley.


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