Friday, April 17, 2009

Playing for Change

Many of the performers have never met.

Their names are not well-known.

Most have never stepped foot in a recording studio. But through music, commonality emerges.

"Music is a universal enjoyment," according to film maker Mark Johnson, who has traveled the world over and recorded tracks in which solo performers are all performing together — despite being separated by continents. Johnson discovered musicians on street corners or in small clubs and in this case, you will see how 37 musicians from the Netherlands, Brazil, Spain and Russia, among other countries, collaborate on a classic.

This video has already been viewed more than 9 million times on YouTube since November.

How did Mark Johnson come up with the idea for "Playing for Change"?

It began to percolate while waiting one day for a New York subway, watching two monks performing as crowds of commuters huddled around. "One of them was playing a nylon guitar and the other one was singing in a language that I didn’t understand and I imagine most people didn’t understand. You know, there were about 200 people just stopped. Didn’t get on the train and started watching this music. And I looked around and I saw people with tears in their eyes. And I saw jaws dropping. It occurred to me that here is a group of people that would normally run by each other. And here they are, collectively coming together. And it’s the music that brought them together".

A few months later, Johnson was in Santa Monica when he heard the lyrics of "Stand by Me" drifting toward him. A street musician, Roger Ridley, was performing King's 1961 hit, and Johnson ran over to hear. When Ridley agreed to be recorded and filmed, Johnson's globe-trotting movie adventure was underway.

You can learn more at

"When you play on the streets, you don't have a particular audience. You have all the world coming to you"
CLARENCE BEKKER, Street Musician, The Netherlands

1 comment:

Ian Varty said...

As wonderful as the music and musicians were, it's the idea and its execution that is truly brilliant. Very uplifting, Gair...a nice way to start the year (why not on April 17? January the oneth be damned).

Thanks for sharing.