Playing for Change





Playing for Change

The Playing for Change project has been in existence since 2004. The project unites musicians from around the world. Mark Johnson, an American producer, came up with the concept in an effort to inspire and connect people throughout the world. He hoped that he would be able to bring peace to the world, through his efforts to bring different musicians together. He believed that music has the power to unite people by breaking boundaries that exist in different languages, races, nationalities, and music styles. He was able to achieve this as he convinced the musicians to sing songs that are different from their own music. The creators of the project traveled to different regions of the world including different states in America, countries in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and Asia. They approached different musicians in different countries and asked them to sing their own version of the same song. Through the project, the creators were able to establish a non-profit organization, which helped to build music schools in different areas.

The project incorporates different artists who sing in their own countries. They use different musical instruments, which are a blend of the modern and traditional. Some of sing the songs in native languages, as other artists combine the same song in the English language. The songs used in the project were written by different people and they cover diverse issues. The musicians involved in the project have to learn the lyrics. This has helped to raise awareness. As the artists sing the songs, they learn about the different causes that people sing about in their music. This ranges from the need to have a better world where color is not an issue, to the importance of living together in unity irrespective of people’s religion and origin. The project incorporates seasoned musicians as well as well as street performers. The inclusion of street performers shows the limitless nature of the project. The street artists do not have to sing in a specific way, but they can perform in their own free style. The project creators wanted to create a situation where the people involved in the project would have the freedom to express their sentiments through the music, hence the use of different musical instruments, styles, and languages (Hirsch 3).

The artists involved in the project sing music to the sounds of other older musicians. Some of the original artists of the production such as Stevie Wonder are alive, but others such as Bob Marley and John Lennon have already passed on (Ransom 5). This reflects the unifying factor in the music. The musicians in the project raise different awareness issues including the importance of freedom and redemption, justice, togetherness and unity. They chose the song Stand by Me in their first album, which showed the direction the rest of the album would take. The song raises awareness about the importance of human interaction. It does not depend how rich a person is or where he or she is going. Everyone will need a person to support him or her. People will face challenging situations in their lives. They will experience moments when “the sky that they look upon will stumble and fall”. Having friends at such moments will enable one to go through life. By beginning with this song, the creators showed the purpose of the project was togetherness and connectedness irrespective of situations and circumstances that may exist.

The project raises awareness about social and economic inequalities as well as racial injustice. The Redemption Song, which was originally done by bob Marley, is one of the tracks covered in the project. The song is laden with political messages as it urges people to emancipate themselves from mental slavery. It begins by highlighting the injustices of slavery. “Old pirates, yes they rob I, sold I to the merchant ships…but my hand was made strong by the hand of the almighty”  (Smith 3). The white men took the black men from their homes and took them to a foreign land where they forced them to work. However, God strengthened the black people when they were in a hopeless situation (Stoddart 29).

The song War/No More Trouble urges people to disregard the differences between them. The song posits that war will continue so long as there is one race, which considers itself superior and regards another as inferior. The musicians assert, “until the philosophy that holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned everywhere is war.” There will be war so long as people continue dividing themselves according to social status. The song makes people living in different countries aware of the necessity for peace. Some of the people live in countries where there is no war, but through participating in the project, they are able to urge others to maintain their peace as they reiterate the words “we don’t need no more trouble.” As the musicians sing, the original context or the musician who initially sang the song does not seem to be as important as the message passed across.

The project also raises awareness about religion. Religion can be divisive in the sense that people from different religions fight as they try to convince each other concerning the best religion. The song One Love calls on the importance of unity. The artists call on the people to come together in one love. The same sentiments are expressed in the song Imagine. The artists imagine a place where there was no heaven or hell or religion. They say that there would be no division and people would be living for the day. Imagine was originally done by John Lennon, and it spoke against religion, nationalism, and capitalism (Gilmore 170). While the song Imagine sees the possibility of people living together without the limitations of religion, the song One Love has a different view. According to the song, all people are part of God’s creation. Therefore, it is possible for them to live together as the children of the same father. The two songs approach the same issue differently, but they have the same conclusion; that it is possible for people to live together in harmony.

The project has had a positive effect on the lives of people living in different communities worldwide. Other than giving a platform for some of the less known performers, it has used the proceeds generated from different activities in order to help poor communities. For instance, it has build music schools in South Africa and Nepal, an art center in South Africa, improved the state of refugee camps in Nepal and Tibet, provided resources for different musicians and contributed to fighting against AIDS. The project has made people become aware concerning the needs of different communities (Acciona 3). As more people view the projects on different channels such as the internet and DVDs, they become aware of the different programs. This gives them a chance to contribute to the causes in different ways.  

Playing for Change Project shows the importance of diversity. It shows that people do not have to be similar for them to live in harmony. They can achieve unity by appreciating their differences and by learning how to accept and live with each other. Diversity can be a form of beauty if used well. The blend of old and new musical instruments, artists of different nationalities, ages, experiences and races, as well as different original composers add to the beauty of the project. The artists sing on different social themes, and they highlight the importance of racial, economic, and social equality (Playing for Change 6).

Works Cited:

Acciona. Reconnecting the World through Music. No date. Web. 28 Oct.2013

Gilmore, Mikal. Stories Done: Writings on the 1960s and its Discontents. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2008

Hirsch, E. Lily. ““Playing for Change”: Peace, Universality, and the Street Performer.” American Music 28.3 (2010): 346-367

Playing for Change. Journey: Playing for Change Explained. 2012. Web. 28 Oct. 2013

Ransom, Kevin. Playing for change project again taking inspiring street musicians on tour-including The Ark. Feb 18, 2012. Web. 28 Oct. 2013.

Stoddart, Mervin. Bob Marley’s Lyrics: Understanding and Explaining Their Pedagogical Value. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest, 2007

Smith, Allan. Songs of Freedom: The Music of Bob Marley as Transformative Education. 2005. Web. 28 Oct. 2013

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