Playing for change the world


What would life be without music? When we are sad or happy we listen to a particular song. There is one for each moment. But music is more powerful than that. It can connect people all over the world, with no differences between them. It doesn’t matter their culture, race or age: they are just one.

Playing for Change is a movement created to inspire, connect and bring peace to the world trough music. They look for musicians in every continent; most of the time people who perform on the streets.

Enzo Buono PFC’s music producer spoke to The Outsider Argentina about the project, the benefit concerts and the music’s power.

How did this project start and why?

In 2005, producer Mark Johnson created the concept of the Songs Around The World. The first song released was a version of Stand By Me filmed and recorded on 4 continents between the Himalayan mountains, the South African townships, the streets of Barcelona and New Orleans… A few years after, this international version of Stand By Me has been viewed 60 millions times online. The success of the Songs Around The World helped the movement to reach another level with the creation of the Playing For Change Band and the Playing For Change Foundation, who develops music schools in different countries.

How do you find the musicians?

When we started the project we found musicians in the streets like Roger Ridley. I use to play on the same street when I met Mark Johnson and Jonathan Walls for the first time, I remember playing with my brother and 3 more friends form Argentina. Mark was working on a documentary of street musicians around America before taking it global and that’s how we knew a lot of great performers playing and singing in the streets of Santa Monica and Venice. Right after that I joined the crew and started to travel and meeting musicians that knew other musicians and that started a chain that never stopped. I guess the answer to the questions is that we meet musicians in various ways, sometimes is random and sometimes friends of friends etc. One time we were in Mali in the lobby of the hotel and this kid approach us with a demo CD and told us he was a singer, we went to the car to listen to the music and we loved it!! 5 minutes later we were recording an amazing verse on a song that has been written for the United Nations campaign. That’s just to give you an example.

Which is the music’s power?

The music power to me is the connection and the power of making all cultures and races differences go away. We have experienced situations where we could have been in danger and we felt safe because of the music power. One example is when we went to Soweto, South Africa were the crime rate is really high, we have some kids about 22 years olds approach us asking some questions and we were setting up our gear, we gave one of the kids an iPod with the Stand by me video not completed yet and I saw this kid with tears in his eyes and he told us “we got your back” in other words he was giving us protection. When we left the spot our guide told us that those kids were one of the most dangerous gangs of Soweto and he was shock after his reaction. That’s the power of music to me!

What kind of music do you play?

I don’t play in the PFC band, Mark and I produce the music but I am also a musician and I started playing Beatles and Rolling Stones’ songs, now after traveling the world I am in love with music from the Congo, can’t get enough of it. Of course Bob Marley will be always our music prophet.

From which countries are the musicians? Where do you do your tours?

Right now the band has musicians from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Congo, USA, Cuba, Surinam, Italy and Israel. We are about to go on tour with Robert Plant in Australia, starting March 26th. We Tour all over the world. Now we are planning some shows with Andrés Calamaro in South America. Last November we had a great trip to Argentina where we met Andrés and record with him a great version of La Bamba and “Sin Documentos”.

How is the experience about the benefit concerts?

Right now the money from the concert is just enough to help the musicians in the band and their families; it is a big band and is not easy to make profits yet.

Which is the audience’s repercussion?

The audience’s repercussion are always really good, the people goes crazy every time they see Grandpa Elliott come on stage, I think he is a real example of perseverance, he has been playing on the streets for about 50 years and never got tired of it.

They are a real family, they have been playing together for about 4 years and you can feel that energy when you see them and when you listen to the music.

What is your message to the world?

Our message to the world is Peace through music.

Samantha Schuster