Playing for Change
Yeah, I know I said I don't fall for "inspiring" messages, but this one was truly inspiring – without the quote marks
A few months ago, Adam Turinas put up a video on his blog. I was lucky enough to have a high-speed Internet connection that weekend, and so I was able to view it. The song was "Stand By Me," and it was produced by a project called Playing for Change.
The video features dozens of musicians, mostly street performers, but some other groups as well, intercut with each other, all performing seamlessly together, in spite of being thousands of miles apart, from Santa Monica to New Orleans to Amsterdam to Moscow to Congo to Katmandu, and even a group of Native American drummers from Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico. The power of this video is that so many people, from so many different places on Earth, could produce music in harmony without even meeting each other. That's how unifying music is.
The project's name operates on multiple levels. Sure, playing for change is what street musicians do – they rely on the change that passersby toss into their hat or instrument case. But this project is also looking at changing the world, as the title of the program that I watched Monday evening on my local PBS affiliate indicates: "Playing for Change: Peace Through Music."
The program showed how music can be a unifying and healing force in such places as Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine. It can be a motivation for change in places like South Africa. It brings people together, and it does so in a way that transcends language or religion or ethnicity.
In the early 1980s, there was a trend toward using music to help disadvantaged people, starting with Live Aid's "We Are The World," and continuing with several other such projects, such as Farm Aid. But those projects, while they gained a whole lot of attention for a short while, didn't really have any lasting impact. They were started by celebrities, run by celebrities, very glitzy, and they just didn't have the to-the-gut honesty that Playing for Change has. Live Aid doesn't have Grandpa Elliott, a street musician in New Orleans who lost not only his home but his whole neighborhood to Hurricane Katrina but who has no thought of leaving – as he puts it, not even a "bulldoozer" can take him away.
I am not on a high-speed connection at the moment, so I can't embed the video in this post, but I can give you a link to "Stand By Me." Watch it.