I love word play. The little twists and turns you can do with a phrase or the fun of homophone when it’s released out upon the world. I’m reminded of this for this week’s World Music Show (10/13) because of the phrase Playing for Change.
What was your first thought when you read that? Was it of a street musician showcasing their talents with a box of hat out asking for change? Or was it a call to action you see from many musicians? How about if the phrase can mean both at the same time? That’s kind of the gist of this week’s show.
The impetus behind the show is that I got the lucky chance to interview a few people connected with Playing for Change. In this case, I’m talking about the record label and organization that does some amazing things--a group that embraces this phrase wholeheartedly.
In hour one of the show I’ll speak with PFC Co-founder Mark Johnson as well as two musicians--Mermans Mosengo and Jason Tamba. In the interview we talk about how PFC got started; how they go about recording musicians; what the foundation is all about; and how the songs are chosen for each album. Mark worked as a studio engineer with the likes of Biggie Smalls and Paul Simon when he was in the Hit Factory in New York.
But that’s the tip. We’ll also dive into the legacy of New Orleans street musician Grandpa Elliott; how it feels to tour the world in the PFC band; and how Mark was able to get big-time musicians such as Bono, Keb’ Mo’ and Keith Richards to partake in some of the songs.
And just as a brief overview, Playing for Change takes well known songs (for instance “La Bamba,” “One Love,” “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution”) and travels the world recording street musicians in their element--whether its on the streets of South Africa or in the Mountains in South America. Mark has a traveling sound studio. He then starts with one musician playing the song (usually on vocals or on their particular instrument of choice).
Then, he moves on to another location and musician. With them, he puts headphones on them, so they can hear what was played before. That musician then adds their part. The process continues from there until roughly anywhere from 20-to even 50 musicians can end up on one song. So, you can wipe away the thought that all these musicians are in one studio. They’re literally recorded all around the globe. It’s amazing to watch (PFC also films the musicians).
That’s only half the story. The other half is that from their record sales, membership campaigns and concerts, 20% of the money raised goes toward funding music in schools all across the planet. So in essence, PFC really is playing for change.
In my talk with Mark, we talk about Grandpa Elliott and how they first met him on the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina singing “Amazing Grace.” Watch this video of him doing another classic song Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.”
I hope you can tune into this week to hear this great interview.
For the second half of the show, I’ll play some Latin Rockabilly from a young duo named Johnny & Jaalene. These two are from Orange County, Ca and play a mix of Chicano Rock n’ Roll, and Blues driven tracks, as well as Rockabilly. Johnny is only 19 and was raised on a ton of different styles of music, including Punk, Disco, Classical and even Hollywood musicals beside the aforementioned styles. Jaalene is only 16. She was a choir girl and theater performer before diving into this duo. Besides the Latin song “Los Chucos Suaves,” we’ll also hear their version of the Eddie Cochran song “Teenage Cutie.”
In other new music, we’ll hear a track from a Turkish artist named Ozan. He plays a lute-like instrument called the Saz, which he learned from his father. His songs draw from Kurdish and Armenian styles. Mixed in this set will be some Middle Eastern style song from two US bands: Kuwaisiana, who hail from Louisiana, and Diali Cissokho and Kaira Ba, who are from North Carolina.
Besides those, we’ll spin the big musical wheel and hear from Eljuri, Habib Koite and Bamada, Michael Kiwanuka and the L.A. band Quetzal, who do the Eternal Getdown. Plus, we’ll get some New Orleans funk from Angelique Kidjo and Dr. John; some “Raw Riddim” from Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers and we’ll “Stay Human” for an extended time with Michael Franti and Spearhead. And if we survive all of that, we’ll get lucky enough to experience some “Bhangra Fever,” from Midival Punditz.
It’s going to be a fun World Music Show. Tune in Saturday night at 8pm on WCVE Music, 93.1 & 107.3FM or stream the show via this website. You can get track listings here too. Follow me on Twitter @wcveworldmusic and on Facebook at The World Music Show on WCVE.