The United Nations & Playing For Change Throw A Global Party

Posted February 5

If there’s one universal language on this great spinning orb we call Earth, it’s undoubtedly music — an idea that becomes extremely apparent when watching Playing For Change’s latest video, which was created in partnership with the United Nations.

The video — in which musicians around the world perform a song called “A Better Place” — was created after band and foundation Playing For Change founder Mark Johnson met with Layla Saad of the UN MDGAF (United Nations Millenium Development Goal Achievement Fund) in 2011.

“[We had a] common interest of using the power of music to bring a voice to the people around the world regrading social rights, equality and justice,” says Johnson. “Music is the greatest tool we have to bring about social change and it offers the sentiment behind the words and brings forth our humanity.”

The band and the UN worked on an original song together, creating a video in the style of Playing For Change’s previous works: a kind of tapestry song sung by musicians of all cultures, genres, ages and genders.

Playing For Change first took root in 2008 after Johnson had spent four years traveling around the world filming musicians of all ilks. In ’08, he released a video cover of the “Stand By Me” on YouTube, garnering millions of YouTube views. This led to the creation of the Playing For Change band and Foundation, which supports music education.

This particular video includes musicians from more than 10 countries and was created over the course of one year. “We included a singer from Egypt along with a singer from Israel, musicians of many different cultures, races and religions unite together with music and play together, although they never met in person,” Johnson says. “Each musician is recorded and filmed live outside and each performance is placed together to create a song around the world.”

Johnson’s favorite moment from the shoot took place in Bamako, Mali:

“We were discussing the idea of recording a hip-hop reggae verse for the song in a language other than English. All of a sudden, a young rasta appears at the hotel with a CD and handwritten letter from his mother to give to Baaba Maal, a legendary West African musician who was also staying at the same hotel. I saw the singer, his name is Habib Gueye, and I asked him about the CD. He handed it to me and so I ran out to the car with my producing partner, Enzo Buono, and together we listened to one song, smiled and ran back in to recruit Habib to join us as a singer on the new PFC song around the world, ‘A Better Place.’ Great music is everywhere, we just need to show up.”

Check out the full list of performers below. The video initially aired on International Human Rights Day in December.

“A Better Place” Performers – As They Appear:
The Playing For Change Band – Venice Beach, CA
Jermal Watson – NO, LA
Benicio Torres Reyes – Palenque, Colombia
Paul O’Connor – Dublin, Ireland
Gema 4 – Barcelona, Spain
Keiko Komaki – Tokyo, Japan
Anan Kantawee – Chiang Mai, Thailand
Glenn David Andrews – NO, LA
Papa Orbe Ortiz – Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Paul O’Farrell – Dublin, Ireland
Naprang Manator – Chiang Mai, Thailand
Jeffrey Hills Sr. – NO, LA
Jose Valdez “Paito” – Palenque, Colombia
Habib Gueye – Dakar, Senegal
Mezei Gabor – Budapest, Hungary
Dina Elwedidi – Cairo, Egypt
Mountaga Sissoko – Bamako, Mali
Pa’l Istvan – Budapest, Hungary
Tibor Balogh – Budapest, Hungary
D. Chandrajit – Chennai, India
Mathieu Aupitre – Toulouse, France
Sabah – Cairo, Egypt