Playing for change

Connecting the world through music

Playing For Change is an improbable journey, founder and architect Mark Johnson assembled a band with musicians from around the globe, many of whom appeared in the now ubiquitous "Stand By Me" video (which has been viewed on the internet more than 30 million times). What started as a simple concept to virtually bring musicians from different cultures together via technology for the common purpose of promoting peace through music, resulted in a bonafide cultural phenomenon; but no one was quite sure what would happen when they all gathered for the first time for a special performance at Austin’s SXSW music conference in 2009.

Sure, the Playing For Change story had captured imaginations around the world and their inspiring mix of togetherness, positivity and sterling musicianship had undeniably created a movement and surprised the music industry. But what would happen when they were actually on tour together? Could the Playing For Change idea live and breathe in the here and now?

The result was astonishing. After sold-out shows, critical acclaim and the smiles of thousands of new fans, the questions have been answered. On June 15th, Playing For Change Records/Concord Music Group will release Playing For Change Live – a special two-disc CD/DVD containing a ten-song audio CD and a fourteen-track DVD, documenting the Playing For Change Band’s triumphant 2009 world-tour.

On Playing For Change Live, the PFC band is captured all over the world including riveting performances from the U.K.’s Glastonbury Festival, Vancouver, Madrid, Los Angeles and the Santa Monica Pier where the project’s extraordinary journey began. The band’s incredible energy and brilliant musicianship is evident on Bob Marley’s “One Love,” a medley of 4 Non Blondes’ and Bobby McFerrin’s ‘What’s Up”/“Don’t Worry Be Happy”, the 1959 American R&B gem “Fannie Mae (with Keb’ Mo!) and original band compositions like Titi Tsira’s “Fela ngaye” and Louis Mhlanga’s “Children Of The World” just to name a few. Guest appearances also include reggae legends, Toots Hibbert on the Otis Redding classic “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember” and Ziggy Marley on his own “Love Is My Religion.

With its stirring call for reconciliation and cross-cultural unification, the global music collaboration/multi-media project; Playing For Change has struck a deep and powerful chord worldwide. Founder, filmmaker, and Grammy winning producer Mark Johnson was looking for musicians for his film, Peace Through Music when he captured a mesmerizing performance of the Ben E. King classic “Stand By Me” by legendary street singer, Roger Ridley in Santa Monica. Mark then took the show on the road. In New Orleans, he put headphones on beloved local street performer, Grandpa Elliott, who harmonized with Ridley’s soulful rendition of the song and he was on his way.  Using innovative mobile technology and traveling the world, he filmed and recorded more than 100 musicians, largely outdoors, in parks, plazas and promenades, in doorways, on cobblestone streets and amid hilly pueblos.  Each performance created a new mix in which the artists are all performing together, albeit hundreds or thousands of miles apart.

I was walking down the street in Santa Monica, CA, and I heard the voice of Roger Ridley singing the song “Stand By Me”. Ha had so much soul and conviction in his voice. I asked himif I coudl come back with some cameras and recording equipment to record him performing “stand by me” Mark Johnson.

In April of 2009, Hear Music/Concord Music Group released the CD/DVD Playing For Change – Songs Around The World and shocked the music world when it debuted in Billboard’s Top 10. The accompanying documentary Playing For Change – Peace Through Music, was broadcast nationwide by PBS that summer. .

Songs Around the World inspired us to unite many of the greatest musicians we met throughout our journey in the creation of the Playing For Change Band. These musicians come from many different countries and cultures, but through music they speak the same language. The PFC Band is now touring the world and spreading the message of love and hope to audiences everywhere.

The true measure of any movement is what it gives back to the people. We therefore created the Playing For Change Foundation, a separate 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to building music and art schools for children around the world, and creating hope and inspiration for the future of our planet.

No matter who you are or where you come from, we are all united through music.


2002-2004 - PFC IS BORN
The PFC crew travels to Los Angeles, New Orleans, and New York City recording musicians live outside.Mark has the idea to layer musicians from different cities on one track - the precursor of Songs Around the World.

The birth of “Stand by Me” and Songs Around the World
I’m the joy  Business, I come out to be with the people…” Rodger Ridley.

- Barcelona, South Africa, India and Nepal
PFC explored the various styles of music and culture in this great melting pot of a city. This sound is at the heart of our Songs Around The World.

- First PFC Band Concert

2008 -
Stand by Me Premiere
  • PFC Foundation builds its first music school in Gugulethu, South Africa
  • Mark Johnson premieres "Stand By Me" on Bill Moyers Journal on October 17th and video is being released on YouTube on November 7th.
  • Feature documentary, “Peace Through Music” is released.
2009 - Release of "Songs Around the World I"
  • PFC Band plays Glastonbury Festival in England with special guests Tinariwen and Vusi Mahlasela.
  • PFC crew heads to Cuba with Jackson Browne.
    The PFC crew travels Senegal and Mali to work with Baaba Maal and Tinariwen.
  • PFC Foundation opens music programs in Kathmandu and Udayapur District, Nepal

2010 - PFC Band plays the Tonight Show

  • PFC releases Grandpa Elliott’s first studio record, “Sugar Sweet”.
  • PFC crew reunites with Roberto Luti in his hometown of Livorno.
  • PFC releases CD/DVD chronicling the band’s 2009 International Tour.
  • PFC plays the “Tonight Show
  • PFC crew travels to Brazil and begins work on a new Song Around the World, “Satchita”,
    travels to Colombia continuing to work on new Songs Around the World and meets amazing friends and musicians in Jamaica.
  • PFC crew travels to Japan to work on a new Song Around the World, Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.
  • PFC Foundation builds the Bizung School of Music and Dance in Tamale, Ghana, the École de Musique de Kirina in Kirina, Mali, begins supporting music programs in Katari and Kathmandu, Nepal and in Kigali, Rwanda.
    Begins supporting the Tintale Village Mother's Society in Tintale, Nepal.

2011 - 1st Annual PFC Day
  • The PFC crew travels across the U.S., South America, and Europe to produce “United” in partnership with the U.N.
  • PFC Band performs in Morocco, and the crew welcomes local musicians into the PFC family.
2012 - 2nd Annual PFC Day
  • PFC releases Clarence Bekker’s album, “Old Soul.”
  • Crew travels to Argentina, home country of PFC Co-Producer Enzo Buono, travels to Australia and connects with incredible musicians, including Kim Churchill and  travels to Mexico, meets beautiful people and amazing musicians!

2013 - 3rd Annual PFC day

  • PFC returns to Australia-- this time with the band! Travels to Congo with Jason and Mermans, who are reunited with their families for the first time in 8 years!
  • PFC Foundation partners with the Marley family foundation, for our 3rd annual PFC Day, supports a music program in Khlong Toey, Thailand and launches Star School Music & Sports Program in Kigali, Rwanda.
  • PFC releases Afro Fiesta's new album.

official website:

Line-up "Stand by me World Tour 2015"
Grandpa Elliot (Louisiana, USA) - harmonica, vocals
Clarence Bekker (Amsterdam) - guitar, vocals
Tal Ben Ari "Tula" (TelAviv, Israel) - guitar, vocals
Jason Tamba (Matadi, Congo) - Guitars, vocals
Titi Tsira (south Africa) - vocals
Mermans Mosengo (Kinshasa, Congo) - guitar, vocals
Roberto Luti (italy) - guitar
Keiko Komaki (Kagoshima, Japan) - keyboard
Paulo Heman (State of Bahia, Brazil) - afoxa, pandeiro
Juan Carlos Portillo (Caracas, Venezuala) - bass
Vasti Jackson (Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA) - electric guitar
Pablo Correa (Cali, Valle del Cauca, Colombia) - drums



Hear Music

Hear Music

more than 100 musicians from 21 country

Hear Music


PFC Records

more than 150 musicians from 25 country



185 musicians from 31 country

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