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Exclusive interview for the ES2A

Mark Johnson Co-Founder of Playing For Change

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José Mujica

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In Spanish

The Foundation

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The success of Stand By Me

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Let's hear what Miriam Makeba would be proud of

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The Miracle of the music Schools around the world

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Get Involved, Join us

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How to...

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ES2A.-How did you get the new singers is U.S? Just in the streets?

MJ.-5 years ago I was walking on the streets in Santa Monica, CA and I heard the voice of Roger Ridley singing, “Stand By Me”. He had so much soul in his voice and I approached him and I said if I come back with some recording equipment and cameras I would love to record and film you playing “Stand By me” and take the song around the world adding different musicians to the track. He looked at me like I was crazy but he said if you come back, I’ll play the song. When I returned Roger was in a set break and I said with a voice like yours why are you playing in the street?
He said, Mark: “I’m in the Joy Business”, I just like to come outside and be with the people. When you combine this energy with a song like “Stand By Me” – We knew we had a great start to connect the world.
A small crew and myself put together cameras and a mobile recording studio powered with golf cart batteries, then car batteries and eventually small battery packs and traveled from city streets and subways to Indian Reservations, African Villages and Townships to the Middle East and the Himalayan Mountains. Along the way we built a global family through the power of music and inspiration.

ES2A.-All the recording was done outside?

MJ.-We record and film all the music for our Songs around the world live outside. We record live in the moment with no separation between the musician and the outside world. This process gives the musician more spontaneity and it gives the audience a deeper connection to the performance.

ES2A.-What DAW did you use?

MJ.-We record the music with pro tools on our Mac laptops. We have used Nuendo in the past as well.

ES2A.-¿Which dynamic process did you use to avoid the background noise?

MJ.-The only process we use to avoid background noise is with the combination of our Schoeps CMC-5 mics with hyper-cardioid capsules and wind-screens.
We don’t record with any compression.

ES2A.-The microphones use with Stand By me on the streets, are?

MJ.-Schoeps CMC-5, Shure SM57’s, Shure Beta 52.

ES2A.-Where was more difficult to record? Why?

MJ.-The most difficult places to record are places with lots of wind such as Mountaintops and beaches. But these places are great to record anything with a direct line (Keyboard, Guitar, Bass etc…), as the wind is not a factor.

ES2A.-what recording studio do you work with?

MJ.-We have mixed our music at a lot of various studios around the world but in Los Angeles we have used the Village Recording Studio as well as Groove Masters Recording in Santa Monica. Most of our music is mixed by an amazing sound engineer named, Greg Morgenstein, at his studio in Los Angeles: Enormous Sound.

ES2A.-How do you contact artist in the countries?

MJ.-The way we connect with or discover musicians in the places we visit depends a lot on the songs we are recording at that particular time. We try to record and film diverse musicians from different cultures and musical styles to create something new, the world playing music together. A small crew and myself show up to each location with a mobile recording studio and cameras searching for musicians to join the movement. So far we have recorded and filmed over 500 musicians in approximately 50 countries around the world. The musicians range from street musicians like Roger Ridley, Grandpa Elliott and Roberto Luti to native musicians such as the Aztec and Lakota Indians as well as famous musicians like Keith Richards, Manu Chao, Bono, Stephen and Ziggy Marley etc…on and on and on, as Keith Richards says, “Playing For Change, that’s the way music was meant to be.”

ES2A.-Is Grandpa Elliott a Symbol to Playing For Change today?

MJ.-Grandpa Elliott is very important musician for Playing For Change as he is symbol of conviction, soul and perseverance. He feels every note he sings or plays on his harmonica and he has been performing on the streets of New Orleans for over 60 years!! From the streets, to the stage to the hearts of the poeple. Playing For Change

ES2A.-Is easy to get song rights for a nonprofit foundation?

MJ.-Playing For Change is a social project with both a for profit business supporting musicians around the world and a separeate non-profit organization building and supporting music programs around the world. The best way for us to get song rights is through personal relationships with the songwriters or to sahre our work once complete and hope they are willing to suport our project.

ES2A.-If an artist want to get involved or to be in your choice, what must do?

MJ.-We invite all musicians to sign up on our website – playingforchange.com and send us a message with any link to hear / see them performing. We also have an ambassador program to offer more in depth ways of supporting Playing For Change and this is another good way to meet the PFC team and discuss collaborations. Our Fifth annual PFC Day, this September 19th, is another great way for musicians and fans of music everywhere to get involved in the PFC movement. Last year we hosted over 430 concerts in over 60 countries on the same day all to support global music education!!!

ES2A.-¿Where is the next school?

MJ.-We are currently preparing to open our 11th Music program in Curitiba Brazil!!

ES2A.- Playing is changing the world?

MJ.-Playing music is one of the greatest tools we have to change our world from the inside out. With music we create forgiveness, inspiration and hope and these parts of humanity are essential to changing the world for the good of everyone. Music brings us back to our humanity and reminds us that no matter how many things in life divide us they are never as strong as the power of music to bring us together.

ES2A.-You have a Grammy, Isn’t it? The song?

MJ.-I received a Grammy as an Recording and Mixing Engineer for Keb’ Mo’ Blues album of the year, “Keep it simple”. 2004

ES2A.- One Anecdote? Advise for the new generations?

MJ.-The best advise I ever heard comes from Bob Marley: And I share it with you…“The Greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires but in his integrity and ability to affect those around him positively. “ _ Bob Marley


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The Musician Support like .com

You can get your special souvenir from the organization to supporting this amazing dream.

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Get this wonderful Music, or just, give a gift

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Go to play or attend an event on sunny days


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High level style


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Everybody must know you are in music and with us

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