On Wednesday night, 200 musicians came together to show and tell us how we can all save the world with the global streaming event, Peace Through Music: A Global Event For The Environment.
With appearances by Tedeshi Trucks, Cat Stevens/Yusulf Islam, Black Pumas, Jack Johnson, John Paul Jones, Mikey Hart (Grateful Dead/Dead & Co), Zakir Hussain, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Sara Bareilles, Slash, The Lumineers, and more, The Playing For Change Foundation, in conjunction with the United Nations, worked with filmmakers Mark Johnson and Sebastian Robertson as well as director/co-writer Robin Moxely to create an hour-long musical event that is a everything from a call to arms to a fundraiser for their change partners to a celebration of life itself.
Stunning visuals of hundreds of locations around the globe and masterful audio mixing make what must have been a legitimate filming and editing nightmare look and sound completely seamless and near dream-like. Narrated by Robbie Robertson and Sir David Attenborough, the film stays away from divisive critiques of exploitation and capitalism to focus on the things we can do, working together, to help heal our priceless eco-system.
If you’ve seen any of the Playing For Change clips previously, you understand their basic conceit with musicians from a wide variety of disciplines filmed playing the same song from different locations around the world. It’s an inspiration to see so many different styles and voices from so many backgrounds sharing the same perspective.
The concept of cultures sharing perspectives independently achieved is an early focus of the film. Parallels between the Hopi Indian beliefs about the sacredness of water coming from our own largely water-based selves are re-enforced by a near-exact Maori proverb. The message throughout the film is simple: the time to act on environmental issues is always now.
There are some positives the film points out from around the globe, such as a New Zealand river being granted the full legal rights a human being would have. Sadly, it is always those who benefit the least from the industry that is destroying the environment for profit who are the most affected by the changes wrought.
Working with Indigenous peoples to use their sacred knowledge to heal the Earth is also a running thread of the project. Collective action, directed by passed-down wisdom are a key part of the plan, but like anything that needs doing in this capitalist society, it requires financial support. Peace Through Change is a gift to the world, but it is just a dream unfulfilled without support from the Earth at large.
Before we take a look at the best musical bits of the film, here’s list of the charitable partners that the Playing For Change Foundation has teamed up with to help. You can just click on Conservation International, American Rivers, World Wildlife Fund, REVERB, and the Playing For Change Foundation to hit their sites and donate what you can to some truly worthy, respected organizations. Now, on to the show.
Peace Through Music wastes no time wheeling out it’s epic collaborations with the opening drums & percussion piece featuring Mikey Hart, Zakir Hussain, Giovani Hidalgo, Sikiru Adepoju, Taufiq Qureshi’s Mumbai Stamp, Taal Mantra Mumba Dhol, Manengue Hidalgo, Noel Rosado, Fazal Qureshi & Students of Allarakha Institue Of Tabla with vocals by the La Perla Singers.
“Drum Dialog” – Zakir Hussain
Next up, the sweet and soulful Black Pumas get stellar support from Slash, Tony Kanal, Roberto Luti, Christian Nieves, Sofia Viola, Linker, Sherieta Lewis & Roselyn Williams, Ed Kabotie, Bayakanda Kinshasa, Maldonado, The Pocket Queen, Keico Komaki, Kylie Jim, Mayla Valentin, and percussionist Sivuca on their hit single, “Colors”.
“Colors” – Black Pumas
Sara Bareilles has worked with Playing For Change in the past, and to help her on her previously unreleased song dedicated to the initiative, she’s joined by Abel Mafuleni Harare, Keico Komaki, Roberto Luti, Jason Tamba, Courtney Djedrick & Claire Finley, Robin Moxey, Sherieta Lewis & Roselyn Williams, Ehssan Karimi, Mermans Mosengo and Chris Pierce for a truly worldwide rendition.
“Playing for Change” – Sara Bareilles
Led Zeppelin‘s rendition of “When The Levee Breaks” is the most well-known, so bringing in bassist John Paul Jones to sit at this version’s heart alongside Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeshi, Pete Sands, Ella Marja Eira, Sikuru Adepoju, Stephen Perkins, Jason Tamba, Keith Secola, Sebastion Robertson, Nakeitha Campbell & Davey Chegwidden, Mermans Mosengo, Buffalo Nichols, Ben Lee, Alfredo Arce, Mihirangi & Drums Of The Pacific was both an obvious and a wise choice.
“When The Levee Breaks” – John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)
Since Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabaté crafted “Queen Bee” as a bridge between American Blues and African instrumentation, it only made sense for the legendary bluesman to be joined by the likes of Bassekou Kouyate, Safe Diabate, Mamadou Diabate, “Lopake” Colo jr., John Cleary, Ben Harper, Paula Fuga, The Phantom Blues Band, Jake Shimabukuro, Yu Hatakeyama, Ayane Unema, Pancho Amat, Louis Mhlanga, Roberto Luti, and Carlos Miyares on Sax for this heart take on musical fusion.
“Queen Bee” – Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabaté
Not sure if The Lumineers didn’t get the “Pick a gazillion talented musicians to work with from around the world” memo or not, but they turn in a stellar version of “Bright Side” all on their lonesome.
“Bright Side” – The Lumineers
Mana Maoli Collective Youth gives Jack Johnson‘s “Better Together” a joyful, playful energy that welcomes the contributions of Isa Najem, Cindy Harcha, Paula Fuga, Keiko Komaki, Washboard Chaz, Paco Soto, Afro Fiesta, Leiana Ho’oikaiki & Kamaha’o-Thronas, Lee Oskar (War),Tony Braunagel, Claire Finley, Roots Voices of Mississippi, MishCatt and Mateo Aupitre
“Better Together” – Jack Johnson
It’s hard to imagine a more fitting song to end a call for global unity that Yusulf Islam/Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train”, which was previously featured in a Playing For Change collaboration, so it’s only fitting that the artist himself is on hand to create a stunning world wide take on his heartfelt classic. Check out what Ghassan Birumi, Rahat Inayat Ali, Avadhoot Phadke, Keb’ Mo’, Tushar Lall, Rhiannon Gibbons (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Eric Appapoulay, Kwame Yeboah, Roots Gospel Voices Of Mississippi, Silkroad, Baaba Maal, Joshua Amjad, Pat Simmons, James “Hutch” Hutchinson, Olodum, William Barton and Adrian Buono make of this legendary call for hope and change in the clip below.
“Peace Train” – Yusuf / Cat Stevens
Scientists posit that Earth has entered the “Anthropocene epoch” in which we are the major force in shaping and thus stewarding the world. The increasing frequency of recent climate catastrophes—from hurricanes to tornadoes—will attest that we have, until now, done a poor job in our most valuable work. Only together, united can we fix these issues. Luckily we have this collection of songs that perfectly illustrate how, when united, we are so much more than the mere sum of our parts.
For more information on Peace Through Music: A Global Event For The Environment, produced by Playing For Change in partnership with the United Nations, head here.