I have nothing against the idea of the latest fundraising video for Haiti because the cause is certainly a great one; it's just that I tire of the usual bevy of First World entertainers belting it out. That's why it's refreshing to meet someone like Mark Johnson, one of the founders of Playing for Change. By now you've all probably heard about this organization through the widely seen globetrotting video of Stand By Me. The first time I saw it, I thought it was pleasant enough, but what was it for, what was the next step -- what was the substance? Mark clarified it all for me in an eloquent interview, in which he laid out a vision for using music as a catalyst for social change. I've heard my share of pie-in-the-sky blah blah about using music for this or that, but Mark's ideas are not dreams -- they are based on solid reality and a lot of hard work.
Can any of us deny that one of our greatest achievements to date is our unprecedented technological connectivity? Playing for Change is not just about making pretty videos. It's about connecting a global community where access to medicine, education, and mutual respect are a given.
I had a conversation many years ago with Christoph Borkowsky, one of the founders of the World Music Expo, WOMEX. At the time he said to me that the music of every nation should be treated as a natural resource. He chafed at the lack of market exposure great world artists got, and was certain that significant revenue streams could result from a level, truly international marketplace. Now that a new generation can access global content with ease, perhaps the idea finally has the proper soil in which to grow. And perhaps the next great musical outpouring of support for a cause will well up spontaneously from another part of the world, and have a truly international face and sound.