Playing for Change: connecting the world through music

The final story shared of the conference, was delivered by Francois Viguie of Playing for Change. A decade ago, filmmaker Mark Johnson and his team set out to create a documentary about ‘music from the streets’. A firm believer in the connecting and unifying power of music, he filmed singers and musicians from different countries, and shot video clips of songs as ‘Stand by Me’ and ‘One Love’ in which all of these musical cultures and people seamlessly flowed together.

Peace through Music
The subtitle of the documentary is ‘Peace through Music’. Mark deliberately visited different parts of the world – also nations with tense mutual relations, or a history of (civil) war – and investigated the power of music in bringing people together and inspiring positive change.

The project was a huge success – especially the music clips spread very fast on the Internet, and got millions of ‘hits’ on Youtube and Vimeo. Mark kept on traveling, shooting new videos, and the group of musicians grew steadily. They were invited to perform on ever more events and went on tour.

Building music schools
In 2007, they decided to take it a step further and started the Playing for Change Foundation. An organisation that builds music schools and invests in music education for children in areas where schools are otherwise scarce. Francois Viguie is involved in building music schools in Ghana and Mali and tells about that passionately: “’In music education we do so much more than teach music and arts. Music is a tool for positive change because it is about creating. Children also build a sense of self when they learn to express themselves through music.’ Moreover, whole communities are involved in building the school, and these buildings then often become meeting places, where knowledge is being shared. And music made.

Generative connections, dreams, stories & songs
All in all, it is a story that fits the basic spirit of Appreciative Inquiry very well… The power of this initiative lies in a strong dream, and the generative connections that these musicians make. Stories (and songs) are shared, people join, get into action, and the whole project grows in a ‘building the bridge as you walk it’ -way, improvising next steps as new challenges and opportunities arise, involving and activating more people every step along the way.

In order to make us feel what it is about, Francois brought some musicians with him, amongst which Clarence (Netherlands), Tula (Israel), Hugo Chavez (Angola) and Roberto Luti (Italy). They delivered a very special musical ending to an inspiring conference.

Saskia Tjepkema

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