WHY Music: Bridging the Cultural Divide

I had an amazing musical journey last week. While this isn't so uncommon for me, considering the abundance of opportunities I have to experience, create and learn about the infinite layers of beauty and intelligence inherent in this thing we call music, I remain eternally grateful. Music is one of life's greatest gifts - a source of joy, inspiration and wellbeing that is available to all of us.

There are a couple experiences from the week that I would like to share with you and encourage you to experience on your own. The first of these is the latest release from my friend Mark Johnson and his Playing for Change project. I had the privilege of joining Mark and his global tribe for their Friends and Family premier of Playing For Change 3, the third release in their amazing collection of videos and recordings featuring musicians from around the world. You may already be aware of the Playing for Change videos. Their first release, a heart-moving rendition of "Stand By Me," broke YouTube viewing records at the time of its release. Today, one of the many-posted copies of the video has had over 60 million views. The "Stand by Me" recording and video launched Playing for Change from a beautiful idea, of recording artists from all over the world on the same song, into a global movement celebrating the power of music to unite people from different cultures.

Watching the premier of Playing for Change 3 from my beanbag chair on Friday had me in a perma-grin. The journey to all the different countries and the musical contributions of the artists from all those cultures through the lens of a single song never ceases to inspire me. Although it must be a technical nightmare for the audio mixer, Mark's commitment to shooting each artist performing in an outdoor & public setting helps us experience the essence and diversity of each culture, making a tremendous difference in the viewing experience. Despite the challenges, the production and quality of the recordings seems to keep getting better with each release. The numbers are growing too. Where as "Stand by Me" was already a phenomena to include 35 musicians recording from their homelands, one of the tracks on the upcoming release has 180 musicians.

It was moving for me to witness the growth of the project since those early days, to celebrate with many of the musicians who have contributed over the years, and to learn more about the music schools that the Playing For Change Foundation is building for kids. My feelings Friday night might be best summed up by singer Roger Ridley in his opening lines of the Foundation's home page video: "I'm in the Joy business." I encourage you check out the upcoming release of Playing for Change 3 and welcome a little joy and inspiration into your life.

While maybe a little less of a party, I was honored the prior week to join Mark and many our musical friends as part of a highly inspiring and insightful program - the Power of Music Online conference. We were among a diverse group of artists and experts sharing our personal insights into the power of music. Fortunately, through the power of the Internet, this is one that you can still experience. Among those participating are Snatam Kaur, Fabian Alsultany, Alanis Morissette, Rocky Dawuni, Karsh Kale, Krishna Das, Deva Premal and Hassan Hakmoun. Although the interviews were held across the Internet, hosts Sukhdev and Akahdahmah of Aykanna created a very intimate and welcoming space. Like the musicians in the Playing for Change videos, we were connected in dialog from distant parts of the globe, without leaving our homes. The free days of the conference have come to an end, but the site does have free previews of each of the talks you can check out prior to choosing to download the series.

In closing, I offer one simple suggestion to help us all tune in to the power of music in our own lives: take a moment; close your eyes; and reflect upon a time in your life that a piece of music helped you to connect more deeply with another human being, or group of people, whether someone you know intimately or a group of strangers.

So many of the connected moments in our life are underscored and inspired by music.

If you would like to experience this blog post complete with images, you may do so by viewing it on the EarthTones website.

For more WHY Music, click here.

For more by Frank Fitzpatrick, click here.