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The Independent Critic

Mark Johnson and musicians from around the world
Mark Johnson and Jonathan Walls
73 Mins.

 "Playing for Change: Peace Through Music" 

In the opening moments of "Playing for Change: Peace Through Music," co-director and Grammy-award winning producer/engineer Mark Johnson discovers an absoluItely marvelous street musician doing a heartfelt, unforgettable cover of Ben E. King's "Stand by Me."

Over the next year, Johnson would travel the world creating a musical patchwork of sounds sewn together by their common humanity, musical gifts and desire for peace.

"Playing for Change" was born.

It is in these opening moments that "Playing for Change: Peace Through Music" is most enchanting and unforgettable.

In between this opening and an equally memorable closing number, "Playing for Change: Peace Through Music" is more like a musical journey around the world than it is a film that addresses the effecting of change through music. Over 30 artists, from New Orleans to Russia to South Africa and beyond, participated in "Playing for Change." The result is a delightful, entertaining and soulful journey through world music at its most grassroots and finest.

While it's practically undeniable that unity is an integral component of creating peace, I couldn't quite escape the feeling that "Playing for Change" was a tad misdirected and mislabeled. "Playing for Change" isn't so much, at least as presented, about change or peace as it is the inherent unity of the global community and how music empowers that connection. Perhaps "peace" has simply become too politicized a word, but "Playing for Change" seemed to be more effective in bringing to life our universal bond than it was in displaying the power of music to change or manifest peace.

The "Playing for Change" project has become the Playing for Change Foundation, and arts centers have been created around the world as a result, a resulting change that I wish could have been more captured in the film itself.

For more information on "Playing for Change," visit

by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
Copyright 2008