Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Playing for Change

How do I feel about my kids and their musical tastes? I was asked that this week. And that same day I ran into an old colleague from the school district who was passing along a comment made to her by a stake leader who also works at the district office. The main concern about getting Macey off on his mission was his love for music -- more precisely his love for punk music.

When I was a teen, I tried to share a favorite song with my mother. She wisely told me that my music was designed for my generation and if it were to appeal to her generation it would lose its purpose. I have tried to keep that in mind with my children. If our musical tastes were to be Venn Diagrammed, the set of what I like and what they like would be substantial -- but not all encompassing.

How do I feel about the music with which my kids choose to express themselves? I'm ok with it. Mostly, their music expresses the need for change and the belief that music is a tool for change. That idea has been propagated throughout the centuries. Even Rock-a-bye Baby's "when the wind blows" was talking about change. Closer to our century, Woody Guthry believed in music as social change. He wrote "This machine kills fascists" on his guitar. When John Lennon penned "Imagine" he was motivating change. The music my kids listen to motivates them to find their place in the world, it motivates them to "Do Stuff" and learn to do things themselves. And it motivates them to want to make the world a better place.

One of the organizations that inspires both me and my kids is "Playing for Change". Their videos show a world that can work together in harmony. For those of you who are playing with beginning bands, the PFC rendition of Stand by Me is outstanding. It is a four chord song utilizing one of the most standard progressions out there (C_Am_F_G7) If a musician learns this progression,they've just learned 100 songs. The strum to Stand By Me, for beginning musicians, can be broken down to slap up, slap up. It gives the song a very cool reggae beat.

Another of my favorites that Playing for Change does is Chanda Mama. This is an Indian Lullaby (Translated it means Uncle Moon).

This week Playing for Change released a couple more videos. The song that hit me hardest was their rendition of Redemption Song. This is a song that Macey sings. In fact, one of the families he home taught while he was living in St George asked him to sing a song for them. This is the song he sang. As a parent, I just don't see why I should feel that music has led my kids astray, when this is what they choose to sing.

(Another reason I love this rendition is that it features a Shamisam in the intro. This is one of the world instruments that Sammy has collected. It is fun to see it used in this manner.)

The next instrument on Sam's "gotta get" list is a charrango. One of the stores in town is selling one. Auntie Judy's stock went up when Sam learned she plays one. And our stock at the music store went up when we correctly identified their new instrument. Sam said it is tuned just like a ukulele, but with an extra E. I am looking forward to seeing what he does with it.

Joe was also thrilled to watch the Redemption Song video. The clip of Bob Marley shows him playing an Ovation guitar -- just like Joe's. (It's the little things that make us happy)


  1. I knew nothing about playing for change. I wonder how they do what they do. It's very moving! I also loved the Redemption song. Your children's interest in music has help you to branch out in many ways. I think it's wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

  2. P.S. I never heard of a shamisam before. If Sam wants to see me playing the charango, check it out at my youtube site:

  3. Great videos. I think that I want to go visit that cool place in Japan. It was pretty awesome looking. What that a violin in Africa that they were holding crooked in their elbow? Interesting and haunting.