Since 2021, the Playing For Change crew has recorded a variety of independent musicians performing live in front of an audience in Mark Johnson's backyard in Venice Beach, California.
After traveling the world for more than 15 years and building a global community through music, PFC co-founder and producer Mark Johnson was able to spend time in his neighborhood, meet his neighbors and build relationships within his local community. Through this experience, Mark's Park — a new music series featuring intimate performances by some of our favorite artists from around the world — was born.
We'd like to use this opportunity to thank and feature the musicians we had the honor of recording with, musicians whose careers have grown through time and of whom we are now huge fans!
Here are some of the best performances in the “Mark’s Park” series so far.
Mark's Park EP5: Americana Night featuring Keb' Mo' | Playing For Change
Our longtime friend and supporter, singer/guitarist/songwriter and five-time GRAMMY Award winner Keb' Mo' joins us for an evening of roots/Americana music. Accompanied by his son Kevin "K. Roosevelt" Moore II on drums, Keb performs some new and old favorites, including the thought-provoking but humorous "Medicine Man," and the heartfelt "Change."
"The Medicine Man" (written by Keb' Mo')
"France" (written by Keb' Mo')
"I Remember You" (written by Bill LaBounty and Keb' Mo')
"The Door" (written by Keb' Mo’ and Leon Ware)
"Change" (written by Keb' Mo')
The Man Who Brings Back Modern Blues With a Twist
Since breaking through in the early 1990s, Kevin Roosevelt Moore (renamed Keb' Mo' in 1994) has gained recognition for his proficiency in a variety of blues genres, his capacity to fuse traditional methods with a modern mindset, and his enduring storytelling sensibility. Along with putting out a number of well-received albums, he has also contributed his skills to a number of theater and cinema projects, cooperated with several well-known musicians from different genres, and had many noteworthy artists cover his songs. Additionally, he actively participates in organizations that promote music education and is a vocal supporter of the blues' preservation.
Watch this member exclusive performance in tribute to Bill Withers’ “The Worst is Yet to Come"
Honorable mention: Knockin' on Heaven's Door | Afro Fiesta w/Twanguero & I-Taweh
In honor of Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday, we shared this acoustic rendition of his hit song “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” This intimate performance features Afro Fiesta (Mermans Mosengo and Jason Tamba) along with Twanguero and I-Taweh performing live outside during a special filming of Mark’s Park.
Mark's Park EP1: Rumba Night featuring Afro Fiesta | Playing For Change
We have discovered the genuine value of community during a difficult period of uncertainty, social isolation, and civil turmoil.
Afro Fiesta's Mermans Mosengo (vocals and cajon) and Jason Tamba (vocals and acoustic guitar), along with Baby Ndombe (vocals and shaker), Chella Mputu (vocals), and Twanguero (electric guitar), brought us the positive energy of Congolese rumba in this first episode of the series.
“Omesongo” (written by Ndombe Opetum)
“Simba Kongo” (written by Jason Tamba)
“Dieu est Amour” (written by Baby Ndombe)
Imparting A Message of Hope, From The Congo To The World
Afro Fiesta members Mermans Mosengo and Jason Tamba both left the Democratic Republic of the Congo more than 15 years ago in search of a better life. Mosengo moved to South Africa in 1998, spending a year as a drummer and bassist with the Young Bakuba Band before going solo and eventually meeting Jason Tamba. A self-taught musician who later earned a degree in classical guitar, Tamba also traveled to South Africa in search of greater opportunity, where he soon met Mosengo and formed Afro Fiesta.
From the beginning, Afro Fiesta has embraced a powerful vision: using music to educate and inspire audiences to find solutions both for their native Congo and for all of humanity. Their first album, self-titled Afro Fiesta, released in 2005, is full of songs that are a fusion of eclectic styles including Afro-jazz, kwasa-kwasa, makossa, and hints of Latin music.
Afro Fiesta created a reggae rumba roots CD with music and words from the heart of Africa with their most recent release, Music is My Ammunition, originally produced with Playing For Change.
Did you know? You can download Music Is My Ammunition for free as a member! You can also listen to the full album for free here:
Reggie McBride, a legendary bassist from Detroit, is also featured on Music is My Ammunition along with the Jamaican brothers Courtney "Bam" Diedrick on drums and Sean "Pow" Diedrick on keyboards (both are members of Damian Marley's band). As a result, is an album that blends varied influences of roots reggae, makossa, and Congolese rumba travels across Africa.
Making a Place For The Latino-Twang Sound
Spanish Latin GRAMMY winner and songwriter/guitar bender Diego Garcia, aka TWANGUERO, is one of the most active artists in the Hispanic scene. He is internationally renowned for his unique Latino-Twang sound, which goes from Spanish guitar to American folk, flamenco, and tango, and for his impeccable fingerpicking style. He has six records so far: The Brooklyn Sessions (2011), Argentina Songbook (2013), Pachuco (2015), Carreteras Secundarias (2017), and Electric Sunset (2018). He has won many awards, including a Spanish Music Award for Carreteras Secundarias (Best World Music Record 2018) and a Latin GRAMMY in 2013 for his work with flamenco singer Diego El Cigala.
Don’t miss “Jaguar” a special exclusive Live Outside performance by Twanguero:
Honorable mention: Stand By Me | PFC Band feat. Clarence Bekker
Our Song Around The World, "Stand By Me," performed by the PFC Band and Clarence Bekker in a live outside performance, is a stirring rendition that helped launch the Playing For Change movement. We will always remember the idols who got it all started: our beloved Grandpa Elliott and the magnificent Roger Ridley, as we continue to honor this timeless masterpiece.
With this song, we wish to inspire the globe through music as one.
Mark's Park EP9: An Evening with Brendan O'Hara | Playing For Change
Get ready to be drawn into the soulful sounds and riveting performance of Brendan O’Hara, who leaves his heart on every stage he graces and moves spirits with his passionate vocals, exceptional musicianship, and impressive beatboxing while strumming the guitar.
“Roll Down Your Window”
Medley: “Lean On Me/Three Little Birds (Everything's Gonna Be Alright)”
“You Can't Always Get What You Want”
“Outrun the Rain”
“As Good As It Gets”
Redefining the modern Bebop, A Combination of Soul, Blues and Jazz
Committed to redefining modern bebop as an all-original blend of jazzy-blues-folk-pop with a hip-hop flavor, Brendan O’Hara catalogs his music genre as “jazzy but not jazz.” It is soulful and bluesy, but neither entirely soulful nor all blues. It is conscious, but not certainly folk, and maintains a pop sensibility, not at the expense of its playful nature.
His style is a blend of all these genres, which provides us with a deeper look into Brendan's diverse interests and influences. These songs are played on guitar and piano with Brendan's deeply driven voice on top.
Brendan and his band members are also socially conscious; they've kindly volunteered their time and talents in support of tsunami and hurricane relief, The Race for the Cure, famine relief for children in AIDS-stricken Africa, and Children's Education Reform!
Don’t miss this member exclusive of Brendan’s original medley “Stay/Dancing In My Backyard”
Honorable mention: Wish You Were Here | Afro Fiesta ft. Twanguero & I-Taweh | Live Outside
Afro Fiesta, Twanguero and I-Taweh reunite for this special Live Outside version of the Pink Floyd 1975 hit, “Wish You Were Here.”
Mark's Park EP2: Soul Night featuring War & Pierce | Playing For Change
This episode features 21st-century blues singer/songwriter duo War & Pierce, performed by Sunny War (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Chris Pierce (vocals, acoustic guitar), along with musicians Paul Allen (percussion, background vocals) and Aroyn Davis (bass, background vocals).
Listen to their original songs from their most recent solo albums, which will inspire serious self-reflection. Turn up the volume and use the music to motivate you to make a difference in the world.
"American Silence" (written by Chris Pierce)
"On and On" (written by Chris Pierce, Sunny War, and Jared Faber)
“Amen” (written by Chris Pierce, Sunny War, and Jared Faber)
“Got No Ride" (written by Sunny War)
“Chain Gang Fourth of July" (written by Chris Pierce)
Musicians United By The Deep Roots of Blues and Soul
Chris Pierce & Sunny War had a friend in common, musician and producer Jared Faber. Faber thought the two should meet and that they might hit it off. Maybe there was some music to be made amongst them. The three first got together at Faber’s Silverlake studio for a meet and greet, and out of that meeting was born “Any Day Now,” the first song written and recorded by the collective.
Each time they got together, they wrote and recorded what would ultimately become their debut EP, the self-titled War & Pierce. Since then, they have also released their highly anticipated follow-up single, "On & On."
Chris Pierce has recorded and released eight independent solo albums. In addition to his own headlining tours, he has shared worldwide stages with Seal, B.B. King, Cold War Kids, Toots & The Maytals, Jamie Cullum, Aaron Neville, Robert Cray, and Al Green.
Sunny War’s style lies somewhere between punk and early blues. The only way to really know Sunny is to immerse oneself in her music. Sunny’s inimitable guitar technique, mixed with her haunting vocal sound, is unique and intoxicating. As a solo artist, she has opened for Booker T, Keb’ Mo’, Madeleine Peyroux, Mindy Smith, The Levon Helm Band, and Angelique Kidjo, among others.
War & Pierce perform the songs "I Don't Know Where I'm Going," "All Life's Worth," and "Let It Shine on Me" in this member exclusive mini-concert during their Mark's Park episode.
Mark's Park EP3: Blues Night featuring Shemekia Copeland | Playing For Change
This episode features 2021 B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award winner Shemekia Copeland performing original songs from her latest album Uncivil War, as well as a few of her favorites, including a cover of her father's—blues guitarist and singer Johnny Copeland—song "Devil's Hand." She's joined by Afro Fiesta's Mermans Mosengo (cajon/vocals) and Jason Tamba (banjo/vocals), along with Twanguero (lead guitar) and Whynot Jansveld (electric bass).
"Devil's Hand" written by Johnny Copeland
"Walk Until I Ride" written by John Hahn and Will Kimbrough
"Uncivil War" written by John Hahn and Will Kimbrough
"Honky Tonk Women" written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger
"Black Cat Bone" written by Hop Wilson
A Powerful Voice On The Blues of Our Generation
When Shemekia first broke on the scene with her groundbreaking Alligator Records debut CD Turn The Heat Up, she instantly became a blues and R&B force to be reckoned with. News outlets from The New York Times to CNN praised Copeland’s talent, larger-than-life personality, dynamic, authoritative voice and true star power.
With each subsequent release, Copeland’s music had evolved. From her debut through 2005’s The Soul Truth, Shemekia earned eight Blues Music Awards, a host of Living Blues Awards (including the prestigious 2010 Blues Artist Of The Year) and more accolades from fans, critics and fellow musicians. 2000’s Wicked received a GRAMMY nomination.
Re-visit this classic version of the song “Bring It On Home To Me,” a tribute to Sam Cooke exclusively for members:
Shemekia Copeland has performed thousands of gigs at clubs, festivals and concert halls all over the world, and has appeared in films, on national television, NPR, and in magazines and newspapers.
Honorable mention: Neria | Chris Bakalanga ft. Afro Fiesta | Live Outside
Three musicians from the Congo reunite with this intimate performance of “Neria” by the multi-talented Chris Bakalanga featuring Afro Fiesta, filmed Live Outside at Mark’s Park as a dedication to the late great Oliver Mtukudzi.
Let’s finish this outstanding compilation with “Neria,” a song that shares a message of comfort during difficult times: “Don’t let your heart be troubled, Neria. God is with you.” Let the music lift your spirits and bring hope and inspiration to all!
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