Today a friend posted a link to a music video on Facebook that took me down one of my favorite rabbit holes: viewing and listening to the brilliant and powerful “Playing For Change” videos on YouTube.
For the uninitiated, Playing For Change is an organization whose stated mission is to “inspire and connect the world through music. We believe that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome the differences that divide us.”
The group produces videos of musicians – famed and unknown alike – from all over the world performing mainly covers of well-known songs. The music is always top-notch. But the real hook for me is just seeing people of all nationalities, races, cultures, and languages combining their talent into a unified celebration of our shared humanity.
I don’t mind telling you, watching and listening to these exuberant performances nearly always brings tears of happiness to my eyes. There is something that profoundly touches one’s soul when experiencing the kinship of our brothers and sisters from every corner of the Earth performing music that is familiar and beloved.
I struggle with the words to convey such a spiritual encounter.
It really is true that music is a universal language. It has the power to break down walls that separate us. To overcome our differences. To reveal the truth that all of Humanity is one.
We are different yet the same, just as the drummer and the guitarist play different instruments, but the same song. Just as the soprano and the alto sing different melodies that weave together a beautiful harmony of voice.
Different, yet the same.
It can be a struggle to see that truth in times such as these. When Europe seems to again be at the brink of war. When children starve while those with plenty to eat thoughtlessly toss out nearly half of what they purchase. When African Americans and other minorities continue to suffer from systemic racism, while those who control the system deny its very existence. When we fight over wearing masks during a pandemic that has already killed millions of human beings.
How do we learn to harmonize? Can we?
I wish I knew the answer. I do know that I’m brought to tears by people — from the US, Italy, Japan, The Congo, Bahrain, Spain, Argentina, Nepal, and Jamaica – all joining their beautifully accented voices and their diverse native instruments in a joyous worldwide jam — of a 50-year-old Canadian/American pop song about sharing one another’s burdens.
In that one Zen-like moment, something in my brain expands to include all of this – the people, the places, the cultures – that make up the beautiful diversity of human experience. And we all have this superpower – it’s been hardwired into us by millions of years of shared evolution. Or by our Creator, if you prefer.
I suppose the real question, then, is how do we get more humans to experience this connectedness, this precious glimpse of enlightenment to our shared Humanity?
Once again, I have to sheepishly admit that I just don’t know. But here’s a start. Try it yourself and see if it impacts you as it did me. Then share it far and wide.
“The Weight” was written by legendary Canadian musician, songwriter, film composer, producer, actor, and author Robbie Robertson. He was a member of the American band The Band in the 1970s, which recorded “The Weight” – along with other popular songs including “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” both of which were also penned by Robertson.
In the Playing For Change video, Robertson is joined by famed Beatles drummer Ringo Starr and other musicians from around the world in a new rendition of “The Weight.”
Take a load off, watch, and listen. Can you catch a glimpse of the harmony of humanity?