Playing For Change is a movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music. In 2005, co-founders Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke created the concept of the Songs Around The World by uniting together musicians from many different countries and cultures to perform on the same track. One of the organization's most viral videos is the song "Stand by Me," which has more than 100 million views.
Clarence Bekker (Amsterdam, Netherlands) - vocals, acoustic guitar
Clarence comes from Suriname, and moved to Amsterdam at the age of 6. He started his singing career with legendary Dutch band, Swing Soul Machine, where he was the youngest singer in 20 years. He grew into a dance music artist called CB Milton where he made three albums in the 1990s. Currently, Clarence is living in Barcelona, Spain, collaborating with bands like 08001 and local DJs like Taito Tikaro.
Grandpa Elliott (New Orleans, Louisiana) - vocals, harmonica
Grandpa has been a New Orleans street icon for decades. His music and comforting presence have touched countless hearts throughout the years. When you think of the French Quarter you think of Grandpa. Many locals and frequent visitors to the Quarter consider Grandpa the saving grace and passionate force behind the revitalization of the city since Hurricane Katrina. His voice reminds us all that music can help the soul persevere through many hardships.
Jason Tamba (Matadi, Congo) - vocals, guitar
Born in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jason has been playing guitar since age seven, when he made his own instrument out of wood and four strings. Teaching himself guitar for a decade, he began to study classical guitar at age 20, finally earning a degree in classical guitar. After playing at churches, local venues, and in Papa Wemba's traditional group Percussion Molokai, Jason decided to travel to South Africa and expose himself to more opportunities. It was there that he became a guitarist for the group Afro Fiesta. The group's first self-titled album, released in 2005, is full of songs that are a fusion of various styles, including Afro-jazz, Kwasa-Kwasa, Makosa, and hints of Latin music. Widely considered innovators in the entertainment industry, Afro Fiesta has performed at numerous music festivals including Jazz on the Rocks, Joy of Jazz, OBZ Festival, Light Festival, and Africa Day Celebrations.
Mermans Mosengo (Kinshasa, Congo) - vocals
Upon his arrival to South Africa from Congo in 1998, Mermans joined the Young Bakuba Band as a drummer and bass guitar player. After a year in the band he found that his independence and musical style were being limited and so he branched out on his own as a solo artist in 1999. He was soon in high demand doing solo gigs at various Cape Town venues. However, he decided that he preferred a band set-up and assembled what is now a highly regarded multi-cultural band, Afro Fiesta.
Keiko Komaki (Japan) - keyboards
Keiko Komaki personifies music. An accomplished pianist and B-3 player, Keiko Komaki hails from Kagoshima, Japan, and began playing the piano at just 5 years old. After graduation from Kunitachi College of Music, she quickly became more interested in the improvisation world, playing funk, blues, and jazz fusion rather than her classical roots. However, it was a few years later where she learned of New Orleans music. She later visited New Orleans for Jazz Fest and decided to take the bold step in 2006 to move to the city and make it as a musician, despite opposition from her family. Keiko has reached her goal of musical success in the city. Shortly after moving to New Orleans, she was hired by the Late Marva Wright and the Wild Magnolias as their keyboard player and started to perform at local clubs and tour with them until Marva passed away. She can regularly be heard in New Orleans as a keyboard player for Brass-a-Holics, Vasti Jackson, Benny Turner & Real Blues, Gary Brown Band, and Connie G & the Creole Soul. She has also played with many of the Crescent City's most beloved musicians, including George Porter Jr, Johnny Vidacovich, Zigaboo Modeliste, Russell Batiste, and many others.
Peter Bunetta (Los Angeles, California) - drums
Peter Bunetta is a drummer, producer, and entrepreneur with three decades of success in the music business. He brings an impeccable reputation and a rich musical legacy to the Playing For Change organization. With a hand in more than 75 million records sold, Peter has collaborated with some of music's most talented and storied figures, including John Prine, Steve Goodman, Smokey Robinson, Patti LaBelle, The Temptations, Ringo Star, and Tina Turner. For the past five years Peter has guided the career of his son, producer/songwriter Julian Bunetta and developed the award-winning musical City Kid alongside multiplatinum songwriter Adrianne Anderson and Rick Chudacoff. In his current post atop Family Affair Productions, which he operates with his sons Julian and Damon, Peter aims to create a "commercially and artistically supportive environment where business, passion and talent can unite on their own terms." In addition to anchoring the Playing For Change touring band behind the drum set, Peter remains a vital creative consultant to PFC media and an active conduit to industry resources.
Titi Tsira (Guguletu, South Africa) - vocals
Titi is a young woman who hails from Gugulethu, a black African township in the Western Cape. Raised by a mother who was an actor, and a father who was a singer, Titi began singing at a very early age. Since then, she has enjoyed a successful career both as a solo musician, and as a member of various bands-most recently, the Playing For Change Band. Her music is a mix of soul and pop fused with African influences, and she is excited to add her unique and powerful voice to the Playing For Change Movement.
Reggie McBride (Detroit, USA) - Bass
Reggie McBride is widely known for his bass playing on albums and live performances since 1969. His credits include Stevie Wonder, Parliament Funkedelic, Rare Earth, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Keb' Mo', Ry Cooder, B.B. King, Van Morrison, Boz Scaggs, Rick Springfield, Herbie Hancock, John Lee Hooker, and many others. Reggie continues to ignite the airwaves with his style and technique of bass playing. Recently, Reggie has established himself as a fixture in the Playing for Change Band, to the delight of audiences across the United States.
Tal Ben-Ari aka Tula (Tel Aviv, Israel) - Vocals
Tal Ben Ari (a.k.a. "Tula") is a singer and songwriter from Tel Aviv, Israel, based in Barcelona. She began her singing, piano, and dance studies at the age of 7 and spent all of her free time during her childhood full of these activities , showing a special passion for music. In the process of her studies with her teachers, she explored different areas of music, like jazz, soul, and Mediterranean folk, also singing in her hometown choir. Since arriving in Barcelona in 2005, Tula began working with different groups, emphasizing the formation of 08001, and together with eminent soloists, vocalists from the music scene, such as Peret and La Lucrezia, among others. She joined as lead singer on 4 groups of the current music scene in Barcelona. The famous Cuban vocal quartet "Gema 4", the group "Asikides" of Mediterranean traditional origin and the group "Los Moussakis" of Balkan influences. She is also collaborating on the new Electro Acapella project Man Ex Maqina created by Max Moya, from the famous Spanish band Ojos de Brujo together with Kumar, Mel Seme, Mu and Ayesha Mendham. Since 2006, Tal has been participating in the famous worldwide project, "Playing for Change," with whom she recorded several songs and videos and has toured in the United States, England, Brazil, and Australia, attributing her voice to the fight for peace and unity through music .
Vasti Jackson - (Mississippi, USA) - Electric Slide and Steel Guitar
Vasti Jackson is a soulful world-renowned guitarist and vocalist whose presence captures an audience the moment he takes the stage. Vasti (pronounced Vast-Eye) Jackson is a consummate performer, songwriter, arranger, and producer. From his early beginnings playing in churches and juke joints in McComb, Mississippi, to festivals, concerts, and theaters around the world, Vasti moves effortlessly from blues to soul to jazz to funk to gospel to pop, and beyond. As an artist, Vasti is known for sweat-drenched, soul-ripping performances marked by some of the most stunning and innovative guitar playing in blues today. Vasti's talent has been enlarged by an amazing array of musical experiences over 35 years of his vibrant career. Jackson's recordings "No Borders to the Blues," "Live In Nashville," and "Mississippi Burner" present an audio buffet of Vasti´s limitless energy and boundless imagination. It spotlights his talents as singer and composer, and his utterly thrilling guitar mastery. Rooted in the music of Mississippi, and Louisiana, Vasti Jackson recorded on B.B. King's Grammy Award-winning Blues Summit in 1994. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Vasti was session guitarist for Malaco Records (Mississippi) and Alligator Records (Chicago). Musical director and guitarist ZZ Hill, Johnnie Taylor, Denise LaSalle, Little Milton, Bobby Bland, and Swamp queen Katie Webster. He also worked with gospel greats, including the Williams Brothers, The Jackson Southernaires, and Daryl Coley. A 2012 Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame inductee, he is a force to be reckoned with in the world of the music! Vasti's fiery guitar work and stellar vocals leave a lasting impression on all that are lucky enough to experience his music.