Playing for Change

The other street musicians on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California, often call Roger Ridley “the voice of God.” Ridley is one of the world’s many musicians who come to the Promenade and locations like it around the world where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic (people walking). They stake their claim to a space (say the space belongs to them for a time) and play for donations (money gifts from listeners).

Every Saturday Ridley travels from his home in Las Vegas, Nevada – almost 300 miles – to perform at the Promenade and returns home when he finishes. One Saturday, while walking down the Promenade, Mark Johnson heard Roger singing Stand by Me in the distance and ran to where he could hear better. He was moved (had strong feelings) by Roger’s music and decided it needed to be shared with the world. At that moment Playing for Change was born.

Mark Johnson is an award-winning audio producer/engineer (someone who plans and makes music recordings) and film director. He has worked with some of the best musicians and producers in music, film, and television. As the co-founder (person who begins something with someone else) of Playing for Change, Mark has created a technique (method) for recording musicians all around the world in their natural environment (where they live), usually outside, and combining (putting together) the recordings to create Songs Around the World.

Playing for Change, the organization Mark founded, is a “multimedia (sound, video, etc.) movement (group of people with the same ideas) created to inspire (encourage), connect, and bring peace to the world through music.” He believes that music can “break down boundaries (things that keep people apart) and overcome distances between people.” It has the “power to transcend (go beyond usual limits) and unite us as one human race” in spite of geographic, political, economic, religious, or ideological (philosophical) backgrounds.

In 2007, Mark and his supporters created the Playing for Change Foundation to help the musicians and communities that had shared their music with the rest of the world. Through the support of the foundation, the musicians are “brought together to perform benefit concerts (concerts to make money to help someone) that help build music and art schools in communities” that need help. Thousands of people have been touched (feel happy and thankful) by these concerts and other Playing for Change activities. By them the world is being connected (brought together) through music!

You can experience Playing for Change in several ways. First, you can explore the Playing for Change web site. You can listen to all the music and learn all about the musicians who have helped create it.

The latest Song Around the World is Gimme Shelter (give me protection). It “expresses the urgency (immediate importance) we all face to unite together as a planet with the words ‘War, children, it’s just a shot away… Love, sister, it’s just a kiss away.’”


Gimme Shelter | Playing For Change from Playing For Change on Vimeo.


I’d strongly encourage you to take time to listen to some of the original recordings, especially these:

Like me, I’m sure you’ll be moved by the music.

~ Warren Ediger, creator of Successful English, where you can find Something to read during June in addition to clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Playing for Change logo courtesy of the Wikipedia Commons.


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30 Responses to Playing for Change

  1. Tania says:

    Hi! Many, many artists(singers, movie stars, painters) were discovered on the street. The real talent (born and not made) is the most important in art.
    I know nothing about Playing For Change. Very nice songs.
    Thank you.

    Best wishes,


  2. Tania says:

    Hi! We know “Amazing Grace” from the English Cafe 174. Now, we have found many beautiful versions.
    Or the most beautiful version is that from the English Cafe 174?

  3. Peter says:

    Are there a bunch of buskers or something?
    There are a lot them here in Totonto
    But ,nobody even pays attention

  4. Peter says:

    I just watched the video clip
    Now,I got what you mean by buskers around the world make a production
    Love it ,beautifully done
    Thanks for the post
    There is a crack on everything that is how life gets in;I found a cleft on Eslpod that how the Eslpod’s heart warming wave gets in.
    From Peter to Base camp:
    Warren outdid himself again :))))
    All hats off to you Warren
    Sorry for the berating ,I take it back

  5. Daniel says:

    Thanks Warren, awesome music as always.
    Nice try, but I think that what they want to get is almost impossible.
    And to tell you the truth this Idea of a world whitout boundaries, everyone in love with each others, it’s sickening.
    We need some sort of competition. Look at what the USA did with Nasa with the space race against Russia during the 60s and 70s.
    We’ll probably get unite as uman race the day we discover life on onother planet. Maybe..

  6. Peter says:

    You know what,
    I don’t have a lot of fait on text books, word books , and whatnot
    But ,
    The expressions this center is pushing is somehow gets to me fine 🙂
    Thanks Warren
    I regreted my rash Judgment
    Sorry pall
    No hard feelings ,I hope
    You are a magic with tricks sometimes hard to grasp for a nimrod like myself:)

  7. Betty says:

    Thank you so much, Warren, for all the valuable information in this article.

    I am so happy to have learnt so much in just one lesson like this. From now on when I see this yellow logo I will know it belongs to ‘Playing for Change’ and I will know it is for good causes.

    Mark Johnson’s belief – ‘music can “break down boundaries (things that keep people apart) and overcome distances between people.” It has the “power to transcend (go beyond usual limits) and unite us as one human race” in spite of geographic, political, economic, religious, or ideological (philosophical) backgrounds’ – was exactly what I told my daughters when they were little.

    I truly believe that music is better than anything in this world to link up people of the whole world. I deeply believe all my children must learn the piano plus at least one instrument that they can carry around so that they can play the music at any time to anyone; like, to patients in hospital, to little children who gather around in the classroom and sing some children’s rhymes.

    Now both my two daughters enjoy the guitar so much that we bought two big guitars and one small guitar within one year of them started playing the guitar.

    I listened to some of the music that you recommended, they are so beautiful, they make you cry.

    Thank you once again, Warren, you light up my life.

  8. sara says:

    Dear Warren thanks for it. Really I moved by it. Sorry that the only way that I can thank you is writing it.

  9. emiliano says:

    A Very Big Thank You Warren.
    Free minds, people and so incredible songs.
    Yes, I do think music joins people all over the world.

    “Stand by me” is one of my special song for ever and those multitude of
    good incredible musicians touch my heart.

    All the best for you dear Warren.


  10. Peter says:

    What mounmentally wrong about the whole thing is they do all this for free I guess
    They must be paid based on their level of contribution
    Let me come at from a different angle
    My question is:
    It must be costly to gather all these together who covers the pertinent cost
    And how come they contribute willingly for free
    You are not clear on the financial part of it
    How does it go down Warren
    It is a puzzler bro

  11. Peter says:

    You are far more intellectual and wiz with words that I gave you credit for
    I always enjoy your lines pal

  12. Peter says:

    No mean to pry warren
    But ,seems like you are into music
    Do you play any musical instrument?

  13. Betty says:

    I am sorry to be off-topic (a contribution which is not within the bounds of the current discussion), but I want to talk about a message from JNAGY (on June 10th, 2011 at 4:47 am) on Lucy’s topic ‘Rearrange the Letters and This is What You Get’ on Thursday, September 17th, 2009 – more than 18 months old, amazing!

    I would like to thank you, JNAGY, for posting a message on the topic. I have been writing on this blog only since end of last year. So I did not know about this interesting topic about anagram until now.

    However, I wonder what does ‘random unity’ mean.


    I am sorry to be off-topic again, but I would like to say something about Emiliano’s message on June 6th, 2011 at 1:49 pm in which he says:

    ‘I would like to see more people here, more short comments of friends
    that use to read the post and they don´t dare to write just because
    we use to write too much and too frequently, so for them is like climbing
    a high mountain as we put the level extremely high for them.
    (I know this because I have some friends here in Madrid that they have
    said it to me).

    Also there is something that to me is clear or are my feelings. I think that every
    one of us could do our best to have a good time but also improve our
    English doing a nice good job, somehow just to transmit a right way of using the language
    writing nice and clearly, but also with less strength and less frequently giving
    the option to other of trying also to put their short comments and seeing
    their names in the Blog list…only five are shown usually’.

    I must say I feel the same, but I am not here for very long so I should not say too much.

    I think everyone of us here, listeners and readers, are very busy but dedicated people who want to improve English as their second language.

    English once was a totally ‘foreign’ language to us, it has now become part of our lives thanks to our teachers here.

    The most important point I want to put forward is, if Emiliano does not tell us his feeling, we would not know about it, and we would not understand that we should use simpler words in order to let everyone join in and enjoy this blog.

    I will try to remember what Emiliano says and I will try to give explanations in brackets if I cannot find a simpler word – I am not good at giving explanations, it will be just copy and paste from the dictionary.

    Finally, I would like to say that the reason why I try to write on every topic is because I feel I should thank my teachers who put in so much effort to upload the messages for us to learn something. I also would like to use it as an opportunity to improve my Written English further.

    If we only read and not write, we will suffer from a ‘Eye high hand low symptom’ (direct translation from a Chinese saying which describe those people who can read very well but cannot write as well).

  14. emiliano says:

    I only could say Thank You Betty, you have got my feelings perfectly well.
    Just from the beginning, since three or four years, I have been here every one of the post
    doing my nice incredible work of writing and I am not going to give up.
    Just only posting less notes and shorter, to give other the right opportunity.
    I do think the same as the Chinese saying so absolutely right to me.
    It is necessary to give more chances to new friends that may have lot of things
    to tell us.

    To me is very important to be understand for the readers, if I write only to me
    that has not any sense or meaning so my way of writing needs to be clear and
    with good grammar if it is possible.
    When I have doubts, lot of them, I see on the English dictionary which is the right
    word or expression to be understood, because it is me who have to do the work
    not my readers.
    I learn, very much in fact, but the other friends readers learn too if I do a good task.
    Thank you Betty, I am really grateful and consoled by you words.
    You can´t imagine how much.

  15. Betty says:

    I hope all our friends here enjoyed the music by ‘Playing for Change’, although with tears running down your face (you can’t stop the tears, it is just natural, and it is alright to cry).

    Suddenly, one of the famous stars’ name came to my mind; that was Anita Mui Yim-fong.

    Since I am not very good at writing biography, and I find that the wikipedia’s English page has a very good description of her, just everything I wanted to say in it, I would like to quote from it:

    ‘Anita Mui Yim-fong (10 October 1963 – 30 December 2003) was a popular Hong Kong singer and actress. During her prime years she made major contributions to the cantopop music scene, while receiving numerous awards and honours. She remained an idol throughout most of her career, and was generally regarded as a cantopop diva. Mui once held a sell-out concert at Hammersmith, London, England, where she was dubbed the “Madonna of Asia”. That title has stayed with her throughout her career, and has been used as a comparison for both Eastern and Western media’.

    It also says:

    ‘In the 1980s the gangtai style of music was revolutionised by her wild dancing and femininity on stage. She was famous for having outrageous costumes and also high powered performances. Her fanbase reached far beyond Hong Kong, and into many parts of Asia including Taiwan, Mainland China, Singapore, Malaysia as well as the overseas market. In the Hong Kong entertainment industry where stars often come and go, Mui was able to remain a major star in the spotlight for 20 years. Her career only came to a stop in 2003 when she was suddenly diagnosed with cervical cancer, dying at the early age of 40. Even so, her music and film legacy continues to live on. Her success reached well beyond that of the entertainment circle with humanitarian work, donations and charities that played a major role in helping society even well into the present day’.

    Here comes something I want to say most:

    ‘Early years

    Anita Mui experienced much hardship and difficulty in her childhood. She was the youngest daughter in a family of five children. Her older sister, Ann Mui, was also a singer. Their father died when Anita was only five years old, thus the children were raised in a single parent family. At an early age she had to help provide for her siblings, dropping out of school to do so. More hardship followed the family, as the bar her mother ran, was destroyed by fire. To make a living, Anita herself first entered show business at the age of five. She performed Chinese operas and pop songs in theatres and the streets. Both Anita and her older sister Ann Mui basically performed in any night club that offered them a chance to make a living’.


    I should have been brief, but every word I quoted above was so important that I included them all.

    Like Roger Ridley, Anita Mui sang in the street (and night clubs and theatres) to make a living, but she was only five years old at that time…………….

  16. Ziba says:

    Thank you Warren for giving interesting information.
    But I couldn’t hear the music. I wish I could. Most sites are blocked here in my country Iran, so we are deprived of your beautiful music and the sites (addresses) you introduced. However I try to read your blog and I enjoy reading them.

    About the text: in my country some people do the same as Ridley. They sing songs and play beautiful music on the crowded streets and wherever possible. People give them money. Actually they make money by playing music and singing song on the streets. There isn’t any organization or benefit concert for these kind of singers here.

    On the other hand our some popular singers sing with other foreign singers. These kinds of songs with two different languages are very interesting; furthermore they can somehow break down boundaries and overcome distance between people too.

    Thanks again
    Ziba (Iran)

  17. Nele says:

    Thank you Warren for this wonderful link.
    This project is a great idea, fantastic singers and musicians.
    @Betty and emiliano
    By your writing I can see, how much one can learn in this way. It gives me hope. My english is not so well as yours, but I learn and you are good models for me. And your posts are very interesting, differnt views and in an understandable english.
    Thank you!

  18. emiliano says:

    Welcome Nele, and thank you.
    This is just what I like to see, new friends here to interchange ideas and experiences
    also to talk about the posts our dear teachers write every week.

    My hopes of seeing you as much as possible.

  19. Betty says:

    Hi Nele, thank you so much for taking time to read mine and Emiliano’s messages.

    I can’t help but have to reveal one of the little secrets of my past work experiences.

    Back in 1982, that was 29 years ago, I spent one year working as a teacher for my ‘work experience’ for my First Degree course. I had no choice as to what level I taught and what I taught.

    When they offered me the job, I found out that I had to teach English Language to Hong Kong students in the final year of their secondary school. They were about 18 years old, and some of them had better English command (one of the meanings of command: noun; ability to control or use; mastery) than me.

    I felt very guilty that my English was not good enough, but I had no choice, as I said.

    I did improve my own English during the one year of teaching, I had many students who really liked me (Chinese do not use the word ‘love’ that much but I could feel the ‘love’ when they suddenly gave me some little gifts which I did not expect).

    ‘Improving my English’ has been one of my aims from the first day I started teaching English. This aim will be good for the rest of my life.

    I was thinking yesterday; there is a Chinese saying: ‘you cannot push the cow’s head down to drink water if it does not want to’. So, even if Emiliano and I (and of course all our teachers here) hope to see more English learners (or English experts) participating (meaning of participate: verb; join in) to write on this blog, we have to wait patiently for everyone to write.

    Emiliano has said everything I wanted to say in his message to you.

    Yes, you are very welcome, Nele, I am very happy to read your message. I am very proud to have the chance to learn and improve my English together with you.

    Best Regards

  20. Øyvor says:

    Hi friends..and thanks for the beatiful video Warren!

    I would like to add a comment regarding Betty`s post(thanks Betty)!
    I often wonder if I should write something, but my English is kind of
    bad yet, that`s why I`m here, isn`t it, and I would like to be able to
    write a post, even with all my mistakes, what do you think about that?
    However, when I read all your exellent posts and notice the writing skills
    I I dare to add a post..

    Best regards!

  21. emiliano says:

    Oyvor, sure you dare and day after day it would be better and easier.
    It takes a lot of time, but you submerge your mind in other language and that is the
    best to learn it.

    If you have the opportunity of reading my first post here, four years ago or more, you may fall on your buttocks
    seeing so great change from then to now. Yes, I have improved a lot and I could see it.
    The change has been imperceptible little by little, writing in all the posts, ut the results to me are excellent.
    I think that writing here is one of the best ways to improve our English adding the listening of our dears
    Jeff and Lucy, and reading their guides and posts.
    We always said Thank You Jeff, Lucy and Warren, this is one of your greatest ideas but it is necessary to participate
    in it.
    Think we are here to learn, to have a good time and to share some of our time transmitting our thoughts and opinions
    to other friends.

    Thank you Oyvor, thank you indeed, and go ahead without any fear, you have post a good note as the ones you have posted


  22. Betty says:

    Hi, Øyvor, thank you so much for writing in response to my post.

    The reason why my message is a bit ‘tidy’ is, I imagine every message is for the examiner of my English written assessment paper. I try to tidy it up so to impress the examiner in order to get higher marks in the exam.

    I want to pass my English written paper next year and I must keep working hard on writing good essays.

    Everyone who writes here can write in whatever style he/she likes, and tell us anything he/she likes.

    I think every word in Emiliano’s message to you is very true and valuable.

    Don’t worry about how your English is, just keep writing and you will improve.

    Don’t forget we are not paid to write here, Jeff our host provides us a platform (one of the meanings of platform: noun; A place, means, or opportunity for public expression of opinion) to practice and make progress to our English. When your English is very good, you may get paid to write in the newspapers etc and will not have time to write here already.

    Yes, please, Øyvor, please write more here, I think your written English is very good, almost perfect (only two typos in the message but we understand).

    Please don’t worry about making mistakes. We only learn how to walk by not fearing of falling and being laughed at by other people. Besides, believe me, everyone who takes time to listen to Jeff & Lucy here are decent (one of the meanings of decent: adjective; Good) people who appreciate (one of the meanings of appreciate: transitive verb; be thankful or show gratitude for) your efforts in writing something for them to read.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with us,

    Look forward to reading more of your messages,

    Best Regards


  23. Nele says:

    Hi Betty and emiliano,
    thank you for your friendly welcome!

    I hear ESL Podcast more or less one year. One year ago it was (nearly) impossible for me to write or to talk anythink.
    I have had not enough vocabulary. Not enough avtive vocabulary.

    As you say emiliano: “writing here is one of the best ways to improve our English adding the listening of our dears
    Jeff and Lucy, and reading their guides and posts”.

    Like the past year, I will try in future to do a little step on this way, every day … patiently.

    Best Regards

  24. Betty says:

    Hi Nele, I am very pleased to hear about your big improvement in just one year. Your English is actually very good (we don’t use the word ‘well’ to explain how good our English is).

    One year seems to be a very short time, but people can improve their command of English (I made a mistake in my previous message by saying better ‘English command’, it should be better ‘command of English’) dramatically in just one year.

    I am very happy to read more of your messages, very excited to learn together.

    Best Regards

  25. emiliano says:

    Hi Nele,
    After studying English for so long time the big push have been Jeff and Lucy Pod cast and this Blog.
    Spoken English it was not difficult for me as I was working in a place where there was lot of opportunities to speak with people
    coming all round the world.
    Yes, it was in a Bank situated in the center of Madrid (The Gran Via) and thousand of tourist came along the year.
    They wanted every-kind of things, change money, travel checks, money orders, information, and so forth.
    But right English vocabulary and how the words were written?. That was another thing.
    Incredible, in the Bank I was the only person who may speak with the visitors so emiliano was speaking with Japanese, Chinese, Iranians,
    British, Irish, North Americans, Germans, ……. and was really a funny nice work.
    After that I have not ever shame to speak English in a bad or a good way, that was not my problem any more……but improve it?
    Nearly impossible, always at the same level, till now with Jeff and Lucy teaching.
    In fact I don´t need English being a retired man but I like it very much and enjoy the language now even more than before when
    I have to use it.
    See you soon.

  26. Betty says:

    It is very funny reading Emiliano’s message above. We only need to be brave to be able to speak English, don’t we?

    By the way, I suddenly realize that I made another mistake in saying to Nele that we don’t use the word ‘well’ to explain how good our English is.

    In fact, I only got half of it right.

    We say ‘my English is not good’, we don’t say ‘my English is unwell’.

    We say ‘my English is good’, we don’t say ‘my English is well’.

    We say ‘I can read well’, we don’t say ‘I can read good’.

    And so on.

    The above is a bit like some ‘Grammar Chant’ I discovered recently.

    If you are interested in discovering some fun way of learning grammar, google ‘grammar chant’ and you may love what you find.

  27. Nele says:

    this different ways to start with English are very interesting.
    I could not work as an English teacher like you Betty. Surely not.
    My way is contrary like yours emiliano.

    I have learned English in school. School ended nearly 30 years ago.
    In study and in job I have to read some things in English. I get through. But it was always a problem, I understood only a part and it was very time consuming.
    I never needed English to talk or to listen.
    My levels in reading, listening and speaking were very different. I suspect there are three different areas in the brain. And writing is the fourth.
    So I don´t started at a zero level last year. I could listen to Jeff´s and Lucy´s Podcast.
    There is a passive vocabulary in my brain … it will be activated by listening.

    On my way to work I started with silent monologues … that is a great thing … first there were only very simple sentences: the sky is blue … I drive through a forest …
    And now, I think it is time for my next step: writing. Usage of the language.

    My aim it is to look over the frontiers of my country. It is so worthwhile to hear what people think in Spain, how people life in Hong Kong, what´s going on in Iran, Pakistan, Russia and so on. What are the problems, what are the pleasures? The podcasts of you, Lucy and Jeff, give me a wonderful view into living in the USA. Thank you.

    Best Regards

  28. Betty says:

    I totally agree with you, Nele.

    Reading all the messages written by our friends here gives us more than what we can learn from the text books of any one source.

    I find it very interesting to read your comment about how our brain works when it comes to learn a language.

    Just like what you said you never needed English to talk or to listen, many students in Hong Kong a few decades ago were the same. We could read and write English to an acceptable standard but listening and speaking were ignored.

    Since Hong Kong was a British Administered Region, we would not be able to do anything (I mean continue our education or find a reasonably good job) if we did not pass the local English test at the end of our secondary school.

    There were never enough good English teachers to help so many children to acquire good standard of English, so only a very small percentage of very lucky children became good at all four of language skills – writing, reading, listening and speaking.

    We are lucky to have time in our own hands, and to have the internet to help us help ourselves to improve our listening and speaking.

    I seriously need to increase my list of vocabulary which is not easy, but it is worthwhile.

    I never imagined myself would work so hard to learn a language at this age. But I now find English an easy language to learn (I mean much easier than 30 or 40 years ago).

  29. Øyvor says:

    Dear friends emiliano and Betty!

    Thanks so much for your nice comments!!! I`ll follow your advices and
    try to write more to improve my English=)


  30. emiliano says:

    Yes, Oyvor, in few months sure you may see your good improvement.
    Writing is one of the most difficult exercises even in our own language, so
    doing it in English it is really like climbing a high mountain but at the
    end you may find the reward.
    Never tired, every post a comment where sure you may see your own
    mistakes once it is posted, like all of us.
    While you are writing in English your mind is thinking in this language
    and it is just the best to remember and exploring new expressions and words.
    All my best wishes, emiliano

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