Category Archives: Music & the Arts

Playing for Change Heals Winter Blahs!

playing for change logoIt happened once again. Sitting in my recliner looking out the window at a winter that just keeps on keeping on. I click on my Gmail icon and there it is, Playing for Change Project 112, Pata Pata. It opens up with Grandpa Elliot leading me into an up tempo rhythm straight from the tropical warmth of Africa. My foot gets to patting and my spirit begins to breathe fresh air. Just as I think it can’t get better guitarist Vasti Jackson bridges into oh so familiar musical comfort food, Wimba Way, and a huge smile comes to my face.

Just yesterday I was told by a middle age woman that kids today don’t like music. While I’m not going to argue with her obvious lack ignorance of young people I’ll simply say that I’m one ageing old man who still finds joy, comfort, and warmth in music. P for P is a gift that keeps coming down my Internet chimney. Thank you so much.

Cottonfields & Smiles of Warmth

It’s March 5, 2015 and I’m looking out my window at a fresh five-inch coat of snow. This winter has turned into one of the coldest and snowiest in several years. Like a gift from on the wings of a snow-white dove, however, came a link to a Playing for Change video that brought sunshine and warmth into our living room. Sit back and enjoy a collage of P for C’s musicians, all located in warm places, playing Cottonfields.

Got Me a Big Smile This Morning!

Tri-Dowel CBG (11)I’ve been learning the ins and outs of building cigar box guitars and other roots instruments for a couple of years now. Some of the earlier ones  made better wall decorations than they did music. But as time has passed I’ve gotten better and before Christmas I created a nice 3-string, fretless, instrument  made from a common cigar box and three 1/2″ dowels as the neck. Judy Beatty saw pictures of it on Facebook and purchased it as a gift for her son Lynn.

Lynn took a little time getting the hang of it and today sent me a video of him playing the Hank Williams classic, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Die” on my creation. I’m not much of a player and it is just overwhelming to see and hear something you created in the hands of a talented artist. Thanks so much Lynn!

And Let There Be Sitar

ravi shankar
Ravi Shankar

Ever since George Harrison hooked up with Ravi Shankar I’ve loved the sound of the Indian sitar. I have several Shankar CDs, one of Indian morning ragas, and one he made with the American classical musician, Philip Glass. In the early 60s the music shop in Downey, CA had a sitar and while I never touched it I did spend lots of time staring at it, marveling at its complexity.

In the YouTube era I’ve watched many videos of Shankar and other sitar players and I’m always stunned by how much beauty they can create with this assemblage of a few boards, wire strings, and a gourd or two. Just as magical is the lightning that lives in their fingers. To move so fast lightning has to be somehow a part of it.

Playing for Change seeks out musicians from around the world and makes them know through video recordings. On a recent Asian trip they taped a young Southern Indian man named Rajesh Vaidhya. Rajesh has mastered a type of sitar called a veena.

Continue reading And Let There Be Sitar

Reggae Got Soul

reggaeAlthough this isn’t a new release from Playing for Change I’m bettin’ most of you haven’t seen this video. The one musician you may recognize is Taj Mahal who’s become very involved with the PforC movement.

So, pour yourself a strong shot of rum and put the lime in the coconut and drink it all up while enjoying this video. Hell, maybe it will even make you think for a moment you’re not in the midst of winter.

Delbarjo’s Livin’ on Tulsa Time

delbarjo imageMy favorite French “sleazy” guitar slinger, Delbarjo, has a video I’ve not seen before, a cover of the country classic, Tulsa Time.

The one thing that caught my eye was in the beginning of the video there was a truck with a long extension on the gear shift lever. Reminded me of a 1960 Chevy I once owned with a Hurst shifter on the floor. Someone had given me a long wooden Busch draft beer handle that worked perfectly as a knob for my shifter. Gave no thought to possibly being impaled by it in a wreck. It was too cool for concern!

Kalimbas

For a couple of years now I’ve built a variety of traditional roots musical instruments, mostly cigar box guitars. In the past few weeks my attention has turned to a traditional African instrument called the kalimba, or thumb piano.

I’ve made several versions using anything I can find that will produce a vibration. Basically a kalimba is a box of some sort, a bridge to hold the keys or tines, and the tines, which product vibrations when plucked with the thumbs or fingers. I’ve used made pieces, found pieces, and adapted pieces to build these simple music makers.

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The builds with metal tines are tuned to a chromatic scale and specific melodies and rhythms can be plucked from them. The wooden tines each produce a different sound but are simply adjusted that each stick is a different length. They are played more as a percussion instrument. Some even call them thumb drums.

For an idea of what an accomplished player can do check out this video of famous American banjo player, Bela Fleck, doing a field recording with a kalimba player in Africa.

My various creations are available for sale and will be on display at Spark Creative Artspace in Greenfield, OH. In the near future I hope to have them available for purchase online.

Here’s another example of an 8-tine kalimba being played.

Just for the Joy

When in college I took a minor in ceramics and in today’s world I’ve become interested in homemade roots instruments. It’s these two interest that attracted me to the following video. It’s 10 minutes long, very interesting, and so joyful at the end. Grab your coffee cup and expose yourself to a bout of creativity and joy.

Bohemian Harp Guitar

Couple of Facebook folks were talking about an instrument called a harp guitar. I interjected that a cigar box guitar friend of mine had once made one out of an old washboard. One of the people expressed the desire to hear a harp guitar so I checked YouTube and came up with this. Bohemian Rhapsody to the nth degree. Enjoy!

And if that wasn’t enough wow, try this video.

Redemption Highway

Kris Toney owns one of the purest baritone voices I’ve ever heard. Years ago when he was a high school student I asked him if he sang. I redemption highwaycan’t recall his answer but today I was talking with him and was prompted to ask him again. He replied that he did and that he produced a CD of original music.

He offered me a review copy and I’ve been sitting here listening to Kris’s CD titled Redemption Highway. It consists of fifteen songs Kris wrote and performed with friends. He pointed out that the cut Troubled was most meaningful to him and I took the liberty of uploading it to this blog.

I haven’t listened to every title yet and will have to listen several times before getting the full meaning of each. So far, however, my favorite is Mama Told Me. I had no trouble relating to it because like us all I too had a mama and she never failed to tell me. I just too often failed to listen.

Congratulations to Kris and I wish the best for him. Another example of just how rich our community is in talent. Our’s is a deep well.

By the way, Kris’s Redemption Highway may be purchased and downloaded at: Redemption Highway. Price is $7.

Troubled by Kris Toney

A Diddley Bow for Christmas!

Bacca-Bow, all-cedar cigar box, $40
Bacca-Bow, all-cedar cigar box, $40

I’m making a series of one-string roots music diddley bow instruments for Christmas presents. The profits go to Spark Creative Artspace to help meet expenses. Each will be unique, one of a kind, creations and will come with a metal slide which is required for playing. Prices range between $25 to $40 depending on time and materials required. Add $15 for an electric pickup allowing the instrument to be play through a guitar amplifier. As far as possible each will be made with “found” repurposed materials.

Diddley bows are an offshoot of the original stringed instrument, the hunting bow. In American music history they are the instrument that B.B. King, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and countless others learned their first guitar licks on.

If you’d like me to reserve one for you just call me on Spark’s phone number, 937 763 ART1 (2781). If necessary leave a message with your name and phone number and I’ll get back to you.

If time permits I’ll also be building several 3-string fretless cigar box guitars. Price will be $99 with profits going to Spark.

Below are a few photos of what I’ve recently built.

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Slash

slashUntil this morning I didn’t have a clue on earth who Slash was. But, while channel surfing I came across a PBS documentary about this guy named slash who grew up in Los Angeles and became a guitar player.

Later I did some Googling online and learned he was the lead guitarist for Guns and Roses and other groups and considered one of the world’s best guitarists.

I then turned to YouTube and found a video of him doing a blues jam and playing the theme from The Godfather.

I now know who Slash is and I agree that he is one hell of an axe man.

PFC 101 & 102

Playing for Change BannerWe’re going to double our pleasure today with the release of two new projects from Playing for Change. Project 101 features the world’s children telling us to Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Project 102 features four of the PFC band members taking a roadside break while on tour in Australia.

The Paxton

Recently my wife and I, for the second time in recent months, spent an evening at The Paxton Theater, home of Ohio’s oldest country paxton stagemusic jamboree. For fifty years now the Paint Valley Jamboree in Bainbridge, Ohio has staged country music programs most Saturday nights of the year. Earlier this year the  Paxton changed hands and the new owners have poured their hearts and wallets into rejuvenating the building and upgrading the technical aspects of what modern music requires; better lights, better sound system, improved acoustics, and much improved aesthetics.

Continue reading The Paxton

Down by the Riverside

New Orleans’ Grandpa Elliott is one of my favorite musical legends. For several years now he has been touring the world as part of the Playing for Change band. P for C recently released an album of Grandpa’s music and made available this video of Down by the Riverside.

Down By the Riverside from Playing For Change on Vimeo.