Let’s go to Brazil and sit back to enjoy the brilliance of Playing for Change musicians – in this case, featuring Carlos Santana.

The piece is “Oye cómo va”. It was written and recorded by Tito Puente and his orchestra in 1962. The name of the song is taken from its refrain: “Oye cómo va, mi ritmo…” (Listen how it goes, my rhythm). 

Santana rearranged this cha cha in 1971, in the process creating what has become known today as Latin Rock.

Playing for Change, that network of musicians from around the world, who collaborate to raise funds to establish music and dance schools in developing countries, get behind Carlos, and his daughter on drums, to create superb music.

I love every part of this. Not just the superb end product, but the idea someone had of showcasing musicians we would otherwise never know. I love the relaxed spirit that comes from musicians who have honed their skills to the extent that they feel the music – no playing notes on a page, no worrying about mastering their instrument! It’s ‘the flow’. It’s all about listening to and appreciating the whole, supporting the whole, not trying to dominate. Tune in to the subtle bass line from time to time if you can, just gently providing foundations for the overall performance. No trying to be a star! What a talent! I sense the camaraderie, even though only connected by headphones. They are loving it!

For me, this is a living musical image of living at peace… connected and contributing to something bigger. It’s such a long way from what happened elsewhere in Brazil on the weekend.

Playing for Change

I have made a new friend – Farooque – he runs a fish shop in Yarraville. Actually, it’s his extended family who seem to do all the work! But later I find out that Farooque’s job is to go to the fish market to buy the fish, bring them home, and fillet them. Then, when the shop is open, he stands in the far back corner, just keeping an eye on things – proud of his family and their achievements as immigrants to Australia.

Sandy and I are there for minimum fish and chips. Farooque, in the distance, catches my eye. I sense overtones of recognition and respect. I sidle up to the far corner. ‘Salaam Alaikum’, I venture; and almost immediately we are engaged in conversation about the news and the state of things. I find myself majoring on inequality (particularly the racism Muslim folk have had to endure) and abuse of power – like Ukraine and January the Sixth. He counters with a reality check – ‘didn’t Adam have two sons who fought each other? It has always been so.’

It’s a sobering thought for me in my privilege. There are many ideologies I deplore. But how to live positively among them. I guess its when you add an ‘-ism’ that we might take notice – when idealogies become institutionalised and somehow normalised.

What do you think?

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