Culture and Education

Uncover How ‘King Clavé’ Shows Our Deep Musical Connection in Performances

Based on the core belief that “humanity is deeply interconnected” and “we are one”, the new performance piece, “King Clavé” is adding some musical inspiration to this year’s 20th anniversary of the historic Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) against racism around the globe.  

“Rhythm is at the center of humanity. One who knows rhythm knows the world”, said American percussionist Mickey Hart, best known as one of the two drummers of the Grateful Dead. 

He is at the center of the special performance and video feature, along with legendary percussionists Sikiru Adepoju, Zakir Hussain, Giovanni Hidalgo, and a posthumous appearance by the West African drummer Babatunde Olatunji.  

Born from a collaboration between Playing For Change and Planet Drum, “King Clavé” is supported by the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA, to mark the Durban Declaration commemorations, the 1996 document inked in South Africa, that is considered a milestone in the global fight against racism.  


The musical production was part of the special opening to the UN General Assembly high-level meeting, which took place on 22 September to commemorate the 20th anniversary, on the theme, Reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African descent.  

Set to one of the most referenced and universally used rhythms known as the ‘clavé’, “King Clavé”, invokes a skeletal rhythmic figure, around which various drums and percussion are played in most African, Caribbean, South American and New Orleans music, from the southern US.  

According to its creators, through the rhythm, “hearts are connected, and differences disappear, illuminating how deeply humanity is interconnected and revealing that we are one”.  

Arts for social justice  

The new piece follows on from the unprecedented success of Peace Through Music: A Global Event for Social Justice in 2020, a collaboration between Playing For Change and UNFPA, who decided to continue on their journey, to unite the world through the power of music.  

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Peace Through Music was set as a virtual event and concert to inspire people to act for peace and justice, everywhere for everyone. The global event called for equality, human rights, and an end to discrimination, and reached 4 million views within 48 hours of its exclusive Facebook premiere, connecting and inspiring millions of people in 193 countries. 

The history behind the creators 

Mickey Hart was one of the more than 200 musicians that made Peace Through Music 2020 possible, who created Planet Drum with tabla virtuoso, Zakir Hussain.  

Planet Drum members have a long history with the UN and activism—the late Babatunde Olatunji’s drums were displayed during the “Breaking the Silence, Beating the Drum” exhibit in 2009, as part of the commemoration for the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and he had previously performed at the UN General Assembly, and Zakir Hussain performed at the UN for the first International Jazz Day in 2012. 


Nigerian percussionist Sikiru Adepoju performing “King Clavé”, a collaboration between Playing For Change and Planet Drum.

Planet Drum was founded in 1990 with the intention of illustrating how the power of rhythm can connect people from all different cultures and geographical backgrounds. 

Musicians then joined Mickey Hart in his studio for a one-week session of improvised rhythmic composition, and took turns creating specific grooves, then passing the rhythm around, with each track representing a different strand of traditional music – finally blending it together.  

Playing for Change has been recording and filming musicians and uniting them through “Songs Around the World” for the past 20 years. 

The Foundation established 15 music schools celebrating art and culture in under-served communities around the world.  

According to Mark Johnson, Playing For Change Co-Founder, “King Clavé is a celebration of rhythm around the world, and with music, we reconnect heart beats through shared humanity.”  

Later this year, a long version of the project will be shared. Stay tuned.


Durban+20: The fight for racial equality, past and future



  1. “I strongly believe that music has the power to unite us and remind us of our shared humanity. This new performance piece, ‘King Clavé’, beautifully showcases the deep connection we all share through rhythm and melody. It’s inspiring to see musicians from different backgrounds coming together to spread a message of unity and love.”

  2. “This performance is a beautiful testament to the universal language of music. It’s inspiring to see artists from diverse backgrounds come together to share a message of unity and connection through rhythm.”

  3. “Music is a universal language that connects us all. ‘King Clavé’ is a beautiful representation of our shared humanity through rhythm and melody. It’s heartwarming to see legendary musicians coming together for such an important cause against racism.”

  4. “King Clavé” is truly a remarkable performance that beautifully showcases the deep musical connection that unites us all around the world. The collaboration between these talented percussionists is a testament to the power of rhythm in bringing people together. I believe that initiatives like this not only entertain but also educate and inspire positive change. Kudos to the organizers and performers for spreading such a powerful message through music!

  5. How does “King Clavé” specifically highlight the interconnectedness and unity of humanity through music in the context of the Durban Declaration against racism?

    1. Hey EmilySmith93, “King Clavé” beautifully showcases the interconnectedness and unity of humanity through its powerful rhythm and collaboration of renowned percussionists. The performance serves as a harmonious celebration of diversity and solidarity, echoing the spirit of the Durban Declaration against racism. Each beat and melody in the piece resonates with the shared heartbeat of humanity, conveying a message of togetherness and mutual understanding. It’s truly a musical testimony to our collective bond as a global community.

  6. As an avid music enthusiast, I believe that “King Clavé” is a beautiful representation of how music can unite us all regardless of our backgrounds. The collaboration of legendary percussionists in this performance truly highlights the power of rhythm in connecting humanity. I am excited to see the impact this musical piece will have in commemorating important events like the Durban Declaration.

  7. How does the performance of “King Clavé” aim to showcase our interconnectedness through music in the context of the Durban Declaration against racism?

    1. The performance of “King Clavé” serves as a powerful representation of our interconnectedness through music within the context of the Durban Declaration against racism. By bringing together renowned percussionists from diverse backgrounds and uniting them in a harmonious musical collaboration, the performance embodies the core belief that humanity is deeply interconnected. Through the universal language of music, “King Clavé” conveys a message of unity, solidarity, and shared humanity, resonating with the spirit of the historic DDPA and its mission to combat racism worldwide.

  8. As a music enthusiast, I believe that “King Clavé” is a powerful tribute to our shared human experience through rhythm and harmony. The lineup of legendary percussionists symbolizes unity and diversity in music, reflecting the interconnectedness of humanity beautifully.

  9. As a music enthusiast, I find the concept of “King Clavé” truly fascinating. It’s amazing how music can bring people together and convey powerful messages of unity and interconnectedness. I believe this performance will serve as a beautiful tribute to the Durban Declaration’s fight against racism, using rhythm as a universal language to connect hearts worldwide.

  10. “I am truly moved by the powerful message conveyed through ‘King Clavé’. It’s incredible how music can bring people together and amplify our shared humanity. This performance is a testament to the universal language of rhythm and unity.”

  11. How does the “King Clavé” performance showcase the theme of interconnectedness in the fight against racism?

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