Taken from The Aspen Times (Sep 02, 2007)
Musician is not alone in his fight against the war
Michael Franti plays at 5 p.m. Sunday in Snowmass
by Stewart Oksenhorn
Michael Franti, second from left, leads his band Spearhead to a performance
today in the Labor Day Festival. (Courtesy Andrew Fornasier)
SNOWMASS â Even Michael Franti, a seemingly indefatigable voice against war, corruption and injustice, may be getting a touch of weariness. After moving into the medium of film for the 2005 film âI Know Iâm Not Alone,â a documentary of his unsanctioned travels in Iraq and the Middle East, the singerâs latest side project is in print. It is the childrenâs book âWhat I Be,â which is described as âa visual and musical journey about self-acceptance.â
âAfter two years working on the film, I felt I wanted to do something different, something cleansing. I wanted to stop the researching, and making, of a film on war,â said the 41-year-old from his home in San Francisco. âMaking a childrenâs book seemed logical.â
Franti is also at work on a new album; he and his band, who collectively come under the name Spearhead, spent three recent weeks recording, with plans to finish the project later this year in Jamaica. The album is shaping up to have a little less fight, and a little more focus on aiding and soothing.
âItâs very uplifting. Maybe a more danceable record than any weâve made,â said Franti, who appears today at Jazz Aspen Snowmassâ Labor Day Festival, in an opening set before the Allman Brothers Band, and tonight at the Belly Up, in a benefit concert for his Powerful to the Peaceful foundation. âI want to give people something to help them stay on course, so they donât feel overwhelmed and donât feel like giving up.â
Even with the turn in his tone lately, itâs unlikely Franti will be throwing in the towel to his foes: the political establishment, the war in Iraq, the death penalty. On the albums âStay Humanâ and âEveryone Deserves Music,â he has made direct, though lyrically memorable, stabs at the Bush administration, the radio industry, and, in the landmark 2001 concept album âStay Human,â capital punishment.
Franti doesnât see himself as a lone voice in the lefty wilderness. His power seems to come from aligning people in his causes; witness the name of his film, âI Know Iâm Not Alone.â He says the difference between the '60s, when rock singers seemed to have a potent political voice, and now is that commercial radio suppresses such activism. But on a level beneath broadcast radio is another level gaining weight.
âIâm encouraged by how many artists supported Live Earth,â he said. âThat concert took a lot of criticism in the media. But when I talked to fans who saw it, especially outside the U.S., they said it was the first time these issues were brought up in pop music.â
Franti acknowledged that what could be called âcrisis wearinessâ â the building pile of war, culture clashes and environmental threats we face â can be setting in. But he suggested that maybe itâs always been that way, and that we should be grateful for the light thatâs now cast on injustices from Darfur to New Orleans.
âIâm grateful there are enough people who are concerned, who want to highlight this,â he said. âIn the past, there were parts of the world we just didnât notice.
âMy way of dealing with that is to get involved in combating this. Instead of saying, âOh god, look whatâs going on. Iâm giving up.ââ