Taken from The Round Up (Feb 05, 2004)
The Round Up - Everyone deserves Michael Franti
by Maggie Adkins
Michael Franti and Spearhead will bless the Pan American Center this Sunday with their joyfully infectious combination of passionate music and peaceful politics.
Franti has had an extraordinary career; he became interested in music at an early age.
"I wanted to express what was inside of me. Part of me has always been concerned with the underdog and being the voice for those who aren't in the mainstream," Franti said. "I also want to rock out and get sweaty with 500 other people."
Franti's singular sound derives from his mixed-up musical history. In the late '80s, he was part of the Beatnigs, an industrial punk band that morphed into the Heroes of Hiphoprisy, a rap group, before forming Spearhead, a band that has yet to be defined by one sound.
"I've been inspired by punk, soul, reggae and hip hop. They are all in my soul. But I really concentrate on honing in on what's in my heart," Franti said. "I just don't like to follow rules other people have created."
The result is compassionate, positive lyrics and melodies that build in a beautiful way.
Spearhead is composed of Franti, Carl Young on bass, Dave Shul on guitar, Manas Itiene on drums, Roberto Quintana on percussion and Radio Active on beat box.
Franti's newest album "Everyone Deserves Music" is an assortment of celebratory and soul-searching songs. Franti was lyrically inspired, in a large part, by the current political landscape.
"Everyone on the planet is living with lots of fear. But a good question to ask during the upcoming election is what kind of world are we creating? Do we (Americans) want to be viewed as benevolent and promote peace, or do we want to be feared and seen as a military threat that ignores the rest of the world in terms of the environment?" Franti said.
"Bomb the World" is most directly about Franti's political views. The refrain "we can bomb the world to pieces but we can't bomb it into peace" is sung with strange calm, while the music hangs on the edge dance beat "Bomb the World (Armageddon version)," a remix of the song, gives in to the beat and takes the song to another level.
Franti's lyrics aren't completely politically centered though. "Sometimes I'm inspired by a phrase or turn of words. I'll write a whole song about something I heard someone say on the (tour) bus," he said.
"Pray for Grace" doesn't deal with political issues directly, but the Caribbean-laced funk song, like most of Franti's songs, elicits compassion and praise. Franti references different peaceful deities in nearly every song, and the belief in a better future swells each note with love.
Franti has been to New Mexico three times, but this will be his first visit to Las Cruces. The drummer of the Beatnigs, Kevin Conns, ran track at NMSU before moving to San Francisco and meeting Franti.
What can you expect to see at the concert of such a versatile musician? "It's definitely a dance party celebration. We create a safe environment for people to let go," Franti said.
Franti will be at the Pan American Center at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at www.ticketmaster.com or at charged by phone at 532-2060. Michael Franti and Spearhead allow videotapes and cameras at their shows.