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Taken from Calgary Sun (July 24, 2004)

2004 Calgary Folk Music Festival - Michael Franti performs July 24

Franti's folk for everyone

by Mike BellCalgary Sun

Michael Franti
POWER ... Michael Franti's recent trip to the Middle East was an inspiring and heartbreaking experience.
Michael Franti is the perfect poster boy for the Calgary Folk Music Festival.

He represents how it works and why it works - and how good it can be.

Two years ago, when the American hip hop artist brought his band Spearhead to the festival for a mainstage performance, there were likely some patrons who thought they hated rap.

He changed a whole lotta minds, blowing just as many more with his positive, socially charged music.

"I really see it as not so much a testimonial to my music so much as it is a testimonial to music, period," the incredibly articulate and enigmatic Franti says of that set.

"I really believe that there is a reason why the Creator gave us music, and that reason is so that when I hear a person playing a drum off in the distance that I would come running out of curiosity .

"And when I danced to that drummer and he shared his songs with me that there would be an authority or a power that came as the two energies came together.

"That power is, in its essence, the fact that we did come together.

"That's why we have music - to bring people together."

Franti and his act will bring the island folk together again when they perform tonight as the closing act on the main stage.

The local show will be one of his first North American appearances following a two-week trip he took to Iraq, Palestine, Israel and Jordan in June.

The trip was funded through benefits and fan support, meant as a means for Franti, in his role as social commentator and artist, to step out of his comfort zone and see things with his own eyes.

"The reason I went is because I got tired of hearing from politicians and military leaders on television about the political cost of the war and the economic cost of the war," he says.

"And I wanted to see what the human cost of the war has been and hear directly from the people who have been in the conflict - both as civilians and soldiers - what their experience has been.

"It was a really incredible life-changing experience going over there and it broke my heart into a million pieces - I'm still trying to pick 'em all up.

"But it was really inspiring to see how resilient the people of the Middle East are."

Franti's journal of his trip can be found on his website (www.spearheadvibrations.com) and a documentary film is in the works.

He also came away with a number of songs and stories that fans will get a preview of this evening.

And for those who didn't catch his set two years ago and may still be concerned about Spearhead and hip hop's place in the scheme of a folk festival, Franti puts things best and hopefully puts those worries to rest.

"It really doesn't matter if its a turntable, or a wooden guitar, or an orchestra of bedouin hornplayers," he says. "Music is about telling the stories of the community and that's really what I try to do and what makes my music be folk music."




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