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Taken from NineMSN (April 15, 2006)

Franti listens to people, not pollies

by Katelyn John

Michael FrantiTalking to people in war-affected areas like Iraq, Israel and Palestine means more to American musician Michael Franti than listening to politicians.

"When I think of the people who've moved me in my life, it wasn't people who set social policy, it was the music which helped me to socialise," said the singer and political activist, who plays the East Coast International Blues and Roots Festival this weekend.

Franti will tour Australia solo, taking a break from his gig as Spearhead frontman.

He is known for using his music and poetry to raise awareness on issues such as the criminal justice system, AIDS, gay rights, homelessness, the death penalty, drug addiction and suicide.

Franti has also ventured into the medium of film, with his debut feature, I Know I'm Not Alone.

The documentary looks at the human face of the current conflict in Iraq, Israel and Palestine.

Armed with a hand-held video camera and a guitar, Franti went to those areas to meet people.

"When I went there first, I didn't plan on making a film," said the 38-year-old, who has visited Australia many times.

"I just wanted to be a listener. I wanted to see where my tax dollars were going. I also wanted to see the human face, the human cost of the war.

"I got so tired of listening to generals and politicians explaining the economics and politics of the war ... without ever showing what the war was actually doing to people."

Franti's favourite encounter was with an Iraqi heavy metal band, called the Black Scorpians.

"They would play in their basement which had no electricity so they put a generator down there," he explained of the encounter.

"They had to play their guitars louder than the noise of the generator, and they had to sing above the choke of the exhaust. When they broke a string, they had to use telephone wire."

I Know I'm Not Alone is currently showing at smaller cinemas around the country.


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