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Taken from Star-Gazette (July 20, 2006)

Reggae with a cause

Michael Franti and Spearhead release new album, appear at GrassRoots Festival.

by Catherine White (cwhite@stargazette.com)

Michael FrantiIn 2004, musician/activist Michael Franti grabbed his guitar and a video camera and traveled to Baghdad, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to witness the human cost of these war torn regions firsthand.

While in the Middle East, he visited with U.S. military personnel, talked to taxi drivers and businessmen, and stood on the street corners singing and waiting for people to come to him.

The result of his experiences is Michael Franti and Spearhead's new album "Yell Fire!" and the documentary DVD "I Know I'm Not Alone," due to be released Tuesday.

"Yell Fire!" combines a mix of politically-infused reggae, rock, soul and hip hop that will make you dance and think at the same time. While some of the songs bounce with heavy reggae and rock rhythms, others offer tender reflections of the toll of war on the people living through it.

The album is an inspiring, exuberant wake-up call to those that haven't considered what the destruction and violence has cost our soldiers and the people of these war ravaged areas.

The DVD "I Know I'm Not Alone" captures those considerations with footage of everyday life in the dangerous red-zoned regions of Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian territories. The film explores how war affects the individual: those living with limited power and water supplies, gunfire mingled with the daily melodic calls to prayer and the absence of police presence to discourage lawlessness.

You can see a preview of "Yell, Fire!" and hear the title song of the album on the band's label, http://www.anti.com/.

The opening lyrics of the title song, delivered in Franti's deep bass and set to a rock reggae rhythm, make you want to raise up your fist while bouncing to the beats.

"Revolution never come with a warnin'/Revolution never send you an omen/Revolution just arrive like the mornin'/Ring the alarm, we hear to wake up the snorin'."

I first heard Michael Franti and Spearhead on a mixed CD a friend sent me a few years ago and I've been hooked ever since. The group's music inspires me, bringing to mind John Lennon, U2's Bono and Bob Marley, all rolled in to one.

The San Francisco-based band, made up of Michael Franti, Carl Young, Dave Shul and Manas Itene, will perform at 10 p.m. Friday at the GrassRoots Festival, on the Infield Stage at Trumansburg Fairgrounds, Route 96 on the west side of Cayuga Lake.

If you can, check them out at the festival. If you can't make it, visit http://www.spearheadvibrations.com/ or the anti.com Web site to learn more about the group and hear samples of their music.


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