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Taken from Aspen Daily News (September 2, 2011)

Once Again, Bringing Childhood to the Valley

by John Zelazny, Time Out Music Columnist


Michael FrantiWhether you like his music or not, you have to agree that Michael Franti had an interesting childhood.

At birth, he was adopted by a Finish-American couple that had three children of their own and two adopted African-American sons. His biological parents chose this life for him because they were afraid their families would not accept him, his mother being of European decent and his father being African-American and Native-American.

In his adult life, Franti searched out his birth parents but came to this conclusion. "When it's all over, it's the people who raised me who are my parents. They loved me and looked after me all those years," he told Mike Greenblatt in an interview for Right On! "So as I've gotten older, digested the information, thought about it, talked about it, written about it, I have an understanding about who I am as an individual and where I fit in with my feelings."

After high school, Franti secured a basketball scholarship to the University of San Francisco. He was six-and-a-half feet tall and he loved the game, but music seemed to be taking up more and more of his time. He met a priest at school who encouraged him to put his story down on paper and he soon was writing poetry. He bought a bass guitar at a pawnshop and soon after quit the basketball team, so that he could devote his energy toward music and social issues.

He became part of a band called the Beatnigs, a band that threw underground parties in abandoned warehouses, combining African drums with poetry. They received some critical attention but eventually broke up.

The experience was very beneficial to him and exposed him to many varieties of music that he might not have come into contact with. Campus radio at the time was playing a mix of reggae, hip-hop, rock, punk and funk. Franti would embrace all these styles in the years to come he would create his own very marketable blend.

Franti emerged as one of the most provocative and eventually popular members of the swarming hip-hop community. He has reshaped his sound several times and is able to draw increasing crowds, who he then influences with his social awareness.

His latest and greatest hit, “Say Hey,” has been played to the point of bereavement because of its positive overtone and catchy generic rhythm. Franti is at a point in his career where he is able to rhyme words with themselves and listeners believe it to be genius.

Franti has perfected a Rasta-pop style that has gained him notoriety and popular radio play across the nation. He has played music in this valley at least a dozen times, and this will likely not be his last.

The main thing about Franti is that he is family friendly and willing to do anything to bring young children out to the Jazz Aspen Labor Day festival. The last time he played the baseball field in Snowmass he even pulled out a cover version of the "Sesame Street" theme song. The song was a hit among all of the audience members who were under the age of 10.

So bring out your children and if you don't have any, be ready for a little kid sing along.

 
 

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