Taken from Briarpatch Magazine (April, 2002)
Stay Human: Michael Franti & Spearhead. (Music Review)
by Peter Garden
There are very few things in the world that are as uplifting and inspiring as seeing a live Spearhead show. I have seen the band numerous times since getting hooked after seeing them play at a rally the night before the big protests in Seattle in November of 1999. Michael Franti stood on the stage quietly in front of 20,000 activists and recited a poem. A hush fell over the crowd and everyone in the place had their eyes glued to this tall dreadlocked man reciting a beautiful and eloquent spoken word piece entitled "Skin on the Drum." Michael was then joined on stage by a full live band and ripped into a set of amazing and politically explosive music that had everyone young and old on their feet dancing.
Michael Franti and Spearhead's musical influences range from 70s funk to Marvin Gaye to Bob Marley. His songs with lyrics like "Rock the nation, take over television and radio stations, the truth shall come, give the corporations some complications" make you want to shake your derriere. This album is a near perfect mix of danceable songs with political commentary. I really don't know why this hasn't hit the top ten because the songwriting is better than anything that people are listening to in the clubs or on the radio. If it was a hit we might have a revolution on our hands. Franti has claims that he wants to "make the revolution irresistible" and I would say that he has achieved that with this album.
I was fortunate enough to interview Michael Franti and I had a chance to ask him what the word revolution meant to him. He said "revolution comes from the word revolve, which is to go in a circle. Now all of us are at different points on that circle and as we move on the circle we come to see that others are at a different point. And from that we develop empathy when we come to see where other people have been, and out of that empathy grows compassion. When you see actions like protests, or people coming together, or even the overthrow of governments, it's when people say 'you know what, the circle is not moving in the right direction or its moving too slow so we are going to jump off and give it a push.' That's what I think it means to be revolutionary, it means keeping your eyes open for what's coming up on the horizon and looking to where other people are, keeping your heart open to developing empathy and compassion for them. It's about developing consensus among people and not just having your own viewpoint and it's about being willing to give the circle a push when it's time."
I think that Michael Franti and Spearhead have given us a soundtrack for rolling the wheel in a new direction with Stay Human. The interview with Micheal Franti is available in its entirety on the Internet at makingthelinksradio.com.
Peter Garden is a producer at Making the Links Radio in Saskatoon.
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