Taken from Portsmouth Herald (February 22, 2004)
Power to the peaceful
by Melanie Asmar
Hip hop social justice advocate Michael Franti believes in "One Love." He believes that invisible vibrations of sound tinged with inspiration can move people to act. And he believes that everyone, even our worst enemies, deserve music.
"Music is a human right," Franti says in a telephone interview. "Just like fresh air, clear water and the opportunity to make a living."
On his aptly titled new album, "Everyone Deserves Music," Franti showcases a new sound, "written from the guitar up, not the synthesizer up." A departure from the thumping beats and rhymes of his musical past with groups such as The Beatnigs and the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, the sound on his new album is a smooth blend of reggae, R&B, hip-hop and folk.
But fans need not worry, you can still get down to his message of world peace, compassion and benevolence.
"My shows are part spiritual, uplifting experience and part sweating, booty-shaking party," Franti says.
Franti and his band Spearhead will bring the politically-conscious party to the Whittemore Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on March 4 when they open for Ziggy Marley. This will be Franti's first performance in the Granite State.
A listen to Franti's new CD will reveal that he comfortably bears his soul on each track. And in addition to stretching out his musical limbs, he has taken a new approach to songwriting.
"As a songwriter, I have learned that it's better to plant seeds in the lyrics rather than hit people over the head with the whole tree at once," he says.
As far as modern hip hop goes, Franti is a regular Johnny Appleseed. With lyrics such as "we can chase down all our enemies/ bring them to their knees/we can bomb the world to pieces/but we can't bomb it into peace" from the song "Bomb the World," Franti addresses issues that he says are important in an election year such as this.
"We have the opportunity to ask ourselves, 'where do we want to see ourselves five years from now?' Do we want to be feared for our military might and looked upon as a Goliath that every David wants to throw stones at? Or do we want to be looked upon as a nation of benevolence that looks out for other humans?"
Franti's anti-war message is clear. In his music, he tries to stimulate this type of thinking, because, he says, we are all political.
"Politics just means 'of the people,'" says Franti.
As an artist, he draws inspiration from the greats - Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Ghandi - but also from the everyday people around him. He has spoken with soldiers in Iraq, Vietnam veterans, teachers who don't have enough funding, and Wall Street stock-traders. He likes to pick the brains of people he sits next to on airplanes and see what makes them tick.
"Like right now, I'm sitting in a cafe watching two people across the room sew patches onto their backpacks," says Franti over the phone. "It's inspiring to see them take the time to do that."
As to the question of what keeps him going on his lyrical quest for peace, Franti answers with seeming conviction.
"I live in San Francisco. Every night I go to bed and close my eyes, and the next day, I wake up in the same bed. I can't imagine living in a place and not knowing if I'm going to wake up alive. That's what happens when we bomb other countries. The world is a beautiful place. It doesn't deserve to be destroyed."
Most of all, Franti listens to his heart.
"My main message is compassion," he says. "It's difficult in this time to find compassion for others. But that's how we're going to move into the next phase. We need to understand that there needs to be an end to war."
It's just like his song "Bomb The World" says, "and I sing power to the peaceful /love to the people y'all /power to the peaceful /love to the people y'all."