Taken from Local IQ (September 15, 2011)
My life now is all about music
Local iQ about life, Santana, New Mexico and the power of music to inspire hope
by Bill Nevins
Michael Franti is in many ways happy. The singer, songwriter and leader of hiphop/reggae Spearhead told Local iQ in a recent interview that he’s happy to be opening for Carlos Santana, pleased to be returning to New Mexico, filled with joy by music and, most of all, glad to be alive.
Having survived a nearly fatal bout of appendicitis last year, the 45-year-old Franti has a renewed sense of “appreciating the simple things in life”, he said, explaining, “We were on tour when my appendix ruptured and I was rushed in pain to the hospital. They thought it was my gall bladder and tried to treat that first. I almost died. I am most blessed to be walking this earth today, and I am loving it.”
Franti famously goes barefoot most of the time, wearing flip flops only to board planes, and he has been a vegan for years. “My son turned me onto the vegan lifestyle,” he said, “and I am forever grateful to him for that, and for many other things. I practice yoga every day now, and I run every day,” he adds, noting, “It’s a spiritual exercise to push the body beyond its limits, and to learn to breathe through difficulties, both physical and circumstantial.’
Very often during concerts, as in his 2010 appearance at Taos Solar Music Festival, Franti will leap from the stage and move through the audience, even hugging and high-fiving fans. His energies at live shows seem boundless, and, if anything, his outlook on life lately has become even more optimistic.
Certainly, the commercial success of Spearhead’s recent records, including All Rebel Rockers and his latest, The Sound of Sunshine — not to mention lucrative placements of Franti recordings in various films and TV ads — have contributed to his rosy outlook.
“I have a house in Bali now, besides in my hometown of San Francisco,” he said, “and it is great to be able to come home to either beautiful place, relax and make music. My life now is all about music, and about making every effort to bring the joys of music to other people.”
Whereas much of Franti’s early work with Speahead, and the earlier rap duo The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, displayed an angry, politically progressive edge, Franti is less angry these days in his lyrics and attitude.
“It’s better to connect with people musically than to try to convince them,” he said. “Over the years, and especially when I was in Iraq making my movie I Know I’m Not Alone, I came to realize that folks just want to laugh, dance and feel the good music, even when they can’t understand the words you sing. They don’t want to be reminded how difficult things can be, they already know that. They want to feel the possibility of change."
Franti believes in the ability of music to offer that hope for change. "Even the supposedly worst person deserves to have music, and I believe in the healing power of that music," he said. "It can help us to appreciate other people, and to discover change. It’s like the Wright Brothers and that first flight — we have to believe in the future, and believe in trying no matter how scary that might be.”
Franti said he is delighted to return to New Mexico. “My adoptive parents used to bring me to Gallup and Santa Fe on vacations, and I recently discovered that my Native American blood is Seminole. That makes me so proud — my childhood heroes were Dennis Banks and the Indian movie warrior Billy Jack.”
He’s also thrilled to be on the bill with Santana. “Carlos is our greatest hero in the Bay Area, of course, and he has gone beyond borders and languages with his music for decades,” he said.
Because of this tour, Franti had to cancel his annual Power to the Peaceful free September concert in Golden Gate Park this year. “We’ll be back next year with two days and a real cross cultural celebration festival," he promised.