By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
The 2018 FIS Women’s Ski World Cup in Killington is quite the event for the skiing spectator, but also for a music lover: DJ Paul Oakenfold, KT Tunstall, Guster and this week’s subject, Michael Franti. All the free shows are at the K1 Base Area. Franti will perform Saturday afternoon, following the awards for the Giant Slalom races.
Franti has fronted Spearhead since 1994. The band’s debut album “Home” received a great review from Entertainment Today: “Spearhead has studied its music history and come up with spellbinding grooves, perfectly apt arrangements, and insinuating melodies, all of which perfectly complement rhymes that manage to be intimate and global, angry and loving, meditative and playful all at once. In short, they write good songs, regardless of the genre.” Twenty-four years later, Spearhead is on the verge of releasing its 10th studio album. Joining Franti now are Carl Young (bass), Jay Bowman (guitar), Manas Itiene (drums) and Mike Blankenship (keys).
I have not seen Franti in many years, but I’ve been a fan for 20 years. His high-energy show is not to be missed. His music blends hip hop with a variety of other styles including funk, reggae, jazz, folk, and rock. Some hit songs of his that I play are: “Say Hey I Love You” (2008), “The Sound of Sunshine” (2010), “Hey Hey Hey” (2011) and just recently, thanks to Violet Alexander, “Everybody Ona Move” (2007). I don’t think you will be disappointed in any music Franti puts out. His new album, “Stay Human Vol. II” is being released Jan. 25, 2019. That will feature the single, “Just to Say I Love You” which tells the story of Franti’s friendship and courtship with his wife, Sara Agah and their new son Taj Franti, who was born in September.
In 2001 Franti was awarded the Domestic Human Rights Award by Global Exchange for his work to end war. Besides being a musician he is known for his activism on peace and social justice issues, and he is especially an advocate for peace in the Middle East. The latter inspired his first documentary, “I Know I’m Not Alone” in 2005. This film came out because of Franti’s frustration with watching the nightly news and hearing people explaining the political and economic cost of the war in the Middle East, without ever mentioning the human cost. This wasn’t a USO-type friendly visit. Franti went to the war zones of Iraq, Palestine and Israel to experience, firsthand, the human cost of war. He went with a group of friends, some video cameras and his guitar.
Franti is in the midst of his Stay Human tour which combines concerts and film screenings. In April at the Ashbury Park Music and Film Festival, he premiered his newest film, “Stay Human.” Franti said, “The film takes us on a journey through music and stories of some of the most inspiring individuals on the planet. Amazing people that I’ve met on my travels around the globe, who have chosen to overcome cynicism with optimism, hope, tenacity, music, and love. It reminds us all what it means to ‘Stay Human.’ It’s inspirational soul food during these challenging times.”
He is now showing the film across the country and each screening will be followed by a Q&A and acoustic music session featuring songs from the film (and other favorites) performed by Michael Franti, Carl Young from Spearhead and Victoria Canal who, Franti says, is “amazing.” Franti discovered her on Instagram and invited her to record and tour with him.
Franti believes in using music as a vehicle for positive change, and has stated, “I feel a deeper sense of purpose in music today than I ever have in my career. My goal is to make the most inspiring music I possibly can for this crazy and wonderful time we’re all living in.” His music has meaning and is moving. He just released “Stay Human 2” off the upcoming album. “This is a song I wrote for my mom last year when she had a stroke. My mom adopted me and was the main person in my life who encouraged me to be my authentic self and to embrace others for being who they are despite the differences that may first appear on the surface. It is a song that encourages us to not give up on one another even when things are the most challenging, like the times we are living in today.”
Franti loves his fans and they love him. He may win some new fans over in Killington, but most of his fans go to show after show. He calls his fans the “SoulrockerFam” and describes a soulrocker as, “One who lives from the heart, with compassion for all, and possesses a tenacious enthusiasm for music, life and the planet.”
One interesting fact about Franti is that he hasn’t worn shoes since 2000. He only wears flip-flops to board a plane or get served in a restaurant. “I started going without shoes because I’d travel to places where people couldn’t afford shoes. [When] I first tried it my feet were so tender, I couldn’t do it.
One day I thought, let me see if I can go three days. Three days turned into a week, and then a month. At 10 years, I started partnering with Soles4Soles, which helped out after hurricane Katrina. We now send shoes to 50 countries.” I hope his feet don’t get too cold Saturday in Killington’s 30 degree weather.
Photo by Hiroki Nishioka