If the contemporary struggle for a better world has a soundtrack, it surely features the music of Michael Franti. To Franti, music and activism are one and the same — his albums, the last three of which have sold over 100,000 copies combined, are truth-telling manifestos you can dance to. While touring constantly, he tirelessly promotes peace, sustainability and human rights. His annual Power to the Peaceful festival raises money for different causes each year — from Mumia Abul Jamal’s legal case to bringing American troops home from Iraq. Last year, 60,000 people attended in San Francisco and 4,000 in São Paulo, Brazil. He has been named an Ambassador of Peace by the World Health Organization, and performs benefit concerts for Iraq Veterans Against the War, grassroots workers in New Orleans, as well as free concerts in prisons. In his personal life he is a vegan and yogi, and if you find yourself behind his hybrid or his biodiesel tour bus, follow him: he’ll pay your bridge toll. Last month we visited Franti in his San Francisco studio as he was putting the finishing touches on his new release, “All Rebel Rockers,” due out in September.
Gregory Dicum: Emma Goldman was famously paraphrased “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” Whenever I hear that, I think of you.
Michael Franti: If at the end of the political upheaval and change, we’re all sitting around wearing armbands and having meetings and nobody’s having any fun, then what was the point? That’s where I come in. I love to make people dance, and what I’ve seen is in the places where people have been hit the hardest, that’s the place they’re most eager to dance.