|“Music is the thread that’s gone through my life and given it so much meaning”
- Michael Franti
Michael Franti is a very big man who has always dared to say very big things through his joyous and passionate music during an unusually diverse and highly impressive career. Yet for all the wide-ranging, yet consistent excellence of his body of work, what’s most impressive about Michael Franti as a recording artist and live performer is his ability to inspire. Ultimately, the heartfelt music that Franti makes and his dedication to greater understanding on a global level, are not two aspects of his life, but very much one and the same.
The Bay Area born Franti has been bringing our world exceptionally powerful, deeply felt music under a variety of names and in a wide range of genres for twenty years. From the intense punk rock of the Beatnigs, to the deeply political rap he made with the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy to his joyful and meaningful modern soul music with Spearhead, and now as Michael Franti & Spearhead, this still young man has released an impressive series of recordings that have vividly reflected his status as a musical citizen of this world.
Consider Franti’s most recent musical masterpiece, All Rebel Rockers, an album featuring the legendary production team of Sly & Robbie that reinforces his place as a global force and a true musician of his time. Its first single, “Say Hey (I Love You)” is fast becoming one of the biggest of Franti’s career. It’s one of the most added records at multiple radio formats; Top 40, Hot AC and Alternative and its music video has already exceeded 1 million views on YouTube. As for the CD, All Rebel Rockers marked Franti’s highest Billboard Top 200 Album Chart debut ever.
Through his entire musical career to date, Franti has continued to slowly, but surely build an extremely dedicated global grass roots following. He’s done it with a new spin on an old fashioned way. He’s earned his fans, one winning concert at a time. Ultimately what unites Franti’s remarkable and impressive career is, ironically, the man’s ongoing search for harmony.
“As a musician and a man, I more than anything else want to be a unifier,” Franti explains. “I want to bring people together through music and its unique power. And I hope that somehow that sense of unity extends beyond the music.”
In every way, Franti has become a modern day troubadour spreading the word with equal passion, whether he’s playing to a packed theater somewhere in America, Australia or Europe, or simply giving an impromptu performance in some war-torn corner of the world.
“I wear the troubadour badge with great pride,” Franti explains. “I love playing music in the street more than anywhere else. It’s still a lot of fun to get on a big stage, but the rest of the time, when you just play for people anywhere you can, it’s like playing a pick up basketball game and I love that too. I love the intimacy of it, playing without all the bells and whistles.”
To see Michael Franti play for people anywhere in the world is to realize that music is the driving force in his creative world. “Above almost any thing else on earth, I love songs,” he explains. “I love songwriting myself, but in listening to the songs of others, I’ve learned that a great song is an incredibly powerful thing. I really believe that music can bring people together because I’ve seen it. To me, music is much more than the way I happen to make my living. It’s the thread that’s gone through my life and given it so much meaning.
That same thread has been woven into the lives of so many Franti fans all around the world. He credits the strong grass roots support that has allowed him to endure. “We have very deep roots and we all hold onto one another,” Franti says. “That’s how we’ve been able to grow; that’s been the key to our sustainability. We’ve put out records that are more rock-oriented reggae and have explored a lot of musical territory and still have an audience that’s willing to come with us. To make music for people like that isn’t just a pleasure, it’s a privilege.
As a teenager, Franti’s life was profoundly changed by the music and the message of Bob Marley and the Wailers. “I first heard him when I was 15,” Franti remembers. “He was calling for world unity (“One Love”) and his music opened up my world. In fact, I was in Canada with my family for a year, and somehow I got tickets to see Bob Marley live and I was so excited. I still have the scrapbook from when I was a kid and there’s that front page of the music section talking about his death. What a loss for the world.”
Through Franti’s appreciation of Bob Marley, he got turned on to bands that had a reggae influence like the Police and, especially, the Clash.” “I got really into the Clash,“ Franti recalls. “They did that impossible thing that a lot of artists strive for; they made it socially engaging music and put it right alongside more personal songs and still made you dance. Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye all did that. Then there was Sly and the Family Stone, a multiethnic band making socially aware music that made people happy. For me, that’s is about as good as it gets.”
And when the rain falls down
You know the flower’s gonna bloom
And when the hard times come
You know the teacher’s in the room
And when the sun comes up
You know I’ll be there for you.
--“Have A Little Faith” by Michael Franti
Franti’s own performances today are marked by a genuine openheartedness, a commitment to communication and a greater sense of community. “The people who come to see us seem to love the experience of the party as well as the message and the music,” he says. “Increasingly over my life, I have less interest in being part of the fighting between parties. I’m interested in bringing people together on the left and the right, to face the issues of the day. The problems from global warming to the economy that we face today are so clearly universal that we need to address them together.”
Indeed, Franti, the African-American son adopted and raised by Finnish American couple, has continued on many fronts to reach across all groups in a variety of ways, whether its with his annual Power To The Peaceful Festival or his award-winning documentary I Know I’m Not Alone, which featured Franti in Iraq, within the Palestinian territories and in Israel.
As a socially conscious singer-songwriter, Franti has grown up in public as his message has evolved from one of youthful anger to a more mature determination to find common ground. “When I first started out, I think that my politics could be boiled down to `Fuck The System’ or `Fuck the Man,’” Franti says. “When you’re coming of age, you’re desperate to change the world, but you have no idea how to actually do it. It takes time to discover that just complaining about the world is not enough. You have to do some affirmative.”
One war zone experience informs Franti’s sense of musical mission. As he remembers, “I was playing on the streets of Bagdad, and I introduced a song called `Bomb The World’ that says ’You can bomb the world into pieces/but you can’t bomb it into peace.’ I would translate that. And people there told me, `Oh well that’s an interesting song, but we’re living here where our world is being blown up, so sing us something that can make us dance and laugh and clap. That’s what they want to do.”
The truth is that we need everybody. We need the ideas of the grass roots. We need the resources of the corporate world. We need the cooperation of the government. And we need the intelligence of everyday people with their street wisdom.
“We need everybody, Franti explains. “So that’s who I play music for – everybody.”
|CHERINE ANDERSON is a musical breath of fresh air. Hailing from the tough streets of Kingston, Jamaica, the young singer-songwriter has spent the last two years building a reputation of hard-hitting songs and captivating live performances. With a growing fan base through consistent touring and the respect of some of music’s living legends, like Sly Dunbar, Cherine is being hailed as that female artist “with the potential to surpass reggae audiences and reach masses.” Having collaborated on official remixes with legendary artists including Madonna, Britney Spears, Sir Paul McCartney and Wyclef Jean all before releasing her own formal product, Anderson has already positioned herself as “one to watch”.
Cherine spent 2008 on the road, touring with drum and bass legendary duo Sly & Robbie. She closed the year touring the US and Australia with the prolific Michael Franti & Spearhead. She also made her US television debut with Spearhead, appearing on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
Cherine became familiar to Jamaican audiences first as an acclaimed actress, having starred in two of Jamaica’s most successful films, Dancehall Queen and One Love. She has been nominated for multiple awards and was named Best Actress in a feature by MTV2 for the film One Love as well as Best Female Vocalist at the 2008 Caribbean Urban Music Awards. Her song “Good Love” also appeared on Sly & Robbie’s Grammy Award nominated album Anniversary.
The new year has already brought great things for the rising star. Cherine performed at three events celebrating the inauguration of Barack Obama in Washington DC (The Green Ball, The Peace Ball, Rock the Vote/Calvin Klein), as well as the World Games Special Olympics in Idaho, USA.
|I have been playing music since age
11, my first instrument was the drums. I then went on to play clarinet,
baritone, alto, and tenor saxophone. After that came the piano and
flute out of my desire to be a well rounded musician.
noodled on the bass a little bit for several years before I picked
it up and got serious in 1983. From that point on I had found my
Since that time I have played with many artists both live and recorded.
There are too many too recall from memory but here is a partial
list: Chanté Moore, Don Cherry, Cree Summers, De Barge, Dionne
Farris, Jimmy Whitherspoon and many others.
I have been in Spearhead since November 1994, and it has been a
consistently incredible experience. We are currently out on the
road for the summer months. Travelling and seeing so much of the
world is one of the best parts of being in this group. I love meeting
new people and developing relationships with people of all cultures.
If you ever come across me at a show, please feel free to come up
and introduce yourself.
Or if you would like to get in touch with me electronically, my
e-mail address is email@example.com
For musicians who are really interested (I know there are some hardcore
gearheads out there!) here is a list of the instruments you might
see me playing on the road.
I play a 1980's Selmer USA, tenor saxophone, and a Deford Flute.
I also play a Hartfield 5 string bass (for the last 12 years) and
a Modulus quantum 6 string bass (with a bolt on neck). I love both
basses, but I currently am most excited about the Modulus.
I use an Ampeg SVT pre-amp and a crest 901 power amp, to run 4 Wayne
Jones series 2x10" bass cabinets (which rock!!!) The cabinets
are from an amp builder, Wayne Jones (of course) who lives in Melbourne
Australia. He used to work for Trace Elliot and has now branched
out on his own. He's a Genius of acoustics, and any serious bass
player might wanna check out his site.
That's it for now folks. I'll be updating this page from time to
time and if you have any question about me, Spearhead, music or
life, check me out at at www.carlyoung.net
Don't forget to come up and say "HI!"
Peace, Stay Human, Carl
|I'm Dave Shul I hope all is well in
cyberspace. I play guitar in Spearhead. I've been involved in the
Bay Area music scene for about 20 years. I was working in the office
at Secret Studios when Carl Young (bass player for Spearhead) walked
in and said "I'm looking for a guitar player." I told him
I'd like to audition, they auditioned two other cats, and I ended
up getting the gig. That was in April of 1998. The first gig I played
with the band was in Seattle, then we did two gigs at the Fillmore
in San Francisco, and then it was on to New Zealand and Australia.
Since that time I have been on the road with the band in the US, Europe,
and other parts of the planet.
My favorite part of travelling is meeting local folks, because I
don't usually get to see a lot of the sites as we are moving from
place to place so quickly.
I first started playing guitar at age 12. My older brother had a
guitar and I used to sneak into his room and play it, because everytime
I'd ask him for a lesson he'd bop me on the nose and say, "get
outta here you fuck!" Eventually I got better at it then him
and went on to make my living doing it.
At age 13 I went to Cazadero Music camp at the Russian river in
northern California. A lot of other well known musicians went there
as well, like Jay Lane (Rat Dog drummer), Dave Ellis (Rat Dog Saxophonist,
Dave Ellis Group), Joshua Redman (World Renowned Jazz Saxophonist)
and many others. Among the teachers were Bobby McFerrin, Eddy Marshall,
and John Santos. It was my first experience playing music with other
people, and I got exposed to lots of styles from big band to funk,rock
and R n B. As I developed I later went on to teach there for five
My first band didn't have a name, it was just a group of friends
that used to jam together in the garage. We played whatever came
out of our hearts, but we never played a gig. At this time I was
listening to Miles Davis, P-Funk, James Brown, and whatever was
on the radio.
My first bands were Ice Age (funk group) and Undertow(ska), we opened
for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone and Madness when they first
came out. After that I began subbing for a lot of groups, and sitting
in on a lot of groups in the San Francisco acid Jazz scene. Eventually
I started playing sessions for commercials, TV, and video games.
I put out my own album in 1999 called Welcome to the Conga Club
featuring a whole host of Bay Area musicians, all of whom I came
to know over the years. The album is on Aztlan Records and will
soon be available on the spearheadvibrations.com site and at Spearhead
live shows. It features a song with Michael Franti called "Conga
Clubbin'". In addition to my studio work with Spearhead I have
also been working with narada Michael Walden up at Tarpan Studios
in San Rafael.
My on stage gear, for those who might be interested:
Fender American Standard Stratocaster (My main axe)
1970's Ibanez Les Paul custom Larrivee steel string acoustic guitar
Fender '65 reissue twin
Effects and floor pedals:
Electro harmonix Q-tron
LIne-6 Digital Delay pedal
Line-6 modulation pedal
Mesa Boogie V-twin distortion pedal
Dunlop Crybaby Wah Wah pedal
Strings: DR strings
|Manas Itiene was born in the town of
Ughelli, Delta state, in the West African country of Nigeria, where
he grew up as a member of the Isoko tribe.
He played drums with several local church groups, where he was discovered
by the Mandators, one of Nigeria's most successful reggae groups.
As a teenager, he moved to Lagos to play and tour with the Mandators,
and also sat in with many other famous Nigerian artists, including
Sonny Okosuns and Majek Fashek.
In 1993, the Mandators toured to the
U.S., where Manas has remained ever since.
He has played with 3-time Bammy Award winner Inka Inka, Sister Carol
of Jamaica, Apple Gabriel of Israel Vibration, Sugar Minott, and
Kotoja, to name a few. He also has spent a lot of time in the recording
studio, recording with such artists as Mickey Thomas of Jefferson
Starship and Babatunde Olatunji.
Manas has enjoyed the opportunity to draw upon his diverse musical
influences since joining Spearhead.
|Raliegh has almost 2 decades of experience
playing piano with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Nile Rogers, Guru,
Common, Phoebe Snow, Stacey Lattisaw, Be Be Winans, Stephanie Mills,
Bobbi Humphries and England's OMAR. In May of 2006, he hooked up with
Spearhead and things couldn't be better.
As a writer, he has a catalog of over 20 songs registered with ASCAP
that are played around the world. Most of his creative efforts have
appeared on Nickelodeon and ABC's Saturday morning children's programs.
Raliegh also has over
12 years experience working with inter-city youth in the field of
‘leadership through the arts’ at the CityKids Foundation
as the Musical Director of their repertory company. By the beginning
of the 90's social support programs for young people were almost
completely non-existant and so responsible individuals needed to
come together and take it on themselves to do their part in providing
opportunities for young people to focus their incredible energies.
It was a wonderful opportunity for Raliegh to interact with millions
of young people in the name of love, learning, leadership and respect.
“Music is my language. My ability to create with others, has
been the most prideful aspect of my talents. Together we can color
the world and what we feel and in turn bring our true selves in
to being. Life then tends to make much more sense.”
“Years of musical experience starting from the age of 5 when
my musical father gave me a beautiful Baritone Ukulele. My first
gig was in front of my kindergarten peers singing ‘Proud Mary’,
I was effected by this art form very early. My father played many
instruments in his lifetime and is presently seen singing and play
guitar around the DC area. Family respect for the creative joy of
music has made it possible for me to be who I am today. I thank
them with all of my heart.”