On Friday (March 16th) outspoken Anti- recording artist and award-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Franti visited patients at Washington’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center. During his visit, Franti performed for the injured soldiers who live in a special ward of the hospital and their families.
“I was very moved by the courage of the young men I met who were dealing with very intense injuries from shattered bones to limb amputations and how most of them seem to have a positive attitude about their recovery and their plans for the future,” Franti says of his visit to WRAMC.“One of the patients, Pete, played my guitar even though he still had shrapnel in his finger tips and in physical pain,” Franti explains. “He had also been burned by a roadside bomb that destroyed the Humvee he was in and didn't have full hand strength yet, but still he had this desire to practice and play guitar. Music has been a healer in my life and I thought there are probably patients like Pete who will be passing through the hospital who will have plenty of time to play the guitar or at least try it, so I went out and bought a guitar for the ward. I came away from this experience feeling a deeper commitment toward the work of Veteran's issues and the healing power of music.”
In keeping with that belief, that evening – following an uplifting performance with Spearhead at the city’s 9:30 Club as part of his ongoing Yell Fire! tour – Franti participated in a fundraiser for Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). In addition to a screening of his acclaimed anti-war documentary, I Know I’m Not Alone: A Musician’s Search For The Human Cost Of War at Busboys & Poets, Franti also played an intimate late night acoustic set.
Last November, Franti won the Best International Documentary Award in the prestigious Harlem International Film Festival for his directory efforts on the aforementioned film. Shot during his travels to the war zones of Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in 2005, the film has been called “an antidote to despair” by anti-war activist Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange.
Through his heralded 2005 film about the Iraq war, I Know I’m Not Alone and the 2006 album it inspired, Yell Fire!, Franti has been heralded as “the most important artist recording and touring today who has yet to reach the masses,” by Island Records’ founder Chris Blackwell.
And the critics have resoundingly agreed: “Who says protest songs can’t be both fiery and fun,” wrote Entertainment Weekly in it’s a- review of Yell Fire! Elswhere, All Music Guide wrote, “Franti’s brain-stimulating songwriting rises to a new level of proficiency,” and Amazon.com said, “It’s easily Franti’s best album yet.”
“Artists have a unique opportunity because we have a voice, but our voice comes through something that we create,” Franti told The San Francisco Examiner recently. “So when we write about political things and our cause, it brings up something that a news anchor or a politician can’t do.”
Michael Franti and Spearhead are midway through a five-week U.S. trek and have been confirmed to appear at the 2007 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee the weekend of June 14th – 17th.