“Scatter the peoples who delight in war” is a line out of the Psalms but it could have been a line from a Michael Franti song. A latecomer to his music, I was initiated last night, at the tale end of the Edmonton Folk-Fest.
Franti, bare-footed, and looking a bit like what you might imagine an old testament prophet looks like, and sounding like one, (except of course when he does Sesame Street nostalgia) is a new anti-war voice that is hard to dismiss. Because even if you don’t like his incessantly pro-peace, avant-garde reggae-rock, he is someone who has pointed his body in the direction of his words and taken, as he puts it, “the risk of peace.”
He’s gone to Iraq, sung on the streets of Baghdad, sung in Palestine and Israel, and because he supports troops–but not the war–he has sung to U.S. soldiers.
He’s not naïve about the complexities of conflict. You get the impression that he’s a listener and that as a result knows where to aim. He’s able to discern the big systems that delight in the dividends of war from the those of us caught up by them.
I grew up in the wake of “Universal Soldier” and “For What It’s Worth,” but I’m trying to think of anybody since Peter, Paul and Mary, Buffy Saint Marie, occasionally Dylan and Neil Young, that’s been as unshakably single-minded in trying to undo war and violence.
Franti, energetic, disarming, a presence, a hot band, danceable message-music, and a following, plus a realistic grasp on the Iraqi war…will he make a difference?