This article is from 2006.
A live favourite of Scottish crowds, former Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy frontman Michael Franti is shortly to create a new entry for his CV. Long established as a singer and musician of strong social conscience, August sees him add his name to an expanding list of DIY agit-prop documentary makers with the release of his DVD film I Know I’m Not Alone.
Its story - particularly right now - is compelling. Taking only a video camera and a guitar, he visited the danger zones of Baghdad, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip - in each case, outside the sphere of military safety - and attempted to make a connection with the people he found. As well as bringing back the video tapes, Franti had enough inspiration to write his new album Yell Fire! which was partly recorded in Jamaica with reggae legends Sly and Robbie.
Fusing the Californian Franti’s usual template of hip hop, soul and rock, the record also revisits his usual fears about globalisation and oppression from the people’s point of view, yet in perhaps the rawest, most heartfelt form yet. ‘In war zones’, Franti has said of his experiences, ‘the thing I found was that nobody wants to hear songs about war. They want to hear songs about connection to people, and songs about love and life, songs that make them dance’.
Among many glowing tributes for Franti’s visual and musical exploration of the Middle East, British film director Anthony Minghella’s is most resonant: ‘Watch this film then insist that Michael Franti becomes President of the United States’.
Corn Exchange, 0870 169 0100, 16 Aug, 7pm, £12.50.