An Interview with Michael Franti, Part 2

Continuing from where we began yesterday, we hear from musician Michael Franti about his trip to Iraq in 2004, the people he met there and still keeps in touch with, and his plans to go back sometime in the future.

The result of the 2004 trip is a new CD, “Yell Fire” and a documentary, “I Know I’m Not Alone,” both of which came out at the end of July. I sat down with Franti during sound check before a show in Park City last Thursday. This is part two of that interview. Right-Click here to download the mp3. Or, read on for the transcript:
AL: You were there in 2004, right?

AL: In the last couple years you could argue that the situation there has gotten far worse, would you go back today?
I would definitely go back. I’m sort of planning in the distance a time to return there. I feel a committment now having been there to do everything I can to bring our soldiers home as fast as possible and allow the Iraqi people who have gone through so much to create their own life and their own democracy there.

AL: What sort of reaction have you received?
Well, we’ve released the film in a sort of unique way. We didn’t want to just put it in art house theaters and then have it run for three or four days and then be gone.  What we’ve done is we’ve toured with it as if it were a rock album. We’ve done about 50 or 60 cities around North America, probably 20 in Europe, 15 in Australia and just recently we were in Japan. Now on our American tour, every town we stop in we also set up screenings the next night.

AL: What’s been the reaction?
It’s been amazing, people have never seen what life is like on the street there. For example, a heavy metal band in Baghdad who because they don’t have any electricity use a generator, so they have to run this diesel generator in a basement with them, play over the din of the generator, sing over the choke of the exhaust, and then when they break a string they have to use bits of telephone wire to replace the strings on their guitars. You see stuff like that and it puts a whole new perspective on the war.

AL: Have you kept in touch with any of the people in the film?
I have.  I kept in touch with Waleed, who is the singer of the Black Scorpions, and with Muhare, who was our driver who is prominently featured in the film. Throughout Israel and Palestine where we’ve been we’ve kept in touch with a lot of the people. At our annual Power to the Peaceful festival in San Francisco we brought over this year an Israeli Woman and a Palestinian Woman who have started an organization called the bereaved parents family circle, which is a group of families who have lost family members in the conflict. On both the Israeli and Palestinian side they have come together to talk about their pain and express their voice in a way that says we dont want the death of our children to be used as a call for more war, but to be used as a call to end war.

Part 3 of Michael Franti Interview