Back from Iraq, Franti and Spearhead to perform in Grass Valley Saturday |

Back from Iraq, Franti and Spearhead to perform in Grass Valley Saturday

The 19 months since Michael Franti and his band Spearhead last appeared in Grass Valley have been extremely eventful for the hip-hop singer-songwriter/guitarist.

For starters, Franti has toured continuously around the world since his last appearance here two Februaries ago, visiting Japan, Europe North America and Australia. He also released his latest CD, “Everyone Deserves Music,” a year ago, and organized a 13-day trip this past June to Iraq, Jordan and Israel.

Accompanying Franti in June were friends, filmmakers, human rights attorneys, an American woman who had visited Iraq many times and a former Army captain. To personally experience what Iraq civilians and U.S. military members were going through, the group visited bomb sites, hospitals, universities, radio stations, cultural centers and social justice organizations.

Franti, who for almost two decades has written passionate songs about political and socioeconomic issues such as social justice, the death penalty, the prison-industrial complex and corporate globalization, had to see, firsthand, Iraq today.

“Just like a lot of people, I felt frustrated watching the news and hearing about the war and the political and economic costs without hearing anything about the human costs,” Franti said Tuesday from the Bay Area. “If our nation goes around bombing other countries, we need to see the pain of the people affected by it in the same way we in this country were affected by the pain of Sept. 11.”

Although his strong personal beliefs pushed Franti to visit war-torn Iraq, he still was apprehensive.

“I was scared every moment I was there. Just before we left, the first guy to be kidnapped was beheaded,” he said. “I was also scared of being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time when bombs went off. And I was also scared that with the Patriot Act and intelligence, we might be stopped by the CIA or prevented by some governmental agency from being there.”

That didn’t prevent Franti from walking the streets in Iraq armed only with his guitar.

“I played by myself on the streets for whomever would listen. I played at hospitals where kids with arms blown off were, at people’s homes, restaurants, wherever people would invite me,” Franti said.

And he eagerly listened to the Iraqis.

“The people said they believed George Bush when he said it was ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom.’ They believed that Saddam would be taken out and their government would be handed to them,” Franti noted. “Now that their puppet government is in place and war continues, they say ‘imagine if it were reversed and Iraq invades the United States’ and occupied our nation. Those of us who would fight against the occupation would be considered freedom fighters; those fighting in Iraq for their country are labeled insurgents.”

What he saw on his trip was extremely grim. Most Iraqis still don’t have water or electricity, and there is 90-percent unemployment in Baghdad, according to Franti. He still managed to find hope in his conversations with the Iraqis.

“They recognize that the people of America are not the government of America. They want to plea to the people of America to end the occupation,” Franti explained.

Franti and Spearhead return Saturday to the Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Building with new songs, several of those about Franti’s Iraqi experience “along with songs about frustrations many Americans feel about this time of war, the election, this seeming to be the world’s most chaotic time.”

Yet the songs also speak of “finding an ability to create and enjoy in our own lives.”

In fact, Franti’s latest CD is about compassion for everyone.

“After Sept. 11, Bush made a speech in which he said ‘we’re a compassionate nation but we’re only compassionate to the countries compassionate to us,”‘ Franti pointed out. “That’s the opposite of compassion. The record’s title song ‘Everyone Deserves Music’ says even our worst enemies deserve music and even the quiet ones deserve music.”


WHAT: Michael Franti & SpearheadWHEN: Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Doors open at 8 p.m.WHERE: Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Building, 255 S. Auburn St.ADMISSION: $25 in advance and $30 the day of the show, free for children under 10. Tickets at the Record Connection, Love Shack Records and BriarPatch or online at or,


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