August 3, 2010

Inspired by Michael Franti

~photo by Jim Campbell – omlight photography

Although two close friends of mine had played some Michael Franti songs for me over the past few years, I resisted liking his Marley-esque music and persona. Last Saturday night I joined dozens of friends and acquaintances from Boulder at Red Rocks Amphitheater to hear Franti’s prophetic music and now I’m among the converted. Few performers or public speakers can open the collective hearts of a mass of people – but as the sunset glowed on the sandstone rift in the earth that is Red Rocks and Franti took the stage, his presence filled the breezy summer air. For 2 hours, a sea of people stood waving their arms towards the sky swaying to his music which varied from jamming with his band Spearhead to very personal solo ballads on his acoustic guitar.

My resistance to Franti arose from my distaste for New Age love fests (Rainbow Gatherings) people with dreadlocks (living in Nederland for a year) and the sheep mentality that spiritual seekers can surrender to in the presence of gurus and teachers. Having been a disciple on a rigid spiritual path for many years, I’d returned back to a more Renaissance view of myself as an enlightened individual and an aspiring middle-aged metrosexual. I’d rejected my hippie bohemian roots.  So when a woman next to me told me that Franti was a modern day Prophet, I internally rolled my eyes. Then the music played.

At intermission, strings of Tibetan prayer flags were passed down through the crowd and hung across the top of the stage. The flags will travel the world in a fundraising effort for the Love, Hope, Strength Foundation that supports cancer centers and patients around the globe.

I closed my eyes and took the beats and his voice into me. I was swaying with my arms around the people beside me in a sea of love.

~photo by Jim Campbell – omlight photography

Some petty jealousies I’d been harboring (sorry, I’m a Scorpio – we do that) melted into the cosmos. Franti left the stage losing himself in the audience like a troubadour seducing the crowd with his universal message of racial equality and political justice. The passion in his coffee dark eyes and larger than life presence have the power to unite a world suffering from poverty, war and lack of unified vision. His latest album, The Sound of Sunshine was written to give people hope in troubled times after his life was threatened when his appendix burst during a tour. Even a CU football coach uses Franti’s words to inspire players in the locker room before games. The most humorous moment of the night occurred when Franti imagined out loud what would happen on a gridiron if two lineman faced one another and said, “I love you.”

He ended the night by filling the stage with children from the audience as he sang his new hit, Say Hey (I Love You). As he sang the refrain “I Love You,” “I Love You,” “I Love You,” over and over I felt the power of the words like a mantra that so easily blows hearts wide open.

I have found new inspiration in the music and human being that Michael Franti is.

~photo by Jim Campbell – omlight photography

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