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2004-08-31

Michael Franti on the RNC Protests & His Trip to the Middle East

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Michael Franti joins us in our studio to play two new songs and to talk about his travels. [includes rush transcript]

  • Michael Franti

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: American Gas Association, yes, is helping to sponsor a big event today at 4:00 at Sotheby’s on the East Side, the elite auction house. I think it’s the Tennessee republicans who will be celebrating Johnny Cash. Some of his memorabilia will be auctioned off. Protesters are calling for a "Men in Black" block, a protest outside. We have Steve Earle, the musician in our studio Friday saying that Johnny Cash would roll over in his grave if he knew he was going to be the person celebrated by — at the Republican National Convention. Michael Franti, rejoins us, the great hip hop artist just back from Palestine and Iraq, preparing for a big September 11 Power to the Peaceful rally in San Francisco that has become an annual tradition. Welcome back.

MICHAEL FRANTI: I hope when I die, they have a Democracy Now! fund-raiser auction down at Sotheby’s. [laughs]

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of that today?

MICHAEL FRANTI: I think it’s horrible. Johnny Cash was a rebel, not only just in the musical sense, but he was somebody who was for the people, and an advocate for labor, for workers, for prisoners, people who have been trapped by the criminal justice system.

AMY GOODMAN: I wonder if they will play his song, "The Mercy Seat,"

MICHAEL FRANTI: I doubt it.

AMY GOODMAN: —about the death penalty, something that he campaigned against for a very long time. We just got this news in, at least 12 people killed, dozens others wounded today in two explosions within minutes of each other on two buses in the southern city of Beersheba. The blast occurred at 2:50 p.m. close to the city’s municipal building. According to paramedics, the 15 people wounded. The radio report of Israel Radio said Palestinian attackers had carried out an attack. The report could not be confirmed. Palestinian militants have not carried out a suicide bombing inside Israel since March 14, when 11 people were killed in the port city of Ashtad. Earlier today, Israeli defense forces, soldiers say they caught a Palestinian man carrying an explosive belt as he tried to cross into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Beersheba is 25 miles west of Gaza City. Michael Franti, you took a trip to Iraq where we talked to you as well as Gaza and West Bank. Your response and your thoughts as you come to the city of the Republican National Convention this week?

MICHAEL FRANTI: Well, the main thing that I have been thinking just as I have been walking the streets is my experience of being in Baghdad where, you know, it’s a very large city like New York, but every third or fourth building is blown up. The roar of generators that is constantly requires you to raise your voice even as you are talking to someone very close you to, because there’s no electricity, so, they have to burn generators in front of the buildings. There’s no water. Just being out here in the heat of New York, you know, you can go to any grocery store on the corner and get water, and in Iraq, you just cannot do that. So, just having the experience of being over there and seeing what people are dealing with on a day-to-day basis, and contrasting it to America is an incredible culture shock. I wish that people who were trumpeting the cause of war at the convention would be able to just see a glimpse of that, or experience it for an afternoon.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you like to share one of your new songs?

MICHAEL FRANTI: I would. This is a new song I wrote while I was over there. I sang it for soldiers that I met there and I sang is for Israeli defense forces and I sang it for people all over in hospitals that had limbs blown off and it’s called, "It’s Time to Come Home." It’s about, of course, the occupation.

Those who start wars never fight them.
Those who fight wars never like them.
And those who write laws can recite them.
And those who fight laws live and die them.
But I know it’s time.
Yes, I know it’s time.
It’s time to come home.
It’s time to come home.
It’s time to come home.

I broke a string—

It’s time to come home.
And I say, yoo-hoo.
Those who build walls are pretending that forever they can defend them.
And those who dam streams can build fountains.
And I say, those of us who just let them be, we can move mountains.
But I know it’s time yes, I know, it’s time.
It’s time to come home. It’s time to come home.
It’s time to come home.
It’s time to come home.
And I say — yoo-hoo yoo-hoo-hoo-hoo.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Franti, here in our studio and an old decommissioned firehouse, 100 years old as he tries to-did

MICHAEL FRANTI: I broke a guitar string — [laughs]

AMY GOODMAN: -sing without that sixth string.

MICHAEL FRANTI: This brings up a great point. We met musicians in Iraq, who are struggling, incredibly, just to have bay suck things. We met a heavy metal band called the Black Scorpions who don’t have electricity to run the amplifiers in a small basement studio, they run a gas powered generator. So, they have to sing over the roar of the generator and deal with the fumes. During the time when Saddam was in power, they had to write a song singing the praises of Saddam, just to be able to make music, even though they hated Saddam and now that — Saddam is out of power now, there’s people who are — who want to attack them for having written the song. They’re just — you know, they are just young kids who want to play heavy metal. They cannot get strings. They cannot get heads for the drums. They cannot get drum sticks. It kind of underscores, you know, the point that people–there are really just basic needs are not being met. But also the resilience of people and the endurance of people to make music and sing songs despite whatever the circumstances are.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you were in Iraq, and then you went to Israel, to Palestine. Your thoughts there, as you come back here, in one of the really the closest contested presidential races in a long time that can determine a lot about what happens in the places you were in. Do you feel there will be a difference? Do you think that it matters. How you will be using your music in the next few months?

MICHAEL FRANTI: Well, it has to matter. It has to matter. This issue of Israel has to be on the agenda, because what we’re seeing around the world today, the anger that I felt in not only Iraq, but in — but also in Jordan, and in Palestine and speaking to other people from other Arab nations is that they — they see what’s happening in Palestine as to what could potentially happen to all countries. That’s where the hostility comes from the Arab nations towards the U.S. and as you see in the convention people saying over and over again, they’re just jealous of us. They’re just jealous of Americans. That’s why the Arab world hates us. It’s not that. It’s a direct result of our foreign policy and specifically it leads all back to the road leads to Palestine.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael, we only have a second for your second piece, but people can go to your website and get more information and hear you on September 11 — at the Golden Gate Park, The Power to the Peaceful Rally.

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