Reggae rocker band Michael Franti and Spearhead are in South Africa to perform at this year’s edition of Splashy, we caught up exclusively with the rocker who says he is more than excited about being in the country.
Will this be your first time performing in South Africa?
Yes, and it's my first time ever on the continent. We've been looking forward to making it to South Africa for as long as we've been a band. The name of our band came from the Assagai spearhead created by chief Shaka Zulu and we've followed the history and struggles of South Africa so it will be great to finally kiss the ground. I wish you could see the smile on my face right now as you read this.
How much do you know about Splashy Fen?
I only know what I've seen on videos online. It looks like a community based event where what's happening off the stage with people, art, food and connection is as important as what's happening on stage. I actually prefer to show up not knowing a lot about it so I can have my mind blown!
What attracted you to this festival?
The thing that attracts me to any festival is people from many walks of life coming together in the belief that music is magic. People willing to travel great distances, sleep in a tent, poop in an outhouse all because of music's power to transform moments, open up hearts and help strangers connect. Right now the world could use a lot more of this!
How would you describe your music?
I make music for one reason: I believe every person on this beautiful planet of ours deserves to be happy, healthy and equal. And every show I do is dedicated to that. I've drawn from many styles over the years - reggae, rap, folk and dance music, but to me they are all the same: a way to organize thoughts and emotions in sound. Before I make any record I begin with the thoughts in my heart and the same acoustic guitar I learned to play on.
How excited are you about performing at such a huge festival in SA?
It's hard to express how excited I am to be playing music in South Africa in general. Not just this festival. South Africa has been an inspiration to so many young people in America. Mandela, Steve Biko, Desmond Tutu, these were popular heroes to us. Like Martin Luther King or Malcolm X. We've followed your triumphs and witnessed your struggles as a nation family. As African Americans we relate to your hopes and disappointments, and as human beings we connect to the tenacity of a mixed society grappling with it's own soul each day to find its way.
What can people who do not necessarily know you expect from you?
Our shows are all about connection. Us connecting with the audience, strangers becoming friends, friends becoming family. I always get my guitar and a mic and spend a lot of time playing in the crowd, I love feeling that connection and after every show I always walk off the front of the stage and meet anyone who wants to say hello.
What are you looking forward to the most about performing at Splashy?
Connecting with South Africans, having my mind blown by at least one band I've never heard of, rocking out with others, walking barefoot in the countryside, kissing the earth and saying “holy cow I finally made it to South Africa”.
You have performed in many countries, which has been your favourite?
I loved Bali so much the first time I went there that I bought a piece of land and built a boutique yoga hotel called Soulshine Bali, dedicated to bringing people from around the world together, it's my place to hit the reset button. But honestly what gets me up every day is knowing that no matter where I am if I keep my eyes and heart open I will experience 'amazing' every day, whether I'm playing a prison, a street corner, a festival or traveling to a country like South Africa where I've yearned to come to for years.