Yoga, Soul, and Rock & Roll With Michael Franti
By Brian Gage
Every so often, you may find a person who has the ability to brighten up the lives of everyone else around them by simply enjoying themselves and doing whatever it is that keeps them going. The multi-talented musician and humanitarian, Michael Franti is definitely one of those people.
The driving force behind beloved popular hits such as “The Sound of Sunshine” and “Say Hey (I Love You)”, the shoeless performer has been an icon for peace and love for numerous years now. While he is perhaps most well-known for his musical ventures, Michael has spent a great amount of time and energy creating other fascinating projects and events designed to educate and enlighten his audience on several messages.
Growing up in Oakland, California and currently based in San Francisco, Franti has been traveling the world and performing with various groups since 1986. While there are many sides to Franti’s musical prowess, he has made a name for himself most recently with his current band Spearhead.
Michael Franti and Spearhead formed in 1994 and have cultivated a beautiful and unique sound by mixing elements of Rock, Soul, Reggae, Hip-Hop, Roots, Funk, and Pop. Since their formation, they have released nine studio albums and have captivated fans of exceedingly varied tastes.
A Political Advocate
In addition to his musical pursuits, Franti is known for his role as a political advocate for peace in the Middle East as well as a supporter of several charitable organizations and initiatives worldwide.
He is also a huge proponent of limiting human impact on the environment, making sure that only non-plastic water bottles are sold on his tours and traveling by means of a biofueled bus.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Michael Franti about his current tour, a retreat he hosts annually in Bali, and some other things he has been up to and was able to learn quite a bit about his experience traveling with his music.
Stay Human Tour
When I asked about the origin of his current tour’s name, Michael told me that it’s all about how we hold onto our humanity when things are starting to seem crazy.
With this message of optimism in the face of so much political chaos and strife all over the world, he is attempting to keep people grounded to their roots and bring them together over their common love of music and desire for peace.
The Stay Human tour has brought Michael all over the United States and to some locations in Canada. Despite his hectic and extremely busy schedule, Michael has been able to find the time to relax and take in the beauty of the countless stops along his way.
No matter where he finds himself, the first thing Michael makes sure to do every morning is take a walk around his new surroundings. Regardless of the length of the stroll, or the vibe of the area he finds himself in, he always finds something exciting about the scenery of a new place. He had told me that while staying in Providence, Rhode Island last week, despite the industrial vibe of his surroundings, he was absolutely enthralled by the inner mechanisms and workings of this railway bridge near his hotel.
This topic of his travels on tour brought me to question where he would say was his favorite destination he has ever visited, and he provided me with an answer far more informative than I ever could have imagined.
Yoga, Soul, and Rock & Roll in Bali
Michael was extremely expressive about his love for the Indonesian island of Bali and its residents. He first visited about a decade ago and knew that he would always want to return. When he did, he came with a vision in mind.
Michael and his team dreamed of building a hotel where visitors could experience the peaceful beauty of the island for themselves then the Soulshine Hotel was born.
Located five minutes away from the village of Ubud, the hotel promises a relaxing experience for all of their guests, and it holds a plethora of exciting retreats and events every year.
The most famous of these is the Soulrocker Retreat held by Franti himself annually. With next year’s installation being held from January 7-14 2019, this weeklong event is geared towards providing people with a means of getting back to themselves through a mixture of yoga, live music by Franti and his friends, and the community created by the repeat attendees and all of the new, like-minded folks it attracts.
According to Michael, “At Soulshine our Mantra is Yoga, Soul and Rock & Roll, so we wanted to create a place with a beautiful boutique setting where people can practice Yoga. The Soul element is how people come together and have transformative life experiences.
“We have ways that we help plug people into doing good stuff for the community. We work with the Bumi Sehat Natural Birthing Center, we work with the Green School, and we work with the bamboo foundation that’s reforesting clearcut areas. And the Rock & Roll part comes into play at night when we turn up the music loud and we dance and play.”
The retreat isn’t a restrictive and insanely serious workshop, it’s meant as a fun way for you to meet new friends with similar interests while working on your practice, seeing awesome performances by world-renowned musicians, and eating delicious local food in a magnificent place, while also doing some good for the developing communities around you.
A typical morning at Soulrocker involves eating a tasty Balinese breakfast and heading up to the studio with about thirty other people to just get to know each other and work on each other’s practice for a few hours.
While the retreat itself is only a week long, you truly end up bonding a great deal with the people you’re surrounded by, and are able to build some lifelong relationships.
After that, everyone heads down to the pool to jump in and relax for a while before getting ready for a beach outing, a rafting trip, or something equally as engaging.
Upon returning, there’s some downtime around lunch and another yoga session before everyone gets together at a long table for dinner.
From then on, it’s music, dancing, and revelry for the rest of the night to local Balinese music, as well as some pretty well-known names.
The retreat does a great job at achieving a balance between the discipline necessary to sustain a healthy and productive practice while also having the most fun you can in an enchantingly gorgeous venue with a host of amazing people from around the world.
Michael himself started practicing yoga on the day after 9/11 2001 as a means of clearing his mind and healing, and his stuck with it ever since. He uses it as a way to stay focused on the task at hand and completely ready for any difficulties the day may throw his way.
Holding this retreat is his way of trying to open new doors for others to discover what having a steady yoga practice can help you achieve in your daily life.
Brian Gage is a resident of Amherst, Massachusetts and a lover of all things outdoors. He enjoys traveling to exciting new locations, attempting to take in the most beautiful natural sites he can see. He is an avid hiker and climber and can be found at the Hadley Central Rock Gym on many of his free days.