Michael Franti is without a doubt one of Bluesfest’s perennial favourites – his boundless energy and his ethos embodying the vibe of the music festival.
This year Franti is back, but it’s something pretty special: he brings his Soulshine Tour – a collection of his musical comrades such as Trevor Hall, Soja, Spearhead and, wait for it, yoga!
‘The tour is something we started in the US this past summer,’ says Franti. ‘Four bands playing an hour set and before all that happens there is an optional one-hour yoga class with acoustic music played by me, and some of the other people who come and jam…’
So how did yoga make its way to centre stage?
‘It started because I have been practising yoga for 13 years and every city I visit I go to a yoga school and people in those cities started coming to the gig and practising yoga with me. When we were at Red Rock it grew to 1,000 and I thought let’s do it on every stop on our tour so people who practise yoga can come and have some super fun.
‘We have been getting hundreds of people at every show. It’s a fun yoga experience, even for people who haven’t ever practised – we always have great teachers – and it’s for all levels – if they don’t want to practise they can come and listen to the acoustic music, and the yoga is part of it – it’s kind of like a vinyassa flow class. Because there are so many people we do a bit of partner yoga and group participation.’
Pioneer of contemporary yoga and founder of Power Living Australia Yoga, Duncan Peak will be the instructor for Bluesfest’s Soulshine.
For Franti, yoga has been instrumental in managing a hectic touring routine.
‘I have been touring for 25 years and my shows are very physical. I dance, I jump up and down, I run around, and like anyone who is my age you start to wear out a little bit. Yoga keeps my mind focused and helps me relax offstage to take it all down to a relaxed level so that when I hit the stage I can give it 100 per cent.’
Yoga practice also helps manage that after-performance high, which can often cause a bit of adrenal overload for artists who are performing large shows on a regular basis.
‘It’s a really high-performing music. It’s also an emotional opening – yoga is a way to take a part of my day and release all of that, whatever I have taken on in the show – whatever personal things that are within.’
Franti’s approach is something that has evolved and softened over the years.
‘When I first started I was really into overt political messages in my music and I looked at the world and saw it as a case of Us versus Them, the people versus the government versus the corporate world. As I have grown and evolved and become more in tune with the way life is – to borrow a phrase, there are way more than 50 shades of grey out there, there are millions of shades! In every situation, and in every troubled situation, we need everyone’s involvement.
For climate change, we need the wisdom of indigenous people, the best science has to offer, the innovation of the corporate world. We need people to work together on things. The way we reach that is through people’s hearts.
‘As a musician who has done socially conscious music for a long time, I have moments where I wonder what has my music really done; 25 years doing this and the world still seems like we are dealing with the same problem. We look to other people who have done amazing things and find strength in their courage. Mine is the gift of music. It reconnects us to the sense of purpose, it reminds us why we get up every day and why we struggle to give.’
Franti continues to believe that people are capable of change, and perhaps that change is something that needs to happen at a personal level first.
‘I feel like the great battle that is taking place is between cynicism and optimism and when we fall into the trap of cynicism it’s impossible to do anything. When we imagine and when we dream we find solutions to things that we would never have imagined; that is the way that the great inventions of the world have come about!’
Join Michael Franti for his one-hour yoga jam before his Soulshine Show at Bluesfest this Easter, and be part of the shifting consciousness.