Utne Reader Music Reviews: November-December 2008

| November-December 2008

Music for the Movement
All Rebel Rockers (Anti-)
by Michael Franti and Spearhead 

Michael Franti has always had his fist in the air and a smile on his face, and if you think that’s incongruous, his music can probably change your mind. All Rebel Rockers is a potent place to start, with famed reggae producers Sly and Robbie ricocheting dub and dance hall beats to abet Franti’s funky hip-hop, and with lyrics that are more specific, hopeful, and incendiary than ever.

Franti has never lacked for ingenuity. He has founded a decade-old annual peace festival, directed a film documentary that won an award from Amnesty International, written a children’s book, and literally put his lyrics on bumper stickers. All Rebel Rockers represents his most canny mixture yet of political topicality and musical accessibility. While he lambastes the Patriot Act and chants for activism on “Hey World,” the opening groove is an infectious shuffle reminiscent of the bubblegum ’60s hit “My Boyfriend’s Back.” On “The Future,” Franti churns out couplets like “They tell you that war is a permanent thing / And the American Idol kids really can sing.” And there are unmistakable echoes of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” on the affirming closer, “Have a Little Faith.”

Franti’s ace in the hole is his ability to stimulate lefty catharsis. Roll your hips or pogo your hamstrings to “A Little Bit of Riddim,” and sing along as he barks, “To those who torture / Whoa now devil / I’m coming for ya.” You’ll have enough juice left afterward to clean your house, or canvass your block. —Britt Robson


Riffing on India
Kinsmen   (Pi Recordings)
by Rudresh Mahanthappa
Featuring Kadri Gopalnath and the Dakshina Ensemble

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