By Christine Tumpson  |  Photographs from Chelsea Klette, Soulshine Bali Hotel & Yoga Retreat


You know Michael Franti & Spearhead’s music from the 2009, multi-platinum, #18 Billboard Hot 100 hit, “Say Hey, (I Love You),” that was everywhere from “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to Corona beer commercials. But long before then, the tall, barefooted, soul rocker started his musical journey from the heart of San Francisco, finding his lifelong passion and purpose. “What gives me joy is what I do,” he says. “Connecting with people. I grew up in a house where I didn’t feel connected all the time. I was adopted and felt like I didn’t fit in. When I meet other people who feel like that and who share similar values about the world, I feel that sense of connection, with the music, with one another, and that is amazing.” 

The band’s newest release, SOULROCKER, drops June 3 as they hit the stage at Point State Park in a free concert to open the 57th Annual Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival (TRAF), produced by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. The outsider perspective Franti gained through successfully navigating his childhood feelings of alienation resonates with people all over the world.

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Bearing the signature “Human” tag as part of his band’s overall message is part of the musician’s appeal, who also identifies as a humanitarian, activist, filmmaker, and yoga retreat owner, as well as father, friend, and now husband, as a result of his recent marriage to wife, Sara. The positive messages vibing in the sounds of this long-time, globe-trotting band are reaching new levels of audiences lately; ones who identify with the themes of hope, love, peace, and understanding for all. As Pittsburgh takes its role on a global stage as a center for creative solutions in an environment of positivity, Michael Franti & Spearhead’s musicianship made the act an important one for the TRAF to secure as the opening band. “In addition to his sheer talent, we chose Franti because he fully encompasses the values of TRAF and the theme of belonging for 2016,” says Sarah Aziz, program manager of Festivals and Special Projects, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. “We are thrilled to open the 57th festival with Michael Franti and Spearhead.”

Franti has success on his mind lately – what it means, where it will take him, and how he is going to get there. “What are your priorities?  All of it has to work together.” He describes his view with excitement. “If you can imagine four circles: Passion, Talents and Skills, Vocation, and Seva, (Sanskrit for giving back), and if they were all concentric, and at the little point where they all four converge, that sweet spot is success.”

Maintaining the tremendous energy reserves required for the act’s high-powered performances means an emphasis on yoga, meditation, healthy eating, and sleep. “One of the things I’ve been talking about a lot is health and wholeness,” he says. “Wholeness is that sense when we feel like we’re connecting, that we have a sense of purpose, like we’re giving back to the planet. But to have that part, you need to have health and wellness first.” 

A fortunate and grateful traveler, Franti found that wholeness in the people of Bali, where he owns and operates a four-star luxury yoga retreat and spa, Soulshine Bali, just outside of Ubud, Indonesia. While the resort’s accommodations and setting among rice field terraces are gorgeous, Franti claims it’s the spirit of the people who put the shine on his soul.

“The Balinese have a strong sense of community and strengthen it with ceremonies for everything,” he says. “Recently, I attended a blessing for metal. They brought everything made of metal from their homes and they blessed it all. It was a long ceremony, with singing and chanting, and it went on all morning, through the afternoon, and into the evening. I asked the guy who managed it, ‘It seems like it goes on forever. How do they know when it’s finished?’ He said, ‘We aren’t trying to please the gods. We know it’s done when we feel better.’ I heard that, and it changed the way I do my yoga practice, my relationship with my wife, my children, with my music. Let’s do it until it feels better.”

What will I leave behind in the river? I think about it a lot. It’s not about doing what we do here for being rewarded in this life. It’s more about ignorance versus enlightenment. We’re here in this time, and we all have skills and talents. I don’t know if there’s one meaning in life, but all of us have the ability to find our purpose. I feel a sense of purpose in it, and I hope to help others to find theirs.” — Michael Franti

Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, traf.trustarts.org. Michael Franti & Spearhead, michaelfranti.com.


Heal Thy Life in Style at Soulshine Bali Hotel & Yoga Retreat

Immersion in a healthy lifestyle leads to mind and body transformations at Michael Franti’s Soulshine Bali Hotel & Yoga Retreat

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“I make music for one reason: because I care about people in the planet. Right now, the planet needs us to be difference-makers more than ever before. That’s what this record Soulrocker is about. Taking care of our health and the health of the planet. These are things that are so dear to my heart and so important to all of us right now.” — Michael Franti

As co-founder of the luxurious and fully eco-centric hotel and yoga retreat center, Franti’s focus on living life to the fullest is clear. “We created Soulshine Bali as a place for life-changing experiences to take place, where lifelong friendships are formed, and people leave inspired to be the difference-makers in the world,” he says.

Retreats run weekly at the highly reviewed resort located just outside of Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, and near volcanoes, monkey forests, and rice fields. Considering his global exposure, Franti’s proclamation of the resort’s site as “one of the most beautiful places on the planet” carries great importance, as does the commitment to eco-sustainability and healthy lifestyle choices.

The food from the resort’s Soul Kitchen is freshly prepared with meals for non-vegetarians, as well as vegans. Days begin with a yoga class on the rooftop studio, and daytime activities include white water rafting, exploring ancient temples, and shopping in Ubud, Bali’s cultural center famous for its arts and crafts, for take-home treasures. For more information, visit soulshinebali.com.

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