Interview with Michael Franti

frantiIt was the second time I met Michael Franti for an interview. The first time was backstage at a multicultural festival in Rotterdam (Netherlands). This time the location is the office of his record company in Amsterdam. We spoke about his album ‘Everyone Deserves Music’.


Michael Franti just arrived from San Francisco early in the morning. Although he hardly slept during the flight, he’s in a good mood. When I greet Michael, the nearly 2 meter / 6,5 feet tall singer-songwriter answers with a hug. “Hi how are you, I remember you”, he says.

Everyone deserves music

“On Everyone Deserves Music, I discovered myself as a singer. That opened a whole new world for me. I have always been a kind of a rapper, but now I use my voice in a different way, it brings new opportunities. Singing gives me such a wonderful feeling. I feel a sense of freedom”, he tells with enthusiasm.


“It’s all because I learned to play guitar. That has changed my perception towards music. Once writing a song, meant for me to start with the lyrics and a beat, now I start with a melody. Most of the songs have been written with the guitar. I finally dare to say now that I’ve become a songwriter.”


Michael’s musical career goes way back in time with ‘the Beatnigs’. He looks back at his early steps in music with a big smile. “Our music was unique, I’m still proud of it, but I also realise how much I have grown in the meantime. In those days, I was always angry. I didn’t have much of a pleasant youth. I felt like an outsider most of the time. I wrote lyrics with my head, ‘Fuck the system‘, that kind of stuff. now I write with my heart.

Power to the peaceful

michael frantiYou can bomb the world to pieces but you can’t bomb it into peace. The song is essential for Michael Franti’s work as a songwriter. He brings a message of tolerance and peace to the world.

“I know that wars are still going on in different parts of the world. But at the same time, you see millions of people demonstrate against wars and asking for peace. It is something of a long breath. In the end, it’s all about the human values. I have a positive view on mankind. We are a relatively young species. As humans we are still in the process of growing up.”


Interview with Noa

It’s 10.30 am when I arrive in the lobby of the Sonesta hotel in Amsterdam for an interview with Noa. The Israelian singer who became famous around the world with the song “Beautiful that way” for the Roberto Benigni Oscar award-winning film ‘Life is beautiful’.

She is late. I wait patiently for the moment she will enter the lobby. Than suddenly the door opens. There she is, her long curly hair hanging loose around her shoulders. When she smiles, a gap between her teeth reveals itself.

Noa (full name: Achinoam Nini) is in Amsterdam to talk about her album Now. “It’s my best album so far.”, she says. “Why? Because it is very pure. It reflects my own development as a human being. The fact that I became a mother has changed my life. Some of my uncertainties have disappeared. I’ve become more flexible.”
You are learning to stand
I am learning to fall.

Noa has toured a lot since ‘Beautiful that way’ brought her international fame.
If she still enjoys going from town to town? “It is tiring, but I’ve learned to appreciate it in the right way. It gives me the opportunity to meet all kinds of people and discover interesting places. Since the birth of my child, I also see a city through his eyes. Like ‘Is there a zoo? Is the place child friendly?’ Those are the things I think of first.”

She loves Amsterdam. “I love to walk around in this town. It is a place in which you never have the feeling that it is too busy. There seems to be a kind of ‘calmness’ in the air. At least that is how I feel it. If i have visited the Anne Frank House? You might expect that from a Jewish woman, but no I haven’t done that yet.”

Singing in the Vatican

Noa was the first female artist from Israel that ever performed in the Vatican. “I sang Ave Maria. “Not the religious song, but my own composition. We actually crossed every possible boundary there in the Vatican. Me as a Jewish woman, who sang a profane version of Ave Maria. A song which first line is: ‘Ave Maria, where have you been hiding?

Sometimes people forget that we are all humans

Another highlight in her career was the Concert for Peace in the Roman Colosseum where Noa performed together with Cheb Khaled (the Algerian king of Rai Music) “Cheb was criticized in the Arabian world for singing with a Jewish woman. Sometimes people forget that we are humans, individuals, that we create art and want to bring peace in our own way. We are musicians, we do not represent the politics of a country.” On the album Now, Noa also sings a duet with Mira Awad a singer from Palestina. It’s a cover from the Beatles classic ‘We can work it out’. “Performing together, give people hope.” Years later the two singers represented Israel during the Eurovision song contest with the song ‘There must be another way‘.


Interview with Juanes

Juanes just arrived a few hours ago after a overnight bus ride from Berlin to Amsterdam where he will do a concert in the  Melkweg . “I’m not a fan of air planes so we tour by bus”.  He drinks a coffee while he hangs on a couch in the dressing room. “Unfortunately it’s not cafe Colombiano, because that is muy rico“, Juanes says half in English and Spanish. The whole interview will be bilingual. Me asking questions in English and he answering in Spanish or English. When it comes to singing, he will always prefer Spanish though. “Lyrics are important for me. So I have to express myself in my native language.”

Un dia normal

It’s his first European tour and his first visit to Amsterdam. The concert is sold out. “That’s amazing, my album ‘Un Dia Normal‘ has just been released here. Most people don’t know me yet.  A year earlier Un Dia Normal (a normal day) was already a huge success in Latin America. Isn’t it strange to promote an ‘old’ record? Well, in some way it is, but I’m very happy of course that people in Europe have the opportunity now to listen to it.

Vagabundo por el mundo

Juanes (short for Juan Esteban) has mixed feelings about touring. I love to be on stage, be able to bring my music to audiences in different countries. But I miss my country and my family a lot when I’m far from home.  When I’m on tour I feel like a vagabond .. un vagabundo por el mundo.

Heavy Metal

Before Juanes started a solo career he was the lead singer of the heavy metal band Ehkymosis . “Yeah man, that type of music was quite popular among the youth in those days. It was a way to express our anger and frustrations.

A dualistic life

Juanes came of age in a period in which Colombia suffered from violent actions by domestic terrorists, paramilitary forces and the cocaine mafia. “It’s a dualistic life”, he says. Colombia, and in particular my hometown Medellin is a really great place to party and have fun. On the other hand, when you woke up on a monday morning after a weekend of celebration, you could be pulled back into reality by the news that another terrible thing had happened. I’ve lost a cousin and a friend in those times. ”

Traditional Colombian Folk Music

“Music is always important in Columbia. I grew up in a musical family. Me and my brothers always played music together. Lots of traditional songs. On the album I pay tribute to a Joe Arroyo song La Noche I like the mix of folklore with rock music. This is the musical road I travel.”


Interview with Mafalda Arnauth

The first time I saw fado singer Mafalda Arnauth perform live was in Porto. I had never heard of her but was intrigued by a poster that announced the concert in this Portuguese town that is famous for the sweet wine with the same name. A few years later I saw Mafalda again during a concert in the Prinsenhof in the historic town of Delft (Netherlands). “Oh yeah I remember that concert in Porto very well”, she smiles, surprised to hear that I was there in Porto. “The audience was marvellous, they gave me so many positive vibes. We were in that theatre for three days and we had plenty of time to rehearse and create a perfect sound and atmosphere.”

The day after the concert in Delft I spoke to Mafalda. While drinking a coffee we talked about fado music, her musical roots and her performance last night during a festival dedicated to Chamber Music.

“We noticed immediately that this was a ‘cultivated audience’. Especially when it comes to classical music. We were wondering how they would react to fado. It was a real challenge. A completely acoustic concert, without microphone. Fado is a very physical type of music. It requires a lot from your voice. So I hoped it wouldn’t lose strength during the performance.
There is always a certain tension. Will I be able to get the most out of me? Can I balance my emotions? I remember some performances in which I got angry because some things didn’t go the way I wanted. In such occasions I felt overwhelmed by my emotions. That’s not good, because you can’t really focus on your voice. ”

Fado comes from the very depths of yourself

A Portuguese newspaper wrote about her : ‘She not only sings fado, she is fado.’ “They described it very well”, she reacts with a big smile. “If you want to sing fado, you have to give yourself completely, you have to enter into the song, become one with the music and connect with your soul. Fado comes from the very depths of yourself.”

mafalda arnauth
When Mafalda Arnauth grew up in Lisbon, she never thought of being a fado singer.
“I don’t come from a musical family at all. As a teenager I didn’t listen much to fado music. I was more into rock music and listened to my brother’s records. Things like Pink Floyd and Genesis. It was during my study as a Veterinary that I sang a fado song at a party. People told me: ‘wow you’ve got talent’. That’s were it all started.”


Fado music is often associated with a kind of melancholic feeling that Portuguese describe as saudade. “It’s true, i’m a melancholic person, but actually I search for that transcending feeling. My lyrics radiate melancholy but also hope. During the years I’ve learned that writing songs is not only inspiration. That’s probably 10%, the rest is respiration. Songwriting is a craft. Fado is often associated with a kind of bohemian lifestyle. But a good performance requires, discipline. It is a sport. I can’t keep my voice in good condition with wine and cigarettes.”