MICHAEL Franti will be plugging in when he headlines the Woodford Folk Festival over new year's.
The American hip hop and roots musician makes his Woodfordia debut in duo form, playing with guitarist J Bowman while the rest of their Spearhead band mates remain at home.
It will be the first taste for Aussie fans of Franti's upcoming new album produced by Miami-based Jamaican dance hall specialists Supa Dups and Di Genius.
"We're combining what we do with our guitars and rootsy music and what they do with dance hall, and coming up with a hybrid," Franti told APN.
"When we play Woodford Folk Festival it will be like when Bob (Dylan) went electric; Franti goes dance… we're going to turn it into a dance party."
The prolific singer/songwriter says it's shaping up to be his favourite project to date.
"It's a unique sounding record with a message about what's happening in the world today," he said.
"It's about all the things we read about in the news - the environmental crisis, political violence, extremism - and how we can all become difference makers and work every day for peace, not just hope and pray for things to get better.
"It is my favourite record I've ever made."
A long-time Byron Bay Bluesfest performer, having first played the festival in 1998, Franti has long had Woodford on his bucket list.
"Ever since I've been coming to Australia I've been hearing about it, so I'm super excited to be there this year," he said.
"All the artists who play at Bluesfest always talk about it."
It will be Franti's only Australian show for the near future, sandwiched in the middle of a visit to his yoga retreat in Bali.
The southern hemisphere excursion caps off a big year for Franti, who met and performed for the Dalai Lama.
"When I sat down next to him he said: 'You know Michael, when I first saw you and saw your tattoos and dreadlocks you looked hard and mean but when you played music everyone felt joy and excitement. But excitement doesn't last very long and that's why it's important people listen to your words and your lyrics. That meaning goes on forever'."
"He pointed at my chest and said: 'You have a really good heart. I'm a monk with a lot of restrictions but you have the heart of a monk. I'm going to call you the unrestricted monk'."
That big heart led Franti and his wife Sara to create the Do It For the Love Foundation, a charity which helps terminally ill and disabled people to meet and see their favourite musicians in concert.
He launched the foundation in Australia earlier this year when he was Down Under for Bluesfest.
"It's like a make a wish foundation for music. People just write to us online and we get them out to the shows," he said.
"In the first 18 months we've done more than 300 wish grants, and now the word is getting out more we're getting more and more requests every week.
"We did this really great wish grant a week ago with this kid who was born blind. His dream was always to meet Stevie Wonder, so he got to meet Stevie and Stevie gave him his harmonica at the end of the night.."
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