TyMeLyNe Politics

Political Entertainment News Caused By The Government. A blog through, a Dj's eyes. Brought to you by my life...a work in progress production.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Democracy Now! | "I Rock Iraq:" Hip-Hop Artist Michael Franti Speaks From Baghdad

Democracy Now! "I Rock Iraq:" Hip-Hop Artist Michael Franti Speaks From Baghdad: "MICHAEL FRANTI: We flew from Amman, Jordan, and as we traveled over the border from Amman into Iraq, the first thing you notice is this incredibly vast beautiful sea of red sand and earth. Beautiful desert. At one point, the pilot said over the intercom, we're approaching the border, and you will see the border from the air. Sure enough, from 20,000 feet, you see a straight line that was drawn by colonial powers dividing up this region. It doesn't make any sense. There's literally a line in the sand that you can see from the air. We flew at 23,000 feet. We were told by the pilot once we got over Baghdad, we would drop down to 15,000 feet.

Just as we were getting near Baghdad, we saw the city of Fallujah and the pilot pointed it out to us. You could see whole air-- Fallujah is not a big city. Maybe 50,000 or 75,000 people. We could see whole areas, whole places that had been-- looked like they were carpet bombs. Whole blocks that had been destroyed. As we got over Baghdad, the plane dropped down to 15,000 feet, and the pilot said, in order to avoid surface-to-air missiles and small arms fire, we're going to go directly over the airport and tip the plane at a 45 degree angle and do a corkscrew down to the ground in about two and a half minutes, from 15,000 feet. So you are just flying down superfast and the plane is rotating around in a circle. Then just as you get down to the bottom, you tip the plane up and land the plane. It was an exhilarating ride for the 16 of us on the plane. But, you know, the reason for the ride, you know, gave us, you know, pause to, you know -- for caution once we got on the ground. As we got into the airport, we saw contractors who were hired to do security there from a company called Custer Battle Sec"

AMY GOODMAN: And what was it like for you to move around Baghdad, the hotel that you are staying at, how you move in and out?

MICHAEL FRANTI: Well, there's a checkpoint. The hotel that we're at is blocked by Iraqi security guards. We're not within the military perimeter, but we're very close to the military perimeter, just a block away. There's no possibility for our car to come down our place and park in front of our hotel, potentially be a car bomb or something. But once you head out into the street, you never know what you are going to run across. There's such an anti-american sentiment here right now that the people who travel with us and interpret for us are also- they're not armed security, but they're handlers. They tell us where it's safe to go, where it's not safe to go. They tell us when it to get in the car and when to move on to the next place. You know, me with a guitar and dreadlocks and looking very unusual, I attract a lot of attention. And so far, it's been all positive. People just want to hear songs and they smile.

I have written a song call The Habibi, which means "sweetheart" in Arabic. And everyone on the street, men and women alike, call each other "habibi". It's a term of affection like somebody might say, hey, baby, what's up? Everywhere I go, I sing that song and it gets everybody going.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about where are some of the places that you have sung?

MICHAEL FRANTI: Singing in the hospitals is a really amazing and intense experience for me, because it's hard to know what to say. I don't speak Arabic, and most people don't speak any English at all. So, you're there witnessing children with no limbs, children who are going through chemotherapy, adults that have incredibly infected legs that are about to receive amputations, and it's so moving that it's hard for me to even sing. You see a lot pain. There's no nurses or very few nurses in the hospitals, so family members sleep in the hospital with their children or their loved ones. Most of the time in the same bed. Some mothers are there 24 hours a day with their children. So, I sing songs to the mothers, and the mothers begin to weep. I begin to weep, and the children begin to weep, you know. And it was just very amazing thing, but, you know, you--