Given the current popularity of yoga and its integration into music festivals, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to take that combination on the road. This summer, the Soulshine Tour, which stops by the Uptown Amphitheatre on July 27, will combine an afternoon yoga session with acoustic music, followed by a night-time concert headlined by Michael Franti. It's an idea Franti tried before with great success.
"Last year at Red Rocks, we invited fans to come [to the show early] — I was going to play an acoustic set while someone was going to teach yoga," he says. "We thought a couple hundred fans might show up, and we ended up having 2,000."
Franti started practicing yoga the day after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he wanted to find a way to balance his touring life with his time offstage. From there, he started attending yoga classes at each tour stop. Now, building off of his Red Rocks experience, he hopes the Soulshine Tour can become an annual event.
"I expect that there will be thousands of people of varying levels of experience, age, abilities, etc., and my intention will be to make it as smooth, fluid and accessible for everyone as possible," Seane Corn, one of the scheduled instructors for the Charlotte tour date, said via email. "This is accomplished by simplifying the sequence, having fun and giving instructions and modifications that are easy to follow. It's different than a yoga class. Working with Michael is more like a yoga 'experience.'"
Franti loves the way yoga and music combine, and enjoys the challenge of doing something new every day. He hopes his fans will feel the same. "There was a time when people had no idea what yoga was," he says. "People thought you'd just sit in a corner, cross your legs and mumble mantras. Now, yoga has really taken off around the world and people everywhere of all ages are starting to make it part of their lives."
Soulshine can be as much an introduction to yoga as it is an introduction to Franti's music.
"The experience flows in an arc," Corn says. "It begins slow, meaningful and intentional with gentle movements weaved through inspirational language and Michael playing along, then it builds ... The asana [position] becomes more dynamic and then before you know it, Michael will rock out and everyone will start dancing. Then I'll bring them back to more dynamic asana and, who knows, maybe more dancing!"
As a Charlotte-area yoga instructor and musician, Allison Modafferi Brewster sees the combination as a celebration of life.
"Though both mediums have been highly commercialized, Michael Franti is a popular and outspoken advocate for a better planet," she says. "And yoga is all about transformation that begins at a personal level, then extends back out to our communities and the world. He's combining his passions to give voice to powerful subjects and to that, I say, rock on!"