If you want to hear some Groovy Sex music that will set your soul on fire, you MUST see Tomas Doncker’s band. They’re rhythm and blues mixed with world beats that will make you get out of your chair and tear up the floor. In short, Tomas Doncker IS Groovy Sex Music! But even moreso than that, with an album dedicated to the people of Darfur and a brilliant collaboration with a Pulitzer Prinze-winning poet, Tomas Doncker writes music that inspires people to think. And they just happen to be playing The Blue Note in NYC on April 12 at 8:00 and 10:30, so there’s time to get your tickets here!
Love and Water- Talk to me about your music, which you’ve described as Groovy Sex/Global Soul.
Tomas Doncker- I’ve been hovering around for quite a while. Because we live in a world that is so genre-specific right now, especially in music, where everything has to be “something,” From my experience and studies of world music and musicians I love and admire of the past, I believe that nobody is ever just one thing. From The Beatles to Jimi Hendrix to Marvin Gaye to Bob Dylan- people freaked out when Dylan went electric, as if he was supposed to stay one way. So what we’ve done is create our own genre called Groovy Sex Music/Global Soul. To describe it, it’s rhythm and blues music mixed with World music influences. Essentially, it’s everything everyone likes about music- it’s why I love music. My band and I make it our business to be about something. We don’t play music that means nothing, because there’s plenty of that out there, and I’m not knocking it at all. It’s nice to hear a song that has no meaning but you just like the music. I listen to plenty of songs like that, and I love them. It’s just not my place as an artist to put that kind of work out myself. My songs are not necessarily always heavy-handed, but they tend to always be about something meaningful to me. Ultimately, I try to send out a really positive message, and do my best not to preach, because I certainly don’t like being preached to. I just think it’s important to encourage people to look around at what is going on in the world; the way the world is turning right now. I feel as an artist that it is my job to try to strike a match in the darkness, and if I can do that for a minute, then I’ve done my job.
L&W- Your music is extremely inspiring on many levels. You write all of your songs, correct?
TD- I write and produce them. I’m the lead singer in my band, and have a producer and engineer I partner with, along with other amazing people who I work with to create my albums.
L&W- When did you know you wanted to be a singer?
TD- When I was twelve. I’ve always known I wanted to do this for a living. My mother was a semi-professional musician. She played in church and she was quite good. My father couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but he loved music and didn’t know he couldn’t sing,. He thought he was Harry Belafonte! That’s what we loved about him. But I remember watching a concert TV show late on Saturday night, and it hit me. I went into my mother’s room and woke her up and said “Ma, you gotta see this!” I took her to the television, and she was confused. I said, “that’s what I want to do.” And she said, “Ok, you know it’s not easy.” I said that I understood that, and that I was willing to do whatever it took to make it work for me. From then on my mother was very supportive of me. My father was too, although it took him a little longer because he wanted to me have a more stable profession. But he eventually came around. He saw me on television while I was performing in Japan, and that floored him. From then on he was nothing but a proud father.
L&W- You have a great gig coming up at The Blue Note on April 12, where you’re headlining the 8:00 and 10:30 shows!
TD- The Blue Note has been very supportive of local acts, giving us a chance to play in a really professional venue. It’s a special gig. With the decline of the music business as we know it, it’s harder these days for lesser-known, unsigned acts to break in. I had the opportunity to perform there for two late night gigs as part of the Late Night Blues Series, and we packed the house. I made sure everyone knew we were going to be there and got everyone excited to come out at 1:00 in the morning to hear us play there, because I wanted the venue to know how much that meant to me. It was the least I could do to give back- to thank them for having us and trusting in our music. God bless the Blue Note for that. We’re very excited to be playing there on April 12, and intend to pack the place again, because it’s going to be an amazing show! I’m so honored to be able to look forward to that.
L&W- What are some other places you’ve played?
TD- We’ve played all over the world and love to travel. Recently we performed at the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) convention in Disneyland at the Anaheim Convention Center. It’s a monster gig, and we’ve done that for four years now. I’m getting ready to go on a tour of the Caribbean, to perform at The BAZBAR in Gustavia Harbor, St. Barth on April 19, which I’m very much looking forward to.
L&W- How has social media been helpful in helping you self-promote your music?
TD- I have a great promotional team who works with me on social media outlets. It has been so helpful- so, so helpful. Tweeting has been incredible, and we’ve had such a great response as a result. We give away music all the time on Twitter, and have actually increased our sales by doing that. It’s a wonderful way to reach people in many areas, quickly, and that’s what I like so much about it. I beleive that if you have something to say, you should share it. It’s that simple. The more you give, the more you get.
L&W- You’ve also done some incredible collaborations on albums and in theater as well. Can you talk about that?
TD- I just finished the score for an amazing one-woman show for an actress named Marla Mase, called “A Brief Night Out.” It’s about a middle-aged baseball mom coming into her own again. She’s separated from her husband, and she’s reclaiming her independance and her spirit. It has a real downtown, 80’s-inspired, classic New York sound to it, reminiscent of Patti Smith. It’s a fun show. We’re performing on March 11 at The Duplex. I also did an album with Pulitzer Prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa called “The Mercy Suite.” He’s one of the great literary minds of this generation, and he collaborated with me on this album. He wrote the lyrics, and Meshell Ndeceocello, Morly and Corey Glover from the band In Living Colour came on board for some of the songs as well.
L&W- That must have been a thrilling and very fulfilling experience.
TD- It was one of the best, no doubt. To work with such a mind, such an artist, and to have other artists I think so highly of lend their voices to the songs was deeply touching to me.
L&W- What is the most moving moment you’ve had so far with your music?
TD- There have been so many moving moments, but there is one that really stands out for me. I had always wanted to do something to help the people of Africa. I had known what was going on in Sudan, but never knew what to do to help the situation. It was so overwhelming to even think about at times, that I would mentally shut down about it. I was at a loss. One night I dug a little deeper, and ended up writing this song called “Children of Darfur.” It just came out of me. Sometimes when I write songs, it takes a while to shape and craft, and other times it’s like a lightning bolt effect, like the hand of God reaches down and says, “here you go- here’s your song.” That’s what happened with this song. I just picked up the guitar and started playing it, like I already knew it. I scared myself. About two months later my bass player, Booker King, and I went to the NAMM Convention to perform, and we decided to premier the song there. We played it, and people went crazy. I had my first cd, “Inside Out,” there for sale, and people were buying it, but the first question everyone was asking was whether or not “Children of Darfur” was on it. So Booker turned to me and said, “looks like you’ve got a hit! What are you gonna do?” I thought about what to do, and ended up creating my second cd, called “Small World,” as a vehicle to showcase this song. It also helped me showcase how I love to fuse world music with rhythm and blues, and further shaped my identity as an artist. It opened so many new doors for me. I ended up coming across a wonderful woman who works with the Jewish World Watch named Rachel Andress, who runs a division called the Solar Cooker Project. That project provides cooking devices to the women of Darfur to cook while they’re in the refugee camps as opposed to leaving to get firewood, because that’s when they can get killed or brutally raped and tortured. So I included promotional information about Solar Cooker on the inside of the cd. A while later a gentleman in Brazil who has a blog/web tv/radio site called Melhores Web Radios, which is pretty well-known there, came across “Children of Darfur,” and wrote a huge piece about me, Solar Cooker Project and the elections coming up in Sudan. To get his emails and be in correspondence with him and to have a kinship with him has been amazing. He has a Twitter campaign to reach a million people with this article, which is still going on. It’s inspiring, because we can really help each other. I’m from the John Lennon school of philosophy: Imagine. Just imagine if we were all good to each other for just one day. It could have an amazing impact on our humanity.
L&W- What do you hope people walk away with when they hear your music?
TD- I wish that everyone’s minds and hearts open a little wider, and that it makes them pause for a moment to think about their own lives and the world around them. And I want them to have a good time- the best time, in fact. Because it’s music- it’s good, Groovy Sex Music.