Q&A with New York-based multitalented musician Tomás Doncker - a pioneer of the global soul movement

"The impact of music in society is, and always will be, huge. It can open hearts & minds, and shape, inform, and galvanize people's actions. The opportunity I have to do this, as my life's work, affords me a way to positively impact people's lives and create positive change. I make it my business to on the side of positivity. Always."

Tomás Doncker: Global Soul

Producer/Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist Tomás Doncker cut his teeth as a guitarist with such genre-busting groups as James Chance & The Contortions; Defunkt; J. Walter Negro & The Loose Jointz; and many more, making him a prime mover on New York’s downtown“No Wave” scene in the early 1980s. Eventually he went international, touring and recording in Japan with jazz pianist Masabumi Kikuchi, and producing studio and songwriting sessions with Bootsy Collins, Yoko Ono, and Grammy-nominated Reggae vocal group The Itals, among others. Since then, Doncker has continued to work with such iconic artists as: Madonna, Ivan Neville; Iconic Bassist/Producer Bill Laswell; Bonnie Raitt; Meshell Ndegeocello; Corey Glover of Living Colour; former Parliament Funkadelic keyboardist Amp Fiddler; 2013 Grammy award nominee Shamekia Copeland, Israeli roots-Fusion artist Ravid Kahalani's Yemen Blues, and most recently hip hop pioneer/Rock & Roll Hall of  Fame inductee, and founding member of the legendary Public Enemy-Keith Shocklee. His ongoing collaborations with NYS Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Yusef Komunyakaa (the critically acclaimed album “Big Apple Blues” and the highly anticipated 10th Anniversary release of “The Mercy Suite”, and it’s “Future Roots Music” companion album/Tour “The Black Magnolia Project”), as well as his groundbreaking tribute to blues legend Howlin’ Wolf “Moanin’ At Midnight”, are celebrated worldwide.                                                 Photo: Tomás Doncker

Beyond that, he has produced hundreds of records-and is the Founder and CEO of NYC's fastest rising record label, True Groove Records. True Groove Records has received praise for its groundbreaking productions from such taste making music/Art & Culture discovery destinations as CNN, The Huffington Post, Mojo, Spin, Brooklyn Vegan, NPR’s “All Songs Considered”, Guitar World, All About Jazz, The Source, Vents Magazine, Paste Magazine, and No Depression-to name a few. Tomás Doncker’s seminal contemporary blues album “Moanin’ at Midnight: The Howlin’ Wolf Project - Deluxe Edition” (2020) remastered, repackaged and expanded from the original CD. For this ‘Deluxe Edition’ release there are four added tracks, with spectacular live versions of Smokestack Lightning and Back Door Man plus one of Doncker’s own songs; Shook Down which sits very neatly in this package and you can tell what it’s been influenced by. NYC musician Tomás Doncker, pioneer of the global soul movement, released ‘Wherever You Go,’ the title track from his upcoming album (Released 30/10/20) on True Groove Records. Struggling to deal with the Covid-19/Coronavirus pandemic, Doncker has created an uplifting message in the form of a musical prayer for humanity. “I had been very consciously trying to find a way to express what I wanted to say to people right now, a message to my fellow man to put things in a hopeful place in the face of this crisis. I woke up one morning singing the words ‘wherever you go,’ and by the time I finished getting coffee and had picked up my guitar it all there as a complete song; it came to me at once. It was almost an out-of-body experience, it was cathartic, emotional and very quick. It almost scared me, it was as if I had known it my entire life.

Interview by Michael Limnios          Special Thanks: Larry Kay (Night Train PR)

How has the Blues, Reggae and Soul music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Blues music is the foundation of everything. Roots music, the music of the people. Being a part of the creation of these stories and vibes is the essence of my life’s journey in music, and culture.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

We call it Global Soul. I’ve been asked this question throughout my career so many times that I had to come up with my own unique “Brand”, or Genre, if you will. Legendary Philly Soul Producers Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff once wrote: “Music Is The Healing force of the world,” and I truly believe that. Like the song says, "I love music. Any kind of music." My drive & focus are fueled by that concept. Frank Zappa said: “Music is the best.” I say - YES!!

"Blues music is the foundation of everything. Roots music, the music of the people. Being a part of the creation of these stories and vibes is the essence of my life’s journey in music, and culture." (Tomás Doncker / Photo by William Murray)

How started the thought of True Groove Records?

True Groove Records was born out of what we felt was a void in contemporary music. The idea of a multi-genre, multi-cultural platform where artists are encouraged to share their true vision was sorely missing. That’s what we set out to do. We’ve put out just over 80 releases and we're currently celebrating our 10th year.

What touched (emotionally) you from Howlin Wolf's music?

You can’t talk about Howlin’ Wolf without talking about Willie Dixon. The images, and storytelling in all of their work are so rich and vibrant. It was quite daunting when I realized what I had taken on. The songs resonate within me, and the audience, in such powerful ways. It’s been an honor to be able to add my interpretation to their legacy.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? Are there any memories from which you’d like to share?

There have been many... My senior year of high school I was selling shirts at the concerts that were being held in Central Park. I got to meet B.B. King, and chat with him for a few minutes. He was so generous. He immediately knew I was a guitar player; so welcoming & kind. For a 17-year-old kid it was like meeting God… seriously. He gave me a guitar pick. I went home and immediately gave it to my Mother for safe keeping.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I think a lot of the “Ol’ Skool” aesthetic of how music is made is, in some ways, making a comeback - except now it’s incorporating the use of high-level technology to bring it all around full circle. With the advent of Zoom recording sessions and focused file sharing, the concept of live global collaboration in a recording session has become a very powerful and readily accessible reality. I also think that musicians and artists are starting to realize we can be an undeniable force for good by shaping the soundtrack of the future now.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

I’ve always felt this, but it seems to be true now more than ever that music is magic. It is not something to be trivialized or toyed with. Of course, it’s a very "sexy” pursuit; an insane amount of fun and satisfaction are derived from it. But that perspective is selfish. Creating and sharing music is an intimate way to be of service.

"We call it Global Soul. I’ve been asked this question throughout my career so many times that I had to come up with my own unique “Brand”, or Genre, if you will." (Tomás Doncker / Photo by William Murray)

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

The impact of music in society is, and always will be, huge. It can open hearts & minds, and shape, inform, and galvanize people's actions. The opportunity I have to do this, as my life's work, affords me a way to positively impact people's lives and create positive change. I make it my business to on the side of positivity. Always.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Nowhere. I’m very grateful to be right here, right now. Great music has never, in the history of mankind, been more important and more needed. We need it to open minds and hearts, to bring people together. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

Tomás Doncker - Home

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