Music, at its most basic and visceral, should suggest a journey. It can be an astral voyage, a spiritual pilgrimage, an emotional rescue or just a plain old mind-trip—whatever the path, it should shape an experience that somehow moves you. Making that happen as a composer isn’t always easy, but with Power of the Trinity, Tomas Doncker shows us that multiple ports of entry are possible if you remain open to connecting to something larger than yourself.
In this case, the connection starts with the music and the story that inspired it. Power of the Trinity began as a meditation on the life and legend of the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I (whose name in the ancient Ge’ez language literally means “power of the trinity”). Originally conceived and written as a theatrical work by the late playwright Roland Wolf, the script was bequeathed to his two sons, who realized that the play needed a score. When they found Doncker, a kindred spirit and a musician thoroughly schooled in the New York jazz-funk diaspora and its African soul roots, their next step was immediately clear.
As a prime mover on New York’s downtown “No Wave” scene in the early 1980s, Tomas 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. Eventually he went international, touring and recording in Japan with jazz pianist Masabumi Kikuchi, and producing studio and songwriting sessions with Boosty Collins, Yoko Ono, jazz saxophonist Sadao Watanabe and Grammy-winning producer Prince Charles Alexander, to name just a few. Since then, Doncker has continued to work with an A-list of iconic musicians, including Ivan Neville (on his solo album Thanks), Bonnie Raitt, Meshell Ndegeocello, Living Colour lead singer Corey Glover, former P-Funk keyboardist Amp Fiddler…and the list keeps growing.
In 2008, he produced and released Inside Out, featuring his band with percussionist Daniel Sadownick and bassist Booker King, and followed that with The Mercy Suite, featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa.In 2010, Doncker performed for the first time in China as a headlining act at the Shanghai Folk Festival, and in front of an audience of over 100,000 as part of the Shanghai World Expo. His next project as a singer/songwriter and producer embraced a broader musical vision that he likes to call “global soul,” drawing influences from numerous sources, including East and West Africa and the Caribbean. Small World was the flagship release on his own label, True Groove Records (distributed by Sony/RED), and proceeded his latest work, Power of the Trinity, featuring legendary bassist/producer Bill Laswell, Ethiopian singer Ejigayehu “Gigi” Shibabaw, Senegalese percussionist Aiyb Dieng, saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum, and a host of New York’s finest jazz, funk and rock musicians.
As a fusion of homegrown R&B and African beats and melodies, global soul fits the bill. It sparks a journey beyond ourselves, but equally important, the music is the direct result of artists from different backgrounds working together. On Power of the Trinity, Doncker unites with Ethiopian guitarist Selam Woldemariam to create a new form of urban soul funk (“Peace Is Not Fiction”), with bassist Bill Laswell and singer Ejigayehu “Gigi” Shibabaw to stretch our consciousness (“Conscience of the World”), with poet Yusef Komunyakaa to spotlight an instrument of popular expression (“K’rar”), and with Brooklyn rocker Doctor Israel to push the people to action (“Power”).
Join the Tomas Doncker Mailing List!