‘It’s An Often Underestimated Component Of The Arts’: Tomás Doncker On ‘World Environment Day’ Festival Ft. Patti Smith, Michael Stipe, Ben Harper

The virtual festival for restoration and recovery in honor of World Environment Day features global performances by Patti Smith, Michael Stipe, Ben Harper, Dave Matthews, Tomás Doncker, and more!

On Friday, June 4, 2021 at 3pm EST, Pathway to Paris, 350.org, and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) North America Region will come together for a virtual festival to celebrate our planet in honor of World Environment Day — the United Nation’s flagship day for the environment. As we move into a new era of global recovery, this year’s central theme is the protection of our ecosystems and restoring our relationship with nature. 

“It is critical that we consider the urgent needs of our planet as we transition back into living our lives and performing concerts again after a year of global quarantining and isolation,” Jesse Paris Smith, co-founder of Pathway to Paris, said in a statement. “We simply cannot go back to the way things were before. So much has been lost due to Covid, an immeasurable amount, and all the while, the climate crisis did not go away; it has always been there underneath the surface, existing every day amongst all of the other destruction and suffering. As we rebuild our world, we must make changes greater than ever before, and transition into a new era which favors our natural and wild places, and focuses deeply on protection and preservation. Global collaborations like this event provide healing and communication during such a challenging time, and these new connections must continue and lead to great change, new ideas, ambitious action, and true global renewal.” 

Patti Smith adding,It’s important for us to work together to continuously draw attention to the needs of our suffering planet.” 

World Environment Day will include presentations from environmentalists such as 350.org founder Bill McKibben, Pennie Opal Plant, and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The concert will feature international performances from Patti Smith, Ben Harper, Michael Stipe, Dave Matthews, Rocky Dawuni, Jack Johnson, Yury Revich, Priya Darshini, Jordan Sanchez, Rima Fujita, Tenzin Choegyal, Patrick Watson, Jackson Smith, and words and music from Pathway to Paris founders Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon. 

Last but certainly not least, singer-songwriter/guitarist and pioneer of the Global Soul movement Tomás Doncker will be performing his rendering of the iconic Patti-penned tune “People Have The Power” — premiered on ABS. Recorded and filmed at Electric Lady Studios, Doncker will be joined by Jesse and Jackson Smith on the song and introduced by Patti herself.

“I was invited by Pathway to Paris co-founder Jesse Smith,” Doncker tells me. “As things unfolded, I was told that I was to perform a stripped down acoustic version of my arrangement of ‘People Have The Power’ with her and her brother (killer guitarist Jackson Smith), live at Electric Lady Studios. Without question one of the greatest experiences (musically, or otherwise), in my life. I am honored, humbled, and eternally grateful to be in service of our Mother Earth with these beautiful people.”

L to R: Jackson Smith, Tomás Doncker, Jesse Smith, Patti Smith

As a lifelong fan of Patti’s work, Doncker recalls catching her at CBGB way back when. But he never thought to do an arrangement of any of her songs until last year, in light of certain events. He heard “People Have The Power” in more of a soulful context, so while he was trying to work out his own version he got stuck by the second verse. He set it aside, until mid-November when he was introduced to Patti’s daughter, Jesse, who he shared his story with. Before he knew it, he was on FaceTime with Patti, who told him to write his own words so that he could sing it in his own voice.

The people have the power to redeem the work of fools

The song’s meaning broadens and intensifies throughout every season of life, serving as what Doncker also considers a rallying cry to all of us to step up in support of this planet we call home. “I mean it’s one of the ‘All-Time Great Tunes,’ isn’t it? To me it’s the perfect all-purpose anthem for our times, a reminder that the core commonality we share beyond sociopolitical barriers is this planet. As James Brown once said: ‘Get up, get into it, get involved.’ 

“If we all were just a little bit more considerate, and respectful of the environment (and each other), just think of how much better our collective existence could be. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a huge honor and privilege to be of service in raising awareness. I feel it’s an often underestimated component of the arts in general to shake folks up, to motivate them towards positive change.”

Doncker’s mind was both influenced and expanded early on by the crew of brilliant artists and writers with whom Patti associated: William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Sam Shepard. “The real New York culture gang. In fact, my partner at True Groove Records Marla Mase’s ‘go-to monologue’ for her acting auditions was a monologue from Cowboy Mouth, which Patti co-wrote with Sam Shepard. I can remember a summer job I had selling t-shirts at the Dr. Pepper Music Festival (held in Central Park), during my senior year of high school. I made sure to bring a red rose to try and give her in between songs. Needless to say I wasn’t the only person who thought to bring a rose for Patti. I could go on, but in short, she is made of love, light, and positive power. All of our lives are better because of her presence.

“It is said that you can really see who a person is through their children. That’s absolutely true in this case. Both of Patti’s children — her brilliant and beautiful daughter Jesse (who of course is spearheading this event) and her badass guitar-slinging son Jackson — are two of the finest, most talented people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with, and become friends with. It was like we had been on the road playing together for years, AND at Jimi Hendrix’s legendary Electric Lady Studios, no less!”

American Blues Scene has come on board as a streaming partner for this important event. Please join us live on June 4th at 3pm EST as we collaborate together to build a better world. You can stream via ABS’s Facebook, Pathway to Paris, 350.org, or UNEP



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