Text by Charles Chang / Images from ACT. Translation by David Stone.
Photo above: Tico Torres with Ramon Awenkina, a Maroon traditional healer
World-famous stars sometimes have a lifestyle that is not environmentally sustainable. One thinks of high-energy consumption, wasteful practices and lack of involvement with the locals. However, there are artists who do not belong to that club.
Late last month, the Amazon Conservation Team organized a trip to Kwamalasamutu in Suriname for friends of the environmental organization. This was carried out as part of its twentieth anniversary in Suriname. Among the group of visitors from the US was a world-famous artist, Tico Torres, drummer for the legendary rock band Bon Jovi. The trip was intended as an orientation and to introduce Americans to the indigenous population and the natural environment in which they reside. Tico has now been involved with ACT for five years, including four as a Board member. "No, I had not previously heard of ACT, but you know how it goes sometimes: friends put you in touch.
My wife knew him first—Mark Plotkin, president of ACT—and we invited him once to come to our home in Florida. There he talked about his work, mapping and protecting plant medicines for the sake of conservation, and that appealed to me. Of course I was already working on nature conservation—I donated to Sting’s Rainforest Foundation--but now with ACT, I feel deeply involved."
Kwamalasamutu made a deep impression on Tico, but it was not his first encounter with the Amazon rainforest. Previously, he had been to Colombia, where ACT is also active in the Inga indigenous communities of Caquetá. "It was interesting," said the successful drummer, who now leads a less hectic life but still finishes thirty tours annually. Tico also has its own separate baby clothes line, called Rock Star Baby.
"My impressions of Kwamala? In my mind, I had imagined a different picture. In any case, I had no image of people in western clothes and sports trainers. Yet the energy and strength I got from them, that was there. I realized that the Amazon rainforest could save mankind. It contains so much water and so many medicinal plants. It wonderful to know that so many medicinal plants can be in one and a half square meters of forest! Before the world was developed, it looked like this. Protecting the rainforest should concern not only me but all of us. Overpopulation, mining and polluting the earth—that must stop at once. I know that not everyone can experience this, but my experience in Kwamalasamutu has not been the same as watching a documentary. Onsite, you notice that the rainforest is breathing, that these are the lungs of the earth.
Donating is something I've always done," Tico continues. "I also have my own foundation for children, but this is the first time that I have been deeply involved. We have to change our lifestyles, for example by planting without pesticides. If my son brushes his teeth, he now turns off the water. If we want a change in behavior, it is important to start with the children. Teach them to change and listen to the medicine man…”
Hector Juan Samuel Torres, aka Tico, was born on October 7, 1953 in New York and is known for his energetic drumming; his nickname is the Hitman. In 1969, he made his debut as a drummer, and from 1983 until present he has been a member of Bon Jovi. Besides drums and percussion, he is also active as a self-taught painter.