Born in Accra, Ghana in 1975, Derrick Ashong is the son of a pediatrician. He attended school in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Voorhees, New Jersey before attending Harvard University in 1997 through a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, where he studied Afro-American studies and was awarded the Hoopes Prize for his senior thesis. He returned to Harvard and is currently studying for a PhD in Ethnomusicology and Afro-American studies. Ashong was a founding member of the Harvard Black Alumni Society.
Derrick Ashong is married and has two children.
Ashong's musical career started while at Harvard. He produced a musical entitled Songs We Can't Sing, for which he won awards, before forming a band called "Black Rose". The band later became known as Soulfège. Ashong has worked with such established artists as Debbie Allen, Janet Jackson, & Bobby McFerrin, and is MC and leader of the pan-African band Soulfège, under the name "DNA", producing works that have aired globally via outlets including MTV Africa, MNet Africa and BBC World Service.
In 1997, Ashong had a role in the Steven Spielberg-produced movie Amistad, playing the character Buakei, a role he gained through attending an open audition in New York. He also appeared in a 2006 documentary about the Angola 3, entitled 3 Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation. Ashong founded a talent agency, ASAFO Productions.
Derrick Ashong has lectured on musicology, the free market, and individualism at over a hundred institutions in the United States, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and Asia, including the World Music Expo WOMEX in 2003 in Spain, and is the author of FREE THIS CD!!! - The FAM Manifesto - a text outlining the philosophy of open source music.
Ashong reached prominent media attention when a YouTube video of him speaking on Barack Obama's campaign to gain the Democratic nomination for the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Surprising the interviewer who expected a short soundbite (perhaps based on Ashong's casual appearance), Ashong gave a measured and protracted analysis of Obama's campaign. The video has been viewed more than a million times.
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- "A Declaration on Independents". The Economist. 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2010-12-02.