Derrick Ashong

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Derrick Ashong

Derrick N. Ashong, also known as "DNA", (born 1975 in Accra, Ghana), is a musician, artist, activist, and entrepreneur.


Born in Accra, Ghana in 1975, Derrick Ashong is the son of a pediatrician.[1] He attended school in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Voorhees, New Jersey[2] 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.[2] Ashong was a founding member of the Harvard Black Alumni Society.[3]


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,[4] 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.[2]

In 1997, Ashong had a role in the Steven Spielberg-produced movie Amistad,[1] playing the character Buakei, a role he gained through attending an open audition in New York.[5] He also appeared in a 2006 documentary about the Angola 3, entitled 3 Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation.[6] Ashong founded a talent agency, ASAFO Productions.[7]

Ashong is also the former host of The Stream on Al Jazeera English. In 2012, Ashong was nominated for a News & Documentary Emmy Award for his work as a presenter on The Stream.

Public roles[edit]

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,[3] and is the author of FREE THIS CD!!! - The FAM Manifesto - a text outlining the philosophy of open source music.[4]

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.[8] The video has been viewed more than a million times.[1]

He has recently founded a Miami-based tech company, called which recently completed the pilot season of its first media property, Take Back the Mic: The World Cup of Hip Hop, which was a 2015 Emmy finalist in the category of Original Interactive Programming.


  1. ^ a b c Carr, David (2008-03-17). "More Than a Sound Bite, This Clip Has Some Teeth". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  2. ^ a b c "DNA biography". Soulfege. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  3. ^ a b "Has this young Ghanaian man won the election for Barack Obama?". Click Afrique. 2008-02-23. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  4. ^ a b "Derrick Ashong". The Lavin Agency. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  5. ^ Speedie, Sam (1997-12-11). "Derrick Ashong: Actor, Musician". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  6. ^ "Angola 3". 2006. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  7. ^ "Adapting to the Beat: The Music Industry in Flux". Harvard University. 2004-11-13. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  8. ^ "A Declaration on Independents". The Economist. 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2010-12-02. 

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