Derrick N. Ashong & Soulfège – NXNE 2012 Emerging Artist Spotlight


Check out our complete NXNE Coverage here
June 6 2012 – For the 18th straight year, North By Northeast (NXNE) is happening in Toronto from June 11th to the 17th 2012. NXNE is a music festival, conference, and even a film festival all rolled into one. NXNE is the most anticipated summer music event in Canada and aims to bring exposure to Canadian music of all genres and in general to support the Canadian music industry.  Over 650 bands and 40 films converge for 7 days in Toronto and put us on the map in terms of large artistic and creative gatherings. Modeled after the fabled South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, we are very pleased that Toronto is hosting NXNE and we are certain that NXNE will grow in both number of attendees and stature in the music industry (much like Toronto’s International Film Festival has). SXSW is plagued by over-commercialization and unless you’re deeply embedded in the industry you can forget about watching the big names. NXNE will also feature large free performances at Yonge-Dundas Square for four nights with the Flaming Lips being the main attraction on June 16.
Here at T-Mak World we primarily focus on Rock but we are very open to other types of music (except for formulaic Billboard pop, bling based hip-hop, and Nickelback).  Today’s spotlight artist is a perfect example as for the first time in this years NXNE Artist Spotlight series we depart from our Rock based roots and talk to a band with a very heavy African/Reggae influence. Good music is good music and we strongly endorse today’s feature artist which is a band from New York named DERRICK N. ASHONG & SOULFÈGE. All bands we talked to are asked similar questions to each other so we can get to know them better. The description on Derrick N. Ashong & Soulfège’s NXNE bio page is here  but I like this quote from Vanity Fair:

“Here are musicians, poised with a positive vibe and with lyrics so uplifting that you actually believe . . . a new world mood may emerge from the street and the Net, somehow defying the odds—a spirit of promise and hope and harmony, a spirit that denies dissonance. Soulfège lets us dream such sweet dreams, in vibrant colors.”
Here is what they had to say to us:
1.     Hey Derrick N. Ashong & Soulfège, thanks for taking the time out to talk to us. Let’s start off with the obligatory introductions. Who’s in the band and what instrument does everyone rock?
DNA & Soulfège: The band is led by DNA who rocks vocals as well as rhythm guitar, and Jonathan Gramling (aka Catharsis) who is a pretty killer MC & vocalist. Both DNA & Jon rhyme & sing which immediately gives the band a unique sound.  That sound is built on a crazy-hybrid rhythmic foundation laid down by Stix on drums, Alex on bass and Atta Addo on W. African percussion.  The result is a pretty distinct blend of Hip Hop, Reggae & W. African Highlife delivered on a platter with a Rock attitude.
2.    How about the history of the band, when did you get started and how did it happen?
DNA & Soulfège: The band actually got started in Boston, where J & DNA met as students at Harvard.  D wanted to introduce the crew to the sounds he grew up with overseas, so in 2003 & 2004 we recorded in his hometown Accra, Ghana where we met Atta Addo who was a straight-up percussion prodigy!  When we came home we were supposed to do a big show in NYC and our then-drummer couldn’t make it.  One of our boys recommended we check out a Hip Hop drummer known as Stix Bones and it was like meeting family.  A couple of years later we recruited the baby in the family, Alex who was still in school at Berklee at the time. And the rest is history-in-the-making…
3.    Who are some of your musical influences?
DNA & Soulfège:  We tell people the band sounds like Bob Marley jammin’ w/ the Fugees on a street corner in West Africa.  This doesn’t tell the full picture though.  We incorporate a lot of Blues, Rock & Funk influences in our music as well as the Hip Hop & Reggae vibes.  Some of us grew up listening to Sam Cooke as much as Erik B & Rakim, to Fela Kuti as much P-Funk and Aerosmith.  So when you hear us play live it’s a kind of musical gumbo distinguished by heavy beats & cool vocal harmonies.
4.   We found you as we were searching through the mountain of artists being featured at the 2012 NXNE. Why should a music fan come and see your show instead of all the other choices available to them?

DNA & Soulfège:  For one we smell really great & you won’t know just how good unless you come to the show and get real close & personal.  Secondly at every jam we make a point to bring the musical ruckus, meaning that every person in the place will not only feel like they just saw a band bring their musical “A-game” but the will go home feeling better than they did when they came in.  Any band can tell you they’re awesome.  I think we would pretty confidently say we’re “special” – you won’t hear anything quite like this anytime soon.
Derrick N. Ashong & Soulfège
5.    What is your favorite single line of lyrics the band has written and why?
DNA & Soulfège:
“I prince was meant for this,
the 7th son of a king I was born with wings.
Some men are defined by their diamond rings
But my blood runs with gold
I don’t need to bling…”
It’s a line from “From the Soul” which won Best Hip Hop Song in the Billboard Int’l Songwriting Competition a few years ago.  It’s actually a series of metaphors stacked on eachother.  The thing I love about it is when you first hear it, it has plenty of meaning in itself, but if you know anything about the culture of Ghana you realize there is a powerful subtext.  One which the rest of the song explores in challenging MC’s to rhyme “from the soul.”
6.    What does the rest of 2012 and 2013 hold for you?
DNA & Soulfège:  This year we’ve embarked on a quest to give away a million free downloads of trax & remixes from our latest album “AFropolitan” by Christmas 2012.  So far we’ve had more than 53,000 downloads from 50+ countries around the world.  For 2012 we are encouraging everyone and their mommy’s uncle to visit , download the music & share it with at least 10 other people.  In 2013 we’ll hopefully be coming to see many of you in the countries where we discover the most new fans.
7.    Imagine that you were asked to be the opener for any band’s world tour (both current and historical). Which band and tour would be your dream opening gig.  
DNA & Soulfège:  I would love to open for Dave Matthews.  I know it seems a bit counterintuitive because we play such a different style of music.  But DMB embraces so many styles in what they do that their audience has cultivated a real love of musicianship and the joy of the jam.  I think those kinds of people would love what we do, and that we would love them to.
Derrick N. Ashong & Soulfège album AFropolitan
8.    What is the future of the music industry? With the concept of the album and physical CD’s facing extinction, how will we be consuming music in 10 years? Are the economics feasible for emerging artists?
DNA & Soulfège: Great question.  We’d argue the future of music will have people consuming  largely “cloud-based” music through a variety of devices, with both local storage & “sharing” capabilities.  We think most of this music will be “free” or relatively low-cost and that people will spend more money on musical experiences, whether live shows, or other events and products that heavily incorporate music.  We think there will be increasing collaboration between the music & gaming communities and that record labels as we know them will largely morph into management or marketing/services companies.  The economics will be difficult for artist in the transition period, but we anticipate a larger “middle class” of artists as more of us realize that what we are selling is not “musical widgets” but rather a brand that represents “musical experiences” – the latter is way more valuable than a download.
9.      Where can people get your music/CD, is it being sold anywhere? 
DNA & Soulfège:  Go to, download it for FREE & SHARE it on Facebook, Twitter, Email etc.  Don’t be shy, spread it like jelly on a peanut butter beach!

10.   At the end of 2011 we did our picks for top 10 albums of 2011. What album do you think we should include in our top 10 albums of 2012 article? 

DNA & Soulfège: Ummm…let’s think about that.  Yeah, we discussed it and we all agreed you should go ahead and put “AFropolitan” on that list.  Something about it really resonates with us.
Derrick N. Ashong & Soulfège
11.  Any closing remarks for our readers?
DNA & Soulfège:  The future of music is ultimately in the hands of artists & fans.  If we really want an industry that cultivates creativity and respects the people whose passion, commitment and $$ supports that industry (ie. YOU), then we need to build something very different from what we’ve got now.  So we’d encourage you to visit the website, listen to the music & tinker with some of our ideas on “Open Source Music.”  There is a beautiful revolution brewing in those simple words…
Thanks so much to Derrick N. Ashong & Soulfège. We hope that you can see them live. They are playing Crawford’s on 718 College St. West on Sat June 16th at 11:45 pm for NXNE. The band’s website is and as you would expect they are on Twitter and Facebook. In the meantime check out their video below from YouTube.

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