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MP3 Zongo Ambassadors - Ayijah

American Singer-songwriter John Meldrum meets the African music traditions of a huge village in Ghana and writes music inspired by this experience.

13 MP3 Songs
WORLD: African- West, FOLK: Alternative Folk

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, John Meldrum did a five year stint there in the jingle business where he worked alongside such future stars as Jim Brickman, Trent Reznor, and actor/singer Cliff Bemis. They moved west to L.A. in the late 80’s but John Meldrum felt the urge to go the opposite direction. “I grew tired of the relentlessness of advertising music, so I left America in search of something else, a different way to live.” John Meldrum won second prize in the Billboard song contest with the instrumental “Samba del Mar” in 1989, but upon seeing Paris for the first time, it was too late. He fell in love with the City of Lights, and his life was never the same.

He started working in Paris playing Highlife music with Freduia Ageymang, a superb Ghanaian drummer and songwriter. John Meldrum played rhythm guitar and sang with him for 5 years; the influence of this experience was to play a large role later on. In 1993/94, Meldrum wrote and recorded his first album
“no rules here”(Melmuse). As the title suggests, the disc holds to no particular style, but explores the range of his talents in a variety of settings: rock, pop, jazz and even classical guitar. Isolated from the recording industry yet still influenced by the popular music of the 70’s and the 80’s, he had free reign to create according to his muse in the style of an American in Paris. Around this time, John Meldrum also worked with Virgin recording artist Euston Jones and future star Madeleine Peyroux.

Moving on, John Meldrum spent 6 weeks in Ghana in the summer of 1995 where he visited the village of Ayijah near Kumasi. This trip had a huge impact on him. “Music in Africa is not a commodity, it’s a daily way of life” says Meldrum. Upon returning to Paris, John Meldrum put together his group, Zongo Ambassadors and recorded the album “Ayijah” (Melmuse/Night and Day), which ranges from Highlife to pop and gospel all distilled through the craft of a singer-songwriter. The Zongo group, featuring Lisa E. Arscott and Hortense Rabarivelo, toured France, The U.K. and Switzerland; one of the highlights was singing his song, “Brother,Brother” with 650 children from 27 countries at UNESCO in Paris. Along the way, John Meldrum was lucky enough to meet Carlos Santana, Salif Keita, Max Roach, Jacques Higelin, Jean-Philippe Rykiel and Nana Danso.

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