“Good things come to those who wait; better things come to those who don’t….” – Derek 'Musicalist' Johnson


Born in London, England to Jamaican parents, Derek Johnson (aka Musicalist) has been pro-active in the arts most of his life. His primary instruments are guitar, advanced drum-programming, global flutes and electric bass. He is also a seasoned composer, record producer and a leading specialist in the teaching of live ensemble work and the business of music.


Derek started his recording career in 1981 at sixteen with the celebrated UK group Loose Ends. Over the years, as well as composing for film and theatre, he has worked with over 400 international artists. (See below.)





Derek features in the documentary, Truth & Art, by film-maker Sunara Begum. The work gives an insight into the makings of his creative life and general philosophies: (18mins)



Solo, acoustic guitar album


As the artist Musicalist, Derek has returned to the studio to record an album of solo, acoustic guitar pieces. The compositions are themed around folk roots influences of the world, celebrating the triumph of the human spirit. (See Media page for links.) This work is partly centred on the experiences of Africans in the Diaspora and also embraces issues closely related to universal, human conditions more generally. Some of the material here is inspired by “hidden histories” detailed in his book, The Roots of Our Game. The recordings were composed in the UK, Greece, France, Cape Verde and the United States; the album is part of his venture, Acoustic Historians.

Compositions: See media page.






The Roots of Our Game: Decoding the Culture and Philosophies that Built and Drive the Music Industry.


This is a 500-page study of human behaviour, culture and the history of the modern music industry, rooted in the deep-seated philosophies that have influenced its evolution from its inception. It covers all the major areas of art and business through fifteen chapters. These areas include: the nature of creativity itself; the nature of artist management; the cultural importance of the popular song; the historical (and current) life of the artist; business contracts (how to read them and why we use them); the culture of ownership; the development of the industrial mind-state (that enabled our music world to create a business in the first place); observations on the culture of marketing; the foundations of modern music publishing (starting c.1745 to the present); a study of the psyche and operations of record companiy models; and the holistic future of the music industry (beyond the limited discussions of the Internet, "access over ownership" and "falling sales").


Within the chapters, the author negotiates the dynamics of disparate, underlying themes intrinsic to shaping our music game. These include: migration, rapid urbanisation and general demographics; the ongoing “war” between the objective planning of business folk “versus” the subjective processing of artistic ones; technological breakthroughs; wars, conflicts and natural occurrences that impacted populations en masse and reinvented creative expressions as a result; individual versus communal value systems; historic conflicts in race relations; corruption and bad practices; entrepreneurship and cultural leaders; as well as class issues and many other key themes. Special attention is given to the unassailable impact made by Africans in America over the past 200 years and in particular: hidden histories that have steered the entire industry for generations, in both business and art. The book will be available in 2025.


Throughout The Roots of Our Game, Derek is particularly interested in why the various industry professionals (as groups) do what they do, and makes suggestions on how the information from the book can be made useful to individual careers and large companies alike.




Music has taken him to over seventy countries working with creatives such as:


MALI: Oumou Sangaré, Toumani Diabaté, Kassé Mady Diabaté, Alpha Ousman Sankaré, Amadou Barré


JAMAICA: Alton Ellis, Gregory Isaacs, Horace Andy, Gyptian, Marcia Griffiths, Ijahman Levi, Luciano, Chaka Demus & Pliers, Lee “Scratch” Perry, George Nooks, Queen Ifrica, Mighty Diamonds, John Holt, Turbulence, Willi Williams, Cornell Campbell, Earl 16, The Ethiopians, Max Romeo, Linval Thompson, Ninjaman, Junior Byles, Junior Murvin, Jah Mason, Michael Prophet, Scientist, Sugar Minott, Dennis Walks, Justin Hinds, the Twinkle Brothers, Johnny Clarke, African Head Charge, Frankie Paul, Mikey Spice, Ken Boothe, Leroy Sibbles


UK: Caron Wheeler, Asheber & the Afrikan Revolution, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Eternal, Steel Pulse, Akala, Byron Wallen, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Dub Asante, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Dub Judah, Mica Paris, the Brodsky String Quartet, Amy Newton, Amaziah, Ray Carless, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Caroll Thompson, Sweetie Irie, Cleveland Watkiss, Loose Ends, Soul II Soul, Lioness Chant, Mafia & Fluxy, Empress Ayeola, Tunde Jegede, HKB FiNN, Tippa Irie, Orphy Robinson, Bitty McLean, Nu Flowah, Maka B, The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company, Natty, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Kevin Haynes, the Soothsayers, Temba Theatre Company with Benjamin Zephaniah


THE GAMBIA: Sona Jobarteh, Sambou Suso, Jally Kebba Susso, Tata Din Din, Juldeh Camara


SENEGAL: Nurukane


GUINEA: Mosé Condé


GUYANA: Mad Professor


USA: Ultranaté, Salt ’n’ Pepa, Meshel Ndegeocello, Dana Dawson, Leon Ware, Shorty Rogers, Slim Gaillard, Olivia Flowers




AYITI: James Germain


NIGERIA: Tony Allen, Q, Wumni, Adesose Wallace & Ibile


POLAND: Trebunie Tutkie


GHANA: Pauline Oduro


SOUTH AFRICA: Sonti Mndebele, Bheki Mseleku, Eugene Skeef


FRANCE: Lord Kossity, Suprême NTM, Sai-Sai, Ton-Ton David


BELGIUM Panache Culture, Mozart Vibration



Derek is also an integral part of the London-based, holistic ensemble, Afrikan Revolution – a collective of global teachers and creatives; a member of international session band Dub Asante; and a regular with Gambian international artist, Sona Jobarteh








“It has never been more important than now to nurture innovation and excellence in both individual expression and group projects by using holistic techniques that encourage effective, professional practices ­– for life.” – Derek Johnson


Derek has been a leading educator in music and the business of music since 1988. He has taught more than 9,000 individuals in several pioneering institutions in the UK and abroad, designing and running courses from “Level 2” (B-TEC and NVQ), to Post Graduate. Institutions that have employed his skills include:


  1. Westminster University (eight years);
  2. Haringey Arts  (nine years);
  3. City University’s Cultural Industries Unit (nine years);
  4. Bayes Business School (six years);
  5. Academy of Contemporary Music (five years);
  6. MIDI Music Company;
  7. Kingston University; and
  8. Bristol University


Derek has also designed and managed many inner-city projects in the UK for urban development organisations such as Prevista and the Cultural Industries Development Agency (CIDA), as well as six, London borough councils. In amongst his work, he has led courses for young and ex-offenders and youths with special needs. International engagements have included lectures and workshops in Bratislava, Slovakia; the South of France; the University of The Gambia; the Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland, and the Rainforest World Music Festival in Borneo, Malaysia.


One of his specialist areas in education involves an holistic approach to ensemble performance, which has shown astonishing results circa 1996. Linked to these techniques, he was in The Gambia and Senegal (2011) where he started his “Grassroots Academy of Music for Africa” (GAMA). This is an outreach model that works with contemporary, performance artists in their own villages and neighbourhoods. GAMA gives the participants both creative and music business advice, on the spot.


As a self-professed “Cultural Galvaniser”, Derek is passionate about the celebration of cultural expression and education from the root up. Partly to help this, he has developed a system he calls Root-Level Thinking (RLT): a process that helps any learner problem-solve, negotiate and plan for future options. All of this is based on unequivocal, building blocks and value systems intrinsic to human behavioural patterns that have proved universal for centuries; from here, more, unique systems can be developed for particular environments, group dynamics and individuals.


Since 2014, Derek has been concentrating more on imparting these holistic approaches worldwide. His aim is to help bring about more fruitful indigenous music and music education industries, strengthened by local ownership, management and legal protection. 





In addition to his educational work, Derek has begun what he calls Strategy Consultancy. This prepares any industry professional to conduct their business more efficiently, based on their personal value system and codes that are proven to work in the music business. One, key role of the Strategy Consultant is to help clients decipher contracts of all kinds and encourage them to develop sharp negotiation skills. Very generally speaking, the Strategy Consultant fills the long-standing gap in our industry between management, agent and legal services.


Derek’s more recent clients and partners are professionals and organisations in the USA, the UK, Belgium, France, Malaysia, South Africa, Benin, Nigeria, The Gambia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia.





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