Tag Archives: Musical Instruments

John Hayden

If you can picture an Andean family sitting in their yard in the mountains of Bolivia making goat hoof shakers, you’ve got to marvel at the logistics that finds these indigenous instruments being offloaded from a container ship in the Port of Seattle. And with great regularity, too!  When asked about this, John Hayden, founder and owner of Jamtown, admits to often being equally amazed.

Sixteen years ago John decided to get off the corporate ladder and onto a path that he believed would reveal a purpose as he went down it. A lifelong passion for music had left him with a collection of musical instruments from various far-flung locales that he would periodically drag out for an impromptu jam session with friends. Now he looked to these instruments to suggest destinations for his travels.

John in Accra Ghana with the producer of the drum bags.

John states that in the beginning he was entirely adventure-driven rather than profit- or goal -driven, literally doing some minor research and then following his nose into a region in a take-me-to-your-music-maker fashion. Besides English he only spoke barely passable Spanish, so these early direct dealings with artisans were limited, as well as rare.

As his global pursuits grew into a vision and then an actual product line, John was invited to join the Fair Trade Federation. This provided access to cooperatives and NGOs (non government organizations) that could assist with sourcing product, native language communications, exportation requirements, currency exchange, and all manner of coordinating activities. As he suspected, his path had a definite destination, and he had arrived.

John with artisans and village kids in Rebana, Java, Indonesia

Jamtown is all about what we have in common on this planet – a love for music! It’s dedicated to partnering with low-income families and cooperatives to improve their lives through the fairly traded fruits of their labor; and to providing an unplugged experience for American families and groups through access to these remarkable instruments; and the workshops, classes, and educational materials John has developed.

Do you suppose that Andean family sits around after supper wondering where their goat hoof shakers end up, trying to picture them in an US urban setting? I’ll bet they’re saying, “¿No tienen sus propias cabras en los Estados Unidos?” Well, perhaps because of John and your support of the principles of Fair Trade, that family even had a meal to “sit around after.” Please take a moment to watch this video: ‪Bolivia in 14 Days

PS. The goat hoof shakers are our best selling Jamtown instrument!