Thornton Heath music producer will showcase his music in Africa

Your Local Guardian: Mad Professor preparing for Gambia festival Mad Professor preparing for Gambia festival

To celebrate 30 years of the record label he began in his Thornton Heath living room Mad Professor - aka Neil Fraser - is showcasing his music in Africa in January.

The Back to Africa festival, featuring a wide variety of British musicians, begins on January 19 for one week at the Ariwa Retreat in Batukunku, Gambia.

Mad Professor says the festival will celebrate Ariwa Sounds’ anniversary and provide an opportunity for the label’s artists to experience different parts of the world.

He said: “We want to give something back to the people who have supported us for the last thirty years and improve relations between people in England and people in Africa.”

The music producer, of Whitehorse Lane, Thornton Heath, who says he loves spending time at home in Croydon, explained the festival is designed to be both educational and celebratory.

It will feature various performers in addition to seminars and tours to Juffre, a small village on the bank of the River Gambia, organised to educate ticket-holders about the slave trade and the surrounding landscape.

Ariwa Sounds are involved in various technological and medical projects and plan to announce details of further festivals for 2012 during January’s event.

The Thornton Heath musician supports three schools in the African nation providing them with computers and books to help modernise them.

He said: “Instead of just giving people money, if you teach them a skill you are giving them so much more.”

Mad Professor, who has previously voiced his concerns about music encouraging crime, is hoping January’s festival will show another side to the violence and aggression music has promoted in the past and remind people not to take anything for granted.

He said: “People in Croydon riot because they don’t have a 42-inch flat-screen or the latest mobile phone but some of the people in Africa have absolutely nothing.

“People out there have nothing but they are happy and over here we have people with everything who are unhappy.

“Our message is that things may not be as bad as they seem.”

Mad Professor is eager to promote the inspirational nature of music, its power to unite and how much Africa and the Caribbean have to offer.

He said: “We want to bring together black performers, white performers, male and female, to show that there is another side to the aggression and violence in music.”

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