People of the City: Biyi Adepegba, founder of the London African Music Festival

How did you get here?

I worked with a wide range of people as a university student. I started on my own in 1990 after finishing my PhD. Joyful Noise was officially started on 1st January 1990 with a New Year Concert.

Why did you start the London African Music Festival?

I started the festival because I could not get artists I was working with into some festivals before 2000. In June 2001 I approached Arts Council England with my concept and they said ‘Yes’. The first year in 2003 was held at the Southbank Centre with just 7 programmes.

The London African Music Festival 2014 we will present 42 projects in 17 venues in 8 London boroughs of Hackney, Southwark, Lewisham, Camden Town, Islington, Greenwich, Kensington and Chelsea, Haringey and Tower Hamlets.

Which act should we definitely go see at this year’s festival?

Every single event. Our site will show you our wonderful programme of events you will enjoy. However, the essential shows that you cannot afford to miss are Bombino (Niger) on Friday 19 September at Union Chapel, Sousou and Maher Cissoko on Sunday 21 September at The Flyover Portobello, Ghalia Benali (Tunisia) on Tuesday 23 September at the Tabernacle, Mamani Keita (Mali) on Wednesday 24 September at Canada Water Culture Space, Sekouba Bambino on Sunday 28 September at Islington Assembly Hall and Kanda Bongo Man on Sunday 28 September at the Forge.

The best option is simply visit where you will see programmes by Sona Jobarteh (Gambia), Joyce Moholoagae (South Africa). If you like raw hard rhythms then you must come to see the great drummer/percussionist Yomi Bashiru and Naija Grooves. This is a raw fuji music from Lagos, Nigeria.

Are you stressed? 

No. No. It was harder in the early years when it was me alone with no money. Now I am working with 15 producers, a team of 20 people and 17 venues that are more supportive than ever. Still struggling for money but it is better than in the earlier years of the festival.

What is a typical day in your life like?

In office at 10am and close the office at 10pm.

What’s the worst piece of advice anyone’s ever given you? 

Do your own thing.  It was the worst and the best advice ever.  It was the worst because I took this advice and couldn’t turn back. It has been a very hard journey.  It was the best because I started doing my own thing which led to the festival in 2003, a small recording imprint Joyful Noise Records. Twenty-four years of Joyful Noise and 12 years of the London African Music Festival.

Which film character do you most identify with?

None as film characters are fictitious.

Is there a book you think everyone should read?
Everyone should read the Bible and the Quran together and then maybe we will see that both religions came from God’s love for all mankind.

If you were president of Africa for a day – what would you make happen?

I will write into the constitution of every country that no one should serve more than two terms of 4 years per term. Every country must provide free universal education until the first degree and free universal health programmes for everyone. Africa has the capital to make this a reality.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Do what you like even if the dream is coming up slowly.

The London African Music Festival takes place across London from 19th to  28th September 2014