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Displaced: Festival venues’ drowsy calm

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TO PERFORM — Billy Kaunda

As recently as Thursday this week, a drowsy calm filled the air and floated freely above the sands of Sunbird Nkopola in Mangochi District, oblivious of the event that would, from Friday, today through to Sunday [tomorrow], culminate in the displacement of the uncomfortable emptiness that was slowly taking a foothold on the venue.

What with Covid restrictions which the Government of Malawi, in its frantic response to contain coronavirus cases already in Malawi and keep coronavirus cases outside the country at bay, forced Malawians, and other people resident in the country, into a union of desperation.

It, for example, through the Presidential Taskforce on Covid which former President Peter Mutharika instituted and incumbent president Lazarus Chakwera sustained, restricted the number of people who could gather in one place to, at first 50, then 100 and 200— depending on whether one is in church, at an amphitheatre or as part of demonstrators.

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Of the countless Covid preventative measures the taskforce introduced, the one on public gatherings caught artists by surprise and hit them in the pocket, leaving venues such as the ‘sand’ at Nkopola deserted.

However, veteran musician Lucius Banda, ever the ‘Soldier’, has sprung from Balaka District, which borders Mangochi District, to disturb the disturbing calm, if not emptiness, that was becoming a part of the atmosphere in the lakeshore district.

The Soldier is, surely, not one to resign to an undesirable situation. Because ‘calm’ and ‘emptiness’ does not feature in his lexicon, he— other than let the sense of disappointment cast lengthening shadows of despair the Sand Music Festival in particular and Malawi in general— decided to, for the eleventh time in the country’s history, organise the Sand Music Festival.

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And, as usual—in his bid to disturb the emptiness that, for the most part of the year, characterised the scene on the sands of Lake Malawi in Mangochi District— he has invited international acts, most notably reggae artist Roy Gramps Morgan, son to famous reggae artist Denroy Morgan and member of Morgan Heritage Band.

Roy’s message that patrons should “expect great hits from me” is, in fact, meant to serve as a warning shot to the emptiness that found a habitat on the shores of Lake Malawi in Mangochi District.

Equally disturbing to the ‘unholy’ calm that was taking hold of the sands on the beach at Nkopola will be sounds from South African artists Makhadzi and Sipho Big Fish Makhabane.

There is no ‘hiding’ place for the drowsy calm, in fact— what with Mr P travelling all the way from Nigeria to the Warm Heart of Africa to be part of the feast of music!

If the ‘calm’ requires more international ‘disturbance’ to leave this year’s patrons to Sand Music Festival free to do as they please, then, Uganda’s gospel musician Levixone of the ‘Chikibombe’ fame will be handy to, not just ‘disperse’ the calmness but cast out the ‘demon’ of boredom.

After all, he promised, with his own mouth, to give patrons to this year’s festival ”a treat”. That is as far as a gospel musician can say when he means to give people ‘the hell of a time’.

From Friday, the beaches of Lake Malawi in Mangochi have become the centre of attention, entertainment wise, which is not strange because Sand Music Festival has quickly become a crowd puller.

The festival’s spokesperson Laura Banda puts this in perspective. “When tourists come from countries in the Sadc [Southern African Development Community] region, countries from other parts of Africa, including the United States, Latin America, Europe and even Asia, they bring the much needed foreign exchange into the country.

“In addition to that, through Sand Music Festival, people appreciate other aspects of life, most notably our culture and what we have to offer in the arts. Therefore, through the festival, we sell Malawi.”

Indeed, in terms of the arts, the Roy Gramps Morgans of this world, the Levixones of this world, the Mr Ps of this world, the Makhabanes of this world and the Makhadzis of this world will come face-to-face with the Billy Kaundas, Great Angels Choirs, Black Missionaries, the Soldier Lucius Bandas, the Keturahs, the Lulus and the Wendy Harawas [who happens to be Sand Music Festival Artist Liaison Manager] of this world to form a great, unmatched combination.

Of course, they will perform separately, but their individual acts, like pieces of dry wood, will add to the great fire of patrons’ satisfaction.

Surely, Malawian artists’ mansion of success is not far from being fully refurbished, and Malawi, as a whole, stands to be decorated in case Sand Music Festival is, again, successful organised and held.

And organisers in other countries on the continent, and even those from countries outside Africa, will be falling all over themselves in a frenzied imitation of Sand Music Festival’s activities this year.

As the throbbing of drums quicken today, and voices of artists continue to displace the uncomfortable calm at either Standard Bank State or Wambali Stage Sunday, it will be close to impossible for patrons’ blood not to throb and quicken in their veins.

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