From pond to lake


It was very hot on a Saturday at Chintheche Inn in Nkhata Bay . This was the first day of the brand new month of October.

While some people could not stand the heat and decided to cool off in the beautiful waters of Lake Malawi, others braved the heat and dragged themselves to the main stage named A4AY where there was a sound check.

Within a short time, a group jumped on stage and it was none other than South Africa’s Freshlyground which was to do sound check ahead of their performance in the night.


Sound check is one of the areas which Lake of Stars Festival organisers seem to be strict with, and artists have got to do sound check no matter what to prepare them for the main performance but also balance their sound.

“One two one two mic check,” said Freshlyground’s lead vocalist Zolani Mahola before the group went on to perform.

The group did their set before inviting to the stage a local artist by the name of Boniface Mdzanja to do sound check as well and he carried himself very well dishing out his Chichewa song which surprised the audience.


Some people actually started asking questions as to whether Freshlyground had composed some Chichewa songs.

The song sounded so beautiful and its taste was even given the extra pudding by the presence of the sound from the flute.

There were still questions on the faces of the people as to whether Freshlyground had started doing Chichewa songs or else they had roped in another member who was conversant with Chichewa.

The South African group which was performing at the Lake of Stars for the second time having debuted in 2011, then left the stage after doing enough of sound check.

But people’s questions were finally answered on the night when Freshlyground came with their main performance.

Having opened their set on the night with their own songs, Zolani invited to the stage unknown local talent of brothers Shaibu and Pitani Pitilosi, who hail from Guwende Village, Traditional Authority Mavwele in Mchinji.

The two brothers jumped on stage with pomp and backed by the South African group went straight to business dishing out their song titled Moyo Wanji.

While Pitani looked somehow shy and lacked energy, Shaibu was on top of his game.

After dropping off the lyrics, the song went on a chorus and Shaibu spiced up the performance with dancing forcing the impressive audience to cheer him.

Zolani and some of the Freshlyground team were impressed and kept on clapping their hands a clear testimony that they were enjoying the performance.

After the two brothers’ performance, Zolani once again invited to the stage another local act by the name of Mdzanja, who was joined on stage by Lewis Jonas.

Mdzanja and Lewis came all the way from Mangochi to Chintheche Inn.

The two also did well on the main stage.

No-one knew these local artists and simply put they are not popular in the country but here they were rubbing shoulders with a top award winning group from the rainbow nation.

They have never been given a platform by any other well known artist on the land during the many shows which are held in Mchinji let alone performing at any festival but God had done them wonders moving them from nowhere to somewhere. What an achievement!

But how did the artists from the rural areas of Mchinji and Mangochi manage to link up with Freshlyground? Who connected them and why did Freshlyground choose to work with unknown local acts and not the well known names?

“Let me first of all say that this is our first time to perform at the Lake of Stars but also the first time to perform at a festival. We have never performed at a festival let alone at a big show. We actually rehearsed with Freshlyground today (same day of the show), it’s not that we had all the time,” said the duo.

Shaibu said their hearts were beating when they were invited on stage by Zolani and that were jittery facing a huge audience.

But once they were given the microphones they now started believing in themselves that they could do it.

The 22-year old Shaibu, who said they never went far with their studies due to other challenges, came into contact with Freshlyground through a Wired Sound project. This is a project which aims at unearthing talent from the rural areas and the artists were identified through their local community radios.

Shaibu and Pitani were identified through Mudzi Wathu radio in Mchinji.

“What happened is that Mudzi Wathu radio came out to announce that they wanted those who had a musical talent to come and participate in a competition. Close to 100 people participated and I came position one with my brother,” Shaibu said.

He said later through the radio they got linked up with the South African group before collaborating at Lake of Stars.

“We are speechless with this. We never knew we would perform with freshlyground one day. We are all smiles. We are motivated and we want to grow our music and we are ready to release more fresh songs,” Shaibu said.

Freshlyground has since produced a 17-track album of the Wired Sound project featuring songs from different local acts, who are part of this big project.

Before they collaborated with the South African group, Shaibu and Petros also had a performance on the Airtel beach stage.

While Shaibu and Pitani were completely new to the Lake of Stars, Mdzanja was performing at the festival for the second time having debuted last year at Sunbird Nkopola in Mangochi.

He said last year, he performed with a group but this time it was him alone performing.

“It is the first time for me to perform with such a big band on a big stage. I never imagined I will have a chance of sharing the stage with Freshlyground and to me this is a big achievement and a step in the right direction,” he said.

Mdzanja said he composes his own songs describing his talent as God given.

“Mine is a God given talent and I have never learnt music from anyone. Going forward I want to be a top artist like Lucius Banda, Black Missionaries, Dan Lufani and Lulu among others,” he said.

Mdzanja who was linked to the project through Lewis Jonasi, who works for a community radio, said he has three songs at the moment but is quick to say that he has more songs which with funds permitting will take them to the studio anytime.

“At the moment, I do not have money to go to the studio and record and if well wishers can come out the better,” he said.

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