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Inside 2016 Lake of Stars Festival

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The three-day Lake of Stars Malawi Arts Festival held at Chintheche Inn in Nkhata Bay ended on Sunday with performances coming from among others gospel songbird Ethel Kamwendo Banda, Ivory Coast based reggae singer Tamanyawaka Chavula, Fitzgerald Simfukwe and Mapatenala.

Being the last day, the performances started early afternoon compared to the first and second day but the audience was not that big as others had started leaving.

The festival which started on Friday, returned to the beaches of Chintheche Inn – the original home where the Lake of Stars started in 2004 before moving to Sunbird Livingstonia in Salima and later Sunbird Nkopola in Mangochi.

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Unlike in the past years where people have sampled performances from three stages, it was a different story this year where there were only two stages – Airtel Beach and A4AY main stage.

The stages were also near which gave a chance to people to shift from one place to the other unlike in the past festivals where people were finding it difficult to watch the performances in three stages.

The festival which was officially opened by Minister of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development Patricia Kaliati once again underlined its strength in terms of organisation as it put up a proper team which was looking into the different affairs ranging from security.

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Some of the members of the team came from the community surrounding Chintheche Inn which gave them a chance to be part of a top festival.

But there was some lapse in terms of security when it was reported on the second day that some people had lost their items in one of the rooms.

It was a violent free festival that saw people enjoying the activities from day one to three.

There were performances such as a play—Romio ndi Julietti by Mzuzu University Arts Theatre (Mutag) which was held on the Airtel stage but it turned out not to be a good venue for drama and the organisers could have at least organised an indoor venue.

Despite the place being far especially for those coming from the Central and Southern regions as well as from outside the country, the festival managed to pull a better audience with the most attractive one on the second day where the lineup of artists included South Africa’s Freshlyground.

The shift of the festival from Sunbird Nkopola in Mangochi to Chintheche Inn in Nkhata Bat this year was worth it in that it gave a fresh breath to the event.

“It was a good idea to shift the festival because it started being monotonous at Sunbird Nkopola. I think if they can be rotating it would be good and I should say that the Northern region benefited a lot. I think they just have to improve on other things like having filling stations because some people were forced to go to Mzuzu or Dwangwa,” said Benjamin Soko, who travelled all the way from Karonga.

The festival continues to be dominated by foreigners with a few Malawians and some quarters said the entry fee is expensive.

But founder Will Jameson said this year they made sure they did not hike the entry fee looking at the economic problems.

Some quarters also felt the lineup this year was not that strong compared to the previous festivals and that the organisers need to improve.

But others felt the organisers did well to bring new artists and not the usual.

“A festival needs to be focused and so it does not need to be swayed by the people. Of course you need headliners but there are other top names which have ended up giving us poor performances. All I can say is let the organisers select artists that will give out the best for the festival,” said Thomas Tembo.

Tembo gave an example of Karonga-based Lusubilo Band which is not well known in the country but it produced the best and was among the top performers at the festival.

“I have never watched Lusubilo and it was the first time to watch them at Lake of Stars but they were the highlight of the festival.

“Stunning performance no doubt about this and last year we also had a group from Zimbabwe – Mokoomba so it’s not about names but it’s about having artists that deserve this big stage,” he said.

Visual artist Elson Kambalu, who displayed his artworks but also had time to lead young people in a session of ideas said he was impressed with the festival as well as the performances.

“A very good festival and I enjoyed the performances. What impressed me were the performances of our own artists who did well and were at par with some of the international acts,” Kambalu said.

The organisers also took time out to hold a free show on Thursday ahead of the festival which gave a chance to children in the community to appreciate the talent which was to be displayed at the festival.

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