In July this year, I had another priviledge of attending the Forde Traditional and World Music Festival in Norway. It is a festival which is well known in Norway and Europe and has given a platform to several artists in the world including Malawi to showcase their talents.
The festival has been key in promoting traditional instruments which are part of culture and every year people look forward to see new instruments from different countries.
It is a festival that started in a small manner but now it has grown to be very important for Norway in terms of selling it to the world but also promoting tourism as well as generating the country’s economy since people from different countries make it to the festival.
This year the festival underlined its strength when it celebrated its 30th anniversary since its inception. Not an easy feat for a festival to hit 30 years in these tough economic situations.
The success of this festival brings us down to Malawi where Lake of Stars (LoS) Festival has also made its own name on the ladder of success hitting 16 years this year.
Driven by its founder, Will Jameson, the festival started on a smaller note at Chintheche Inn in Nkhata Bay before moving to Sunbird Livingstonia in Salima and then Sunbird Nkopola in Mangochi where it remained for some years before going back to its original home.
In its travels, the festival in one other year decided to take a break before coming back.
Last year, the festival celebrated its 15th anniversary when it held its event at a new venue – Kabumba Hotel in Salima before moving to another venue this year – Kachere Kastle in Nkhata Bay. What a journey the festival has travelled.
There are some things the festival has done which needed to be improved but it has helped greatly in promoting the country to the world.
This year also saw National Geographic name the festival among the top five in the country alongside Blantyre Arts Festival (Baf), Tumaini and Sand Music Festival.
The festival’s spokesperson and Head of Media, Zilanie Gondwe, said on Tuesday that they were very excited to have fresh and female talent taking centre stage this year. The festival this year is known as Lake of Stars Discovery.
“We are excited to have female acts taking centre stage to excite the audience on Friday (tonight). We have Sangie, Lioness Cilq, RJ the DJ and so much more,” Gondwe said.
She said tomorrow will be more fun with people expected to enjoy with a variety of delicious festival eats in the food court, a buzz in the market place, fishing village tours on request, live entertainment on both stages – garden and beach.
“This will be followed by the enticing Black Major artists taking over the scene on Saturday (tomorrow) featuring Hazel Mak, Amanda Black, Moonchild Sanelly, DJ Lag and others,” Gondwe said.
She said the festival will end with a mellow Sunday afternoon filled with yoga, drama and poetry.
“This year what we are saying to the people is that, discover new talent, experience a new adventure, discover our warm heart culture,” Gondwe said.
Other acts taking centre stage at the festival this year include Lazarus Chigwandali, Erik Paliani, Faith Mussa, Piksy, Krazy Colours, Amahoro Drummers, Drew Moyo, Annemarie Quinn and Jacoustic, Black Isco, Zaluso Arts, Malinga, Praise Umali, Fitzgerald Simfukwe, Forus Crew and George Kalukusha.
The spokesperson said Lake of Stars, together with their partners, will continue to be at the forefront of bringing Malawi to the global map, trading talent and small businesses for the success of the country’s economy.
“We will continue to build capacity within the festival’s team of event organisers and impact the community within each venue, carrying the mission of birthing festivals and bringing positive news to the media,” Gondwe said.
She said Lake of Stars Festival has a clear vision in helping the country tap into the creative community to nurture talent, boost tourism, commerce and development.
“Fundraising is challenging but we develop strategies that work for the climate of the Malawian economy and the world at large. Creativity enables us to creatively deliver the festival and continue to grow in many areas within the organization and the country,” Gondwe said.
Apart from performances, the festival’s spokesperson said they also host the Day of Ideas which is the third this year delivered in partnership with European Union (EU).
The Day of Ideas was expected to be held yesterday and was aimed at benefiting the youth and the community.
“For the first time, Day of Ideas is centering on a single theme, the urgent issue of climate change. Young people were expected to discover and reflect on issues involved in an interesting and interactive way,” Gondwe said.
Meanwhile Black Major’s, Shiba Melissa Mazaza, has said this year they are at the Lake of Stars Festival, where they intend to supersede their task of putting on shows, in order to establish a much more profound connection with the Lake of Stars team.
“We are looking at one connection that is aligned with our desire to amplify the stories of the people on the ground in Malawi. It is an interesting time for African music,” Mazaza said.
“ If the cultural artifacts we create reflect our inner worlds, as well as the society in which we are created, then the music we provide as the soundtrack to our lives will be made either to tell our stories – or distract us from the things we can’t change about ourselves.
Whichever way our artists choose to express their truths, it is our responsibility to help our artists manage their journeys of discovery as the creators of new narratives and cultures”.
Mazaza said at the moment, Malawi is facing riots and violence just like them in South Africa, and that they hope to, along with Lake of Stars, create a space of respite within the festival where connection can be made between artists, audiences, and festival directors alike, in discovering what more they can do, together, to create inclusive, nuanced, meaningful and authentic experiences.
“The issues at hand such as xenophobia and gender-based violence are ones that have the potential to unite us in pursuit of a better future, a better culture, a better narrative – and we must take the opportunity to try,” Mazaza said.