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Nyasa Music Festival’s 1st step

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BY SAM BANDA JNR:

Busiwa

It is good for any country to have festivals and for the Malawi it seems we have made a steady progress as far as festivals are concerned.

Festivals have proved to be very important to the nation as regards promoting tourism and improving the country’s economy because international artists for example bring in foreign currency.

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This is what brings us to the inaugural Nyasa Music Festival which was held at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre last weekend.

The organisers led by its director James Makunje decided to show their potential once again by creating a new festival which has added to the several other festivals Malawi currently has.

In fact Nyasa Music Festival was being held the same weekend Solomonic Peacocks was also holding its Easter Theatre Festival which debuted in 2015 but due to financial challenges has not been on the ground for three years.

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It has been said now and again that festivals are not shows. For a show, once can just wake up and hold a show the same without investing much.

But for a festival, you need to dig deeper because it involves a lot and one has to put up a strong budget and that is why one has to plan for months or a year to put up a festival.

Having come out with Nyasa Music Awards and held them successfully for two years at Comesa Hall in Blantyre, Makunje and team showed the country the potential they had as young people to hold top events.

Prior to their hosting the awards, the organisers had also brought into the country international acts such as South Africa’s Zahara – that was clear testimony that they have a passion for the development of the creative industry.

The three-day festival brought to its menu several acts including South Africa’s Nasty C, Busiswa and mega star AKA.

There were also local acts such as Malinga Mafia, Kell Kay, who performed for a short time having complained that he was not feeling well, Patience Namadingo and Faith Mussa.

The organisers worked well in doing the promotions for the festival to bring awareness to the people but not enough in terms of utilising all the necessary platforms and with technology being the name of the game now, they used the social media platform for most of their communications.

This being a festival, they could surely have utilised all the platforms to reach out to all people so us to attract more people to attend the festival.

“I think they missed out big time on promotion, yes we are talking about utilizing technology but as a festival they needed to use all the channels. This is why there were people, who were still skeptical as to whether the festival was on or not,” Billy Phiri, one of the fans said on the last day.

The first day was probably the worst for the festival as it failed to attract a huge audience.

There were improvements however, on the second day when the festival had Busiswa and Nasty C on the menu and likewise on the last day when people sampled performances from Namadingo, Faith and AKA, who closed the chapter.

The festival surely needs to up its game as regards promotion and not restrict itself to one channel of social media and on top of that they also kept the schedule of the international artists a secret.

“Every festival needs to communicate to the people on the arrival of the international, the schedule and all other operations just to keep people in the loop. This is what brought skepticism in some people for them not to make it to the show,” Phiri said.

Makunje said they kept the arrival of the international artists a secret because they didn’t want people to concentrate on one artist.

“We wanted people to embrace the festival and not only focus on one artist,” he said.

But while it is important to make sure that people patronize the festival to the fullest, fans also need to make a choice on which artist they would prefer watching hence a proper schedule is always crucial.

The venue of the festival also became a hot debate ahead of the festival after the organisers announced it.

It turned out to be very cold during the three days of the festival with some quarters feeling, they could have selected another venue.

Then there was also the issue of the entry fee which was discussed at length by people on social media with many feeling the K15,000 advance and K20,000 on the door as well as over K30,000 for a package was on the higher side.

This issue was also raised by musician Fredokiss, who performed at the festival, saying a lot of music lovers were denied a chance to be part of the festival but also enjoy music from their favourite artists because of the high entry fee.

“I think the entry fee is very high. A lot of people would have loved to be here and watch their favourite artists if the entry fee was low. I think they can do better next time,” Fredokiss said.

Makunje said on the last day of the festival that they had spent a lot to bring close to six international artists and that they had tried their level best to make the entry fee affordable.

“It is not easy to bring six international artists. We invested a lot and we worked very hard. We tried as much as possible to make it affordable. It was actually affordable compared to the entry fee they pay when they go to festivals along the lake,” Makunje said.

The festival did the best in terms of sound and the stage and one could embrace the sound even outside the Kamuzu Stadium.

The organisers also seemed to have done well in terms of putting up a team to work on the festival although they still need to add the numbers for them to bring out the best.

In terms of time, the organisers also did not specify as to whether this was a festival only for the night as performances of top artists were held at night.

“I came with my children to watch some of these artists but I cannot wait anymore. The children are tired. My thinking was that they would have some performances in the afternoon,” Asante Tembo said.

The festival surely needs to revisit its schedule and plan on having some performances in the afternoon and then others in the night so as to meet everyone at their point of need.

For international acts, they put up great performances with Busiswa standing out while Nasty C was not that bad but he left people disappointed for offering a less than 45 minutes showdown while AKA did well and satisfied the people.

The artists also used live bands except Busiswa but despite that she was electric showing the best of why she had to be part of the festival.

South African DJs Noxxy and Prince Kaybee as well as local DJs such as Nathan Tunes also offered the best to the audience.

The festival surely is here to offer something different to the creative world and having made a step, it needs to up its game when it comes back next year.

With economic challenges, festivals not only in Malawi are struggling with funding and it is hoped that Nyasa Music Festival organisers have put in place proper channels for them to sustain the event and not only be a one-off festival.

“Next year we are back, bigger and better. We will also have other activities including Nyasa Music Awards which will come later,” Makunje said.

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