The 2015 Sunbird Sand Music Festival was finally held last weekend at Sunbird Livingstonia in Salima.
The three-day festival this year attracted thousands of people which came from all the corners of the world.
With the country still nursing the hangovers of the Lake of Stars and Blantyre Arts Festival which took place late September and early October, respectively-the organisers of the Sunbird Sand Music Festival had a huge challenge of convincing people to come to their event.
But the organisers need to be commended for playing a fast one to bring a top musician in the name of Jamaican Busy Signal to headline the event.
The organisers led by its director Lucius Banda, popularly known as Soldier, worked hard to bring the Jamaican dancehall musician, who also performed in Zimbabwe.
Festivals are not meant for competition in the first place they are meant to give people the much needed entertainment as well as promoting the creative industry but this year Sunbird Sand Music Festival scored marks surpassing the other festivals in bringing a top Jamaican musician.
It should also be noted that since the Sunbird Sand music Festival started, this year’s platform has won the hearts of many and created much hype with Busy Signal as the main headliner.
This is why during his opening and closing remarks, Lucius said this year’s festival was historical in that they managed to bring a top artist and that at the same time the festival attracted thousands of people.
“I have never seen such a huge audience; we really thank people for their support. The coming of Busy Signal has given us a challenge but we are up to it and we promise people that we will bring them more top artists and all they have to do is just watch the space,” he said.
Lucius promised that they would not sit back and that they would start working now for the 2016 festival.
There were several reports that surrounded Busy Signal’s performance at the festival but the organisers worked so hard and the Jamaican singer finally performed and did not disappoint.
The organisers made links with Big Base Entertainment led by Spencer Mtemasango to bring the Jamaican musician and Lucius and team can build on this relationship to attract better known artists.
Mtemasango said as Big Base Entertainment, they have got links with several well known artists and that they are ready to bring in more.
“There were a lot of negative stories which people were creating through the social network which did not go down well with Busy Signal. As Africans let’s support each other, I commend Lucius for his bravely to work with us and we will continue to work together,” said Mtemasango.
He said they were open to work with promoters in the country to bring top artists adding that Malawi need not to be left out.
“Artists like Chris Brown, Nick Minaj, Jay-Z and what have you, we have got links but for them to come, we need to work together as we have done with Lucius and team.
“People need to avoid sending negative stories. Of course there is money involved but with proper channels everything is possible,” said Mtemasango.
The organisers also need to be commended for mounting an attractive main stage which was created by Entertainers Promotions and even the Jamaican singer said this was a good stage for performances.
Apart from music performances during the festival, people also had time to sample other activities such as poetry, boxing, beach soccer and fashion show.
But despite scoring points this year with Busy Signal, the organisers still have a long way to go if they are to stand out.
The festival started on Friday with organisers promising that there would be three stages on the ground running 24/7. But there were only two stages operating with the main stage dominating the proceedings.
The festival was officially opened by the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Sports and Culture on Friday afternoon with actors Misheck Mzumara and Thlupego Chisiza staging Sizwe Bansi is Dead while musician Agorosso also performed.
The official opening marked the start of the activities but there were no performances thereafter including on the main stage until around past 10pm.
It was frustrating to people who came early on Friday to be kept waiting until laten on to watch performances especially on the main stage where they were doing sound check.
The delay in fising the equipment and late sound check ended up affecting several performances on Friday where the sound was not up to scratch.
The sound check was done in a hurry and this affected performances as there was too much feedback.
Rains also affected performances on Friday night. Musician Ben Mankhamba who closed the night on Friday was the one heavily affected with the rains and by the time he started performing, people went into hiding.
“I think as a festival they were supposed to be ready on Monday such that come Friday everything was suppoesd to be in place. They were not supposed to be fixing equipment on a Friday and that surely showed lack of seriousness,” said Boyd Kaunda, who travelled all the way from Mzuzu.
Kaunda also said that by Friday, people were still not given the programme for the festival.
“You need a full programme of a festival for people to follow the proceedings, they were supposed to distribute the flyers for the programme or have them stamped somewhere within the campus but there was nothing. There was no stability on this and the organisers need to improve,” he said.
Poets such as Robert Chiwamba, Sylvester Kalizang’oma and Yankho Seunda also performed at the festival but despite their performance, they did not have a clear programme as to what time they were expected to perform.
It surely just happened that they managed to perform on the smaller stage where a few other performances took place.
A programme is very crucial for a festival as people stick to it and make sure that they do not miss their acts.
There were also some artists who did not make it to the festival despite being billed to perform and these included Joe Gwaladi and Joseph Nkasa as well as other foreign acts.
It is the duty of festival organisers to make sure that all artists billed to perform are available and,, in the event that they do not make it, information has to be communicated to the audience in time.
The sound was perfect on Saturday since the engineers and the technical team had all the time to work on the equipment.
Despite working with some experienced people, who were also involved in other festivals, the organisers of Sunbird Sand Music Festival need to consider putting up more personnel in all the departments for them to excel in all the fronts and they need to work as a team.
There were also power cuts during the festival which affected some performances and this came up after the generator had run out of fuel. The organisers need to look into this issue seriously so that it should not recur next year.
Jamaican Busy Signal showed local acts that it is important to give out your all during performances and no wonder he performed for two and half hours.
The musician sang and danced with energy and he communicated with the audience throughout his set and this also indicated that he rehearses.
“Our artists need to learn not to compromise their performances. Many of our local artists do not give it their all and all we see is the same stuff and yet this is a festival where they are supposed to give us that wow factor. Many do not even rehearse,” said another fan Lloyd Kamanga.
And, true to this, some artists did well while others failed to stand out.
Gospel singer Ethel Kamwendo Banda was one of those who did well on Saturday and she simply used her experience to win the hearts of the thousands of people who were eagerly waiting to watch Busy Signal’s performance.
Being a gospel musician, she conquered and brought the audience to the dance floor with her songs and she dished, among others, ‘Mwatikondera,’ ‘Wokondana,’ and ‘Ndiumboni.’
It has also become a norm for organisers that their festivals are for three days but in most cases they end up running for two days.
“I think the organisers need to do something to make sure that people finish the three days and watch all the performances. I am not criticising them but I just want them to improve on this next time,” said musician Skeffa Chimoto, who closed the chapter on Sunday.
This year according to Lucius, the festival received more support and hailed companies for coming up.
Some of the companies that sponsored this year’s festival included Carlsberg Malawi, Airtel Malawi and National Bank.
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