It was a fight of giants in the music industry between musician Lucius Banda and promoter Jai Banda that best summed up what the 2016 Sand Music Festival had been like in October. Disorderly.
It all started with Jai of Entertainers Promotions who took to Facebook to apologise to Malawians for hitches that marred the sixth edition of the festival.
“I wish to apologise to [Tanzanian musician] Diamond Platinumz for the show he has been subjected to,” he wrote. “He should not think that is the way we organise shows in Malawi.”
Jai, who was not part of the organising team, continued: “I also wish to apologise to fellow Malawians for what has happened. All I can say in future we will endevour to do better and not embarrass mother Malawi.”
That did not go down well with Lucius, founder and director of Impakt Events, who responded through the same forum.
“I am learning to do promotions, you do local I do international. It’s not easy to do international that’s why I believe you don’t do them. Well, I do them and even when I fail to deliver you are not better placed to apologise on my behalf because you have no idea how hard it is to look after artists from five countries simultaneously.”
From that heated war of words, the point was clear: Sand Music Festival did not live up to expectations and, surely, did not surpass the previous event headlined by Jamaican reggae sensation Busy Signal.
Even the media reported extensively about the festival’s let downs that eclipsed the mouthwatering act put up by the Tanzanian wonder kid, Diamond Platinumz.
The show disappointed from the word go. The main stage was reportedly erected on the first day which some fans said was poorly mounted. This forced the performances to start late.
Minister of Culture, Civic Education and Community Services Patricia Kaliati opened the event in a blackout as the backup generator failed to provide enough power for the equipment.
As if that was not enough, patrons had to wait for up to the early hours of the last day, Sunday, just to watch the Tanzanian Diamond, born Naseeb Abdul Juma. He was scheduled to start his performance at midnight on Saturday and finish at 2am. Instead, he started at 4.54am and ended his act at 6.30am due to rains and technical hitches.
As Lucius put it, Impakt Events is still on a learning curve and he hopes to put up a better show next year as he aspires to court more international artists into the country.
Indeed, some of the challenges like rains and winds were beyond the organisers’ control. But why did the inaugural Pamchenga Gospel Music Festival fail to borrow a leaf not to organise their event in the rainy month of December?
Theirs, too, was disrupted by the rains such that, instead of holding the event for three days, they were forced to celebrate within a day.
Again, the event turned out to be a gospel lie that did not have most of the artists billed to perform. Some artists are yet to be paid to this day for the services rendered.
But its organisers, just like those of Sand Music Festival, hope to use such setbacks as lessons to return better next year.
That, however, does not mean that it was all gloomy during festivals in the year ending.
The internationally-acclaimed Lake of Stars (LoS) returned to its birth place at Chintheche in Nkhata Bay in September to complete a full cycle after holding the event in all the three regions of the country.
The homecoming offered gig-goers from the North an opportunity to partake the fun that they are mostly denied due to long distances when the event takes place in other regions.
However, its return, according to statistics, was not better than previous events as organisers wanted people to believe.
The event was attended by 2 500 patrons against last year’s 4 500. At least 80 acts from 10 different nationalities graced the three stages last year whereas this year there was 60 acts on two stages. And issues of local dissatisfaction due to lack of involvement persisted.
Subtly, LoS founder Will Jameson cited the economic problems as a challenge for them to maintain the standards such that he considers holding the event in Europe.
He revealed to the UK’s The Guardian newspaper that the challenges have increased in the 12 years since he started the event.
For Blantyre Arts Festival, organisers choose to see 2016 pass without the event which was introduced in 2009. The argument was that they want to review and improve the festival to return better next year.
Possibly, Likoma Festival could offer hope to festivals that did not live up to expectations this year.
However, this year, the organisers put their house in order and returned with an innovative mind by holding a ship cruise from Monkey Bay in Mangochi to Likoma Island which excited most fans. n