Of late, Mzuzu City has been shunned in major entertainment events.
It started with Patience Namadingo and his All New Namadingo project and tour five months ago.
The tour started with a solo performance at the Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) in Lilongwe before going to Blantyre at Comesa Hall in August.
It ended there. Mzuzu was not considered.
Then came Charles Shemu Joyah and his new film The Road to Sunrise. He premiered the film at Bicc on November 3 2017 and in Blantyre last weekend. From the look of things, he has no plans to go to Mzuzu anytime soon.
Now, afro-soul musician and producer Lawi has announced plans to launch his new album Sunset in the Sky in Lilongwe on December 2 2017.
The same month, Blantyre and Lilongwe will host Zimbabwe musician Jah Prayzah who is loved in the country for his hit song Mudhara Vachauya.
Such a trend of events has disappointed fun lovers in Mzuzu who feel sidelined in major entertainment shows in the country.
However, Africano Phiri, one of the organisers of the Jah Prayzah shows, says several factors including patronage, cost and the expected revenue are considered when putting up a show.
He says shows usually take place in Lilongwe because it is centrally located to attract people from both the North and the South.
He says Blantyre is also usually preferred because the Southern Region is “big enough to attract a huge audience”.
“If we are to make a cost benefit analysis and evaluation, we are convinced that as a business and as an investment we are more likely to achieve our expected revenue from such areas,” he says.
Phiri says Lilongwe and Blantyre host most international shows because these cities have better venues.
“Again, it’s not just about availability of a facility, but we also look at convenience, security and manageability of the facility,” he says.
Phiri, however, says they expect to come up with tailor-made events for the Northern Region so that gig-goers are not deprived of entertainment.
“As a national events organiser, we need to reach out to all regions. We are all Malawians and we don’t need to leave out other areas,” he says.
Joyah says logistics and cost of going to Mzuzu are quite expensive.
“I would really love to take my film to Mzuzu. I have lots of friends in Mzuzu and my former professor is in Mzuzu. But the issue of venues and patronage is a challenge.
“I have taken my two other films to Mzuzu, but the patronage was very poor. When we checked most of the patrons were women and at night it’s difficult for them to come to watch our films.
“So, you travel all the way from Blantyre and find patronage to be 20 people. It doesn’t make sense business-wise. If we can be assured of good patronage in Mzuzu and a good venue we can take the film to the city,” he says.
Meanwhile, Joyah plans to put the film in theatres in Blantyre and Lilongwe.
“We are negotiating with M-Theatre in Blantyre to see if we can have a theatre run there. We are also looking for a venue in Lilongwe at Crossroads Hotel.
“The plan is to take the film into theatres as a way of reviving the cinema industry,” he says.
Recently, Mzuzu University Theatre Arts Group (Mutag) director Misheck Mzumara also bemoaned the issue of venues in the city as the reason the group stages most of its plays in Lilongwe and Blantyre.
However, Mzuzu-based events organiser Keliophas Tobias says the challenge of venues is an issue of the past.
He says the city boasts of Squirrels Park with a capacity of 1 500. He says the venue is big enough to accommodate any international artist.
“We have hosted US rapper Da Truth before and he said Squirrels Park is one of the best venues in Africa. So, lack of venues is not really an issue here.
“Maybe we should be talking about the cost of travelling up North and the unpredictability of patronage. But the best to do on patronage is to invest in advertising. Otherwise, an emergency show will always flop,” he says. n