It is no fresh ground for the multinational group, Freshlyground, as tonight they perform again at the Lake of Stars (LoS) festival for the second time in five years.
Yesterday, the LoS stage was expected to be set as it returned to its birthplace, Chintheche Inn in 2003.
Last night, the big international party opened with another international act, Zambia’s Roberto of the Amarula eminence.
Tonight, the stage goes a few pitches higher as the internationally acclaimed South African group, Freshlyground, return to the festival, having shaken the sands and waters of Salima five years ago with their vibes.
Many know the group, which brings together artists from Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, for its renditions like Doo Bee Doo, Potbelly and Wakawaka (This Time for Africa) where Colombian chanteuse Shakira features them in the 2010 World Cup anthem.
Yet, for a local or foreign festival goer the song to look out for, if at all it will be on their repertoire, is Moto. The song, off their 2010 Radio Africa album is inspired by a popular Malawian folksong, which goes: Moto, moto, wayaka; Moto wayaka…. That traditional soccer anthem played on the golden sands of Nkhata Bay, by the deep blue lake reflecting twinkling stars in Malawi the land of flames of fire—moto—would encapsulate how LoS puts Malawi on the world tourism map.
It is, therefore, not without cause that festival goers can also relive their 2011 experience.
Fronted by the dynamic Zolani Mahola, the band brings to Malawi a musical style that exudes elements of traditional South African music such as kwela, African folk music, blues, jazz and features of Indie rock. Other band members are Peter Cohen on drums, Josh Hawks on bass, Julio Sigauque on the lead, Seredeal ‘Shaggy’ Scheepers on the keyboards, Simon Attwell on flute and Kyla Rose Smith on the violin.
Despite coming from diverse backgrounds, band members weave musical magic that is highly infectious and undeniably exciting.
Cohen said they are glad to be back in Malawi.
“This second performance is not nearly as good as our first was. Returning to the LoS stage in a way is like performing to almost the same audience and that does not put us under any sort of pressure. We enjoy a bit of pressure, but our set will be quite different even if the peeps are the same,” said Cohen.
The group, which emits a live energetic performance, has been an essential part of the South African music scene for over a decade now. US president Barrack Obama, who leaves office in next January once said: “They are one of South Africa’s gifts to the world.”
Among the many achievements, their album Nomvula hit multiple platinum levels and the group won an MTV Europe as the Best African Act in 2006.
Little wonder, the dynamic group has had a successful and sustainable career both locally and internationally since forming in 2002.
“It is always great to return to places because, as a musician, it means we did something right the last time we were there. But more than that, it is always amazing to play in Africa and there is not much that beats Malawi and LoS,” added Cohen.
He promised ‘some new material and some new dance moves’ during the show.
Zolani has been known to turn heads when on stage. Armoured with her semi-deep and resonant voice, she continues to be a magnetic force as more fans are attracted to her nonchalant, but energetic tone.
No wonder, the group, regularly tops the charts in South Africa, yet their music has a multicultural appeal. Most people relate to Freshlyground’s creations as the music is mostly in English and Xhosa and is in different genres.
So what should Malawian fans expect from Freshlyground?
“We do not come expecting them, but if we are having a good time they will be sure to join us. We remember our first coming to Malawi as being beautiful and peaceful,” said Cohen.
The group, whose journey started with a 2003 release Jika Jika before Nomvula the following year, has achieved double platinum status in South Africa.
In 2010, the band released Radio Africa and followed that up with The Legend in 2013, a release the group says captures the emotion, passion and the energy of their live performances.
“We always do our best, but we are getting better. So, we are looking forward to coming to LoS once again,” said Cohen. n