Eighty acts. 10 nationalities. Three stages. In three days. Massive entertainment, tourism and cultural encounters have become a byword for Lake of Stars, the arts festival back on the gleaming, palm-fringed shores of Lake Malawi tonight.
Locals around the venue—Sunbird Nkopola Lodge in Mangochi—will no longer be spectators as has been the case in the 10 years of the festival.
They, in Chipoka Village and surrounding areas, will be the centre of attraction as organisers of the festival, described as “one of Africa’s most respected music festivals” by CNN, have dedicated it to them with a budget of $20 500 (about K10.2 million).
“For the first time in the history of Lake of Stars, we want people from Chipoka to benefit directly from the festival,” said Dennis Imaan, LoS outreach manager.
Imaan with his crew has been in the area for two weeks, involving the locals in planning and implementation of the festival.
In fact, the locals had their own free, but ticketed festival yesterday dubbed Lake of Stars Outreach Concert where 1 500 local residents took part.
The festival was organised with support from Unicef and Ministry of Youth to promote the Action4Adolescents, Condomize Malawi!, Let Girls Learn and UN Women’s ‘He for She’ campaign advocating gender equality.
“This initiative follows a request by traditional leader Chipoka that locals have not experienced what Lake of Stars is all about. So, the local festival is meant to offer live music to the community who would not manage to buy tickets for the main event,” he said.
Musicians Lucius Banda, Lawi, Gwamba and Zeus, among others, were on the line up for the “strictly no alcohol” event where 1 000 youths were targeted.
He said today there will be a guided tour where festival-goers will contribute towards the community. And tomorrow, he said, some artists will also visit some villages for performances.
“This year, it’s all about giving back to the community. Letting the locals have a feel of what Lake of Stars Festival is all about.
“In the past, we would just come for two days before the event. But now, we have been here for two weeks, involving the locals in planning and implementation. With this approach, we believe that locals will benefit more from the festival this year than ever before,” said Imaan.
The main event, starting this evening, will have three stages where over 80 acts from at least 10 countries are expected to perform.
Imaan said after the festival all the wood used in erecting the three stages will be turned into bookshelves and desks for the surrounding schools.
The event last year, according to LoS founder Will Jameson, was bigger and better, registering over 70 acts and 4 200 attendees, an estimated 573 million international media reach and 24 million local and regional reach.
Approximately $1.7 million (about K850 million) income was generated for Malawi’s economy.
But this year, the event promises to be “the biggest and best” so far as it goes beyond mere celebration of music.
“We are excited for the amazing acts we have confirmed this year. Our approach was to spread across as many genres as possible and increase the diversity of our acts to ensure we entertain the different audiences that come to the festival.
“We have prepared a jam-packed weekend showcasing over 80 acts from over 10 countries. And attendees are invited to experience this unique display of arts, culture and community activities,” said Jameson.
Headliners for this year include Uhuru (SA), Toya Delazy (SA), Lawi and The Mango, Gwamba, Dan Lu tonight; Ric Hassani (Nigeria), Young Fathers (UK), Mokoomba (Zimbabwe), Lulu, Lucius Banda, Sangie, Nepman tomorrow; and Zeus (Botswana), Faith Mussa, Sonye, Sally Nyundo, DJ Lee Owl, DJ Rich (UK) on Sunday.
The Malawi Tourism Award recipient in its first year of establishment is a brainchild of Jameson who set up the Lake of Stars Project in 2003 to encourage international tourism to Malawi, taking inspiration from events like Womad and Glastonbury.
Since inception, the project has produced 10 festivals and over 100 events in the UK, exposing over 600 million people to Malawi.