Likoma Festival has been in the news for so long on various letdowns. But it all depends on how one views the cup as either half full or half empty.
It’s true the festival that took place during Easter weekend disappointed patrons and artists. Time management was a problem, equipment was poor, artists failed to find proper accommodation, among other technical glitches.
However, organisers need to be applauded for the effort they made organising the festival on the island.
This has gone down into history as the first festival to take place on Likoma Island. The feast, in fact, does not begin on the island. It begins on the deck of the country’s celebrated MV Ilala.
As soon as revellers stepped on the ship in Nkhata Bay at around noon on Easter Friday, all frustrations and disappointments caused by the ship’s delay were washed away by the disco that was on the decks of the vessel as they cruised to the island. For many on the cruise the excitement came because they were first-timers on lake transport.
First was DJ Trick, who took turns with DJ Maya on the turntables, setting the party rolling with various hits. Revellers boozed, danced, while others marvelled at the beautiful scenery of the mainland as the ship was leaving the port.
Usually, Ilala travels for four hours to Likoma. This time it travelled for five hours after leaving Nkhata Bay at 1.20pm.
Reaching Likoma, revellers were tired, and no performances took place as planned.
Saturday was a fun-filled day. The day started with sight-seeing of Likoma’s tourist attraction sites such as the St. Peter’s Cathedral followed by music performances then boat cruises around the island and to Mozambique lakeshore in the afternoon.
But the majority stuck with the performances.
Despite sound hitches, Young Kay, Mafo, Renegade, Blaze, Dali, Krazy G and Nepman, among others, performed various songs until the climax at around 8pm when Mlaka Maliro took to the stage.
Wearing a black shirt with strips of Rastafarian colours on the edge of a collar and yoke, Mlaka defied poor equipment to give a grand performance that will live in the memory of patrons for a long time.
‘Mlaka is Mlaka’ was the catchphrase that was on people’s lips during his three-hour performance such that he earned himself the status of a legend as one patron said: “That is a legendary performance!”
And indeed, legendary it was.
Fans could not hide their pleasure as they hoisted him in the air in salutation to his performance while they cheered “Mlaka! Mlaka! Mlaka!”
The Kamandidutsadutsa hit-maker hinted on his legendary status in an interview with On the Arts, saying: “That’s where experience matters. After noticing that the equipment was not professional I tried to give my best.”
Lack of quality equipment in most shows has been an outcry among artists. It puts them at a tight corner where sub-standard performances are, sometimes, inevitable.
Such was the story at the festival where poor sound equipment took centre-stage.
But Mlaka made the patrons never to believe that the equipment was the problem.
Driving them from his 1999 hit album Dzanja lalemba down the memory lane to his 12th He is Alive, Mlaka lived up to his slogan—Mlaka ndi Mlaka.
Possibly, the live band made the difference as opposed to lip syncing by most supporting urban artists. Also into consideration could be that the fans were made to reconnect with their past.
But over and above everything, both young and old unanimously agreed through their dance moves that Mlaka gave his best to overrule poor sound equipment.
He raised the tempo of the show, leaving patrons in ecstasy after his performance at 11pm, which made it easy for the likes of Piksy, Chimzy Kelly, Gwamba, Bucci, and the Dare Devils to capitalise on.
Said Mlaka: “If we kept on complaining about equipment then we would have disappointed our fans because they expect the best from us.”
One of the organisers Peter Chiwaula admitted that the equipment was of poor quality.
“Last year we got equipment from Blantyre and it cost us more in terms of transportation. This year we thought of booking them from Mzuzu. But we have been let down,” he said.
The festival ended on Easter Sunday with traditional dances, where the best dancers from the island were crowned.
Chiwaula believes that with good preparations and investment, the festival will return bigger and better for the third time next year.