After having a rather difficult year in 2020, things were different in 2021. All the major arts festivals took place in quick succession, much to the delight of music and arts lovers. With a few incidents of controversies and drama, fun-seekers were spoiled for choice.
Sand Music Festival
From October 1 to 3, music and arts lovers were treated to a variety of music performances on the beautiful beaches of Mangochi, at Sunbird Nkopola. Different music genres were on offer, from reggae, Afro-pop to traditional music and anything in between, patrons truly had it all. International acts such as Gramps Morgan, Sipho Makhabane, Mr P and Makhadzi came, delivered and left patrons happy.
However, it was Makhadzi and Gramps Morgan whose stage presence left permanent marks in the hearts of fun-seekers. Makhadzi was praised for her energy while Morgan was appreciated for his delivery of a clean set backed by a live band.
“I have taken time during the Covid-19 break to create a new sound. I am really excited to share with the people. It is a sound of enjoyment, sunshine, appreciation and fun,” said Morgan of his new songs from the Grammy-nominated album Positive Vibrations.
Hangout Music Festival
After two postponements, Hangout Music Festival finally took place at Kabumba Hotel in Salima from November 5 to 7. Coincidentally, Hangout Festival also had Makhadzi as one of the headliners of the festival just a month after she appeared at Sand Music Festival’s stage. Apart from Makhadzi, the festival also featured Professor, DJ Obza, Mr Brown, Mapara A Jazz, Anthony Makondetsa, Lulu, Black Missionaries Band, Piksy, Hyphen, Beanca, Lambani Dube and DJ Tawa.
Once again, Makhadzi was the highlight of the festival which was also a success, with an the entire three days. It was also noted that local acts upped their game and gave impressive performances, refusing to be upstaged by their international counterparts.
However, it was at Hangout Festival where the locals were seen to have put in more effort to shine.
Acts such as Piksy, Lulu, Nep Sounds, Mwanache, Dev Mak, Black Missionaries Band and Beanca, among others, made sure they proved their worth.
Event host Black Jak was full of praise of the local acts and their strides in improving their stage performances.
He said: “Generally, we are going through the right direction, but I can say a few things that we need to master and change. A lot of our local artists need to learn microphone techniques to avoid feedbacks and voice clipping.”
The Lilongwe Music and Art Festival (Lifest)
The new festival got introduced at Lilongwe Golf Club from October 29 to 30 before a mammoth crowd. Just like the other Festivals, Lifest had a rich list of international performers such as Jamaica’s Chris Martin, Nigeria’s Joe Boy, South Africa’s Shekhinah as well as a long list of local acts, including Kell Kay, Tay Grin, Janta and Eli Njuchi.
The two-day event had five-star ratings. Being a new event, whose main objective was to raise funds for a mental health facility and also encourage the youth to talk about mental health issues, the event bought itself a seat in the book of major arts festivals in Malawi in the year just ending.
The international acts such as Martin gave hot performances while touting the local phrase “Ipatse moto Malawi” throughout his stay on stage.
The free annual music and arts festival that takes place at Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa was back this year, from November 4 to 6, after a year’s break last year. Largely graced by local acts, the festival gave people a full festival experience with music, drama, poetry, children’s activities and visual arts.
At the end of the event, its founder Menes La Plume said the festival is a good platform to let the outside world engage with asylum seekers as they are often left out in many initiatives, including festivals.
“The main objective of Tumaini is to promote peaceful co-existence between refugees and the host community as well as to change negative perceptions that people have about this refugee camp.
“Dzaleka is only 45 kilometres from Lilongwe, but it totally feels like a different place which is isolated with little to no entertainment. For that reason, we decided to create this festival, which gets better and bigger every year,” he said.
Other acts that graced the festival included Faith Mussa, Rudo Mkukupa- Chakwera and Shammah Vocals.
Love Malawi Festival
The Love Malawi Festival is not a regular in Malawi, but its appearance on the arts calendar during the year provided something great for gospel music lovers. World acclaimed Don Moen came and joined local artists from October 1 to 3 at Sports Complex in Blantyre, to give fun-seekers and gospel lovers something memorable. The event, which was clearly set apart from the rest with its giant stage, lighting and sound output, was one of the biggest highlights of the year. The last time the festival took place was in 2016 in Lilongwe.
Though the major festivals were generally successful, there were a number of controversies that hounded the events. The major one was the photo depicting South African musician Makhadzi during her performance at Sand Music Festival. The not-so-appealing photo exposed the female artist’s dark inner thighs humiliating her in the process and giving Internet trolls an opportunity to body shame her. Taken by local freelance photo-journalist Ras Peter Kansengwa, the photo was a subject of debate for days, almost overshadowing the success of the whole festival. The other issue was the withdrawal of two local artists at the 11th hour from the Hangout Music Festival. The two, Kell Kay and Ennoh, alleged mistreatment at the hands of the organizers, which saw them issuing highly-charged statements, complaining of the mistreatment. The festivals also attracted debate on alleged huge disparities in terms of payments between local and international acts, with the latter taking home millions while the former allegedly received peanuts. However, one of the festival’s organisers Soldier Lucius Banda addressed the issue, saying every musician is paid according to their value and how they negotiate their contract. All in all, 2021 came and will soon be behind us, registering itself as a year which saw these major festivals and so many other smaller ones.