Lake of Stars returns and as usual, expectations are ‘steamy’ for the event which is among the Top Ten Arts Festivals in Africa. Proudly so, such a top-notch event traditionally happens to be hosted on Malawi soil along the palm fringed beaches of Lake Malawi. Mangochi precisely.
We continue being the warm heart of Africa! Yeah, yeah. A bold claim to make. Malawi is a stunning southeast African country. And the vast sea-like Lake Malawi – on the banks of which the festival usually takes place – is a truly magical destination.
It was nicknamed ‘The Lake of Stars’ by Scottish explorer David Livingstone (the first Westerner to reach the sub-Saharan nation) because of the lights of the boats he saw on the water. Now, while you’re stood with your back to the main stage, warm sand under your feet, you can look across the lake and see more lights twinkling along the coastline of Mozambique and space line of Madagascar. What a spectacular view! But, it’s also the fest’s beachside setup which makes it somehow too special.
You’ll drive to the event through a dusty, relatively empty landscape, before arriving at a site where the event is staged within Sunbird Nkopola hotel complex – where lush, watered lawns edge the sand. Festival-goers, and some workers, take naps beneath the trees. Wooden bars built on the beach serve cheap beers and all sorts of drinks.
Food stalls sale all sorts of Malawian delicious menus while different stages play host to different acts. From poetry, DJs taking turns, workshops, acrobats, film screenings to music sets. A pretty even mix of Malawians and foreigners (mostly South Africans and Europeans) dive in and out of the lake through the hot days, while during the balmy nights the beach gets overtaken by dancing punters kicking up sand grains till morning.
Going by history, Lake of Stars has always presented windows of different opportunities to indigenous artists. As they chance on international record deals, coverage and connections among many seizures. We have seen how successful past events have been and the attendance that it gets.
It remains to be an event that brings together people from far and wide corners of the earth, assembling great names together in their voluntary and monetary quests to grace this event. As we write, some of its fans, especially those in Europe started saving months and even years ago just to attend the event. What does this mean to Malawi?
Truth be told, to most local performers , music artists in particular, Lake of stars is another opportunity to drink, flirt with half naked women, taking water background selfies to post on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. What a shame!
We have seen how the event has been abused by most of these seasoned musicians who dream of being empowered and get connections, but to the contrary, when time to get connected presents itself, to them it becomes the time to win beef when their names have been included on the list of performers. I will not be forced to comment on the development that resulted from some big “name artists” “boycotting the event and went on to start a local version of it. I will do no such a thing. Actually, if you are an entertainment enthusiast, you know the story.
Yes, it’s indeed a time for Malawian rappers to get into fight scandals, unfortunately, fights of lust. For those who will get a chance of inclusion at this year’s event, please take it as an opportunity to connect with people you couldn’t possibly speak to. Take it as a moment to expand your networks. Focus not on the fun part, but rather the business part. There is always fun after business.
One thing local artists must come in terms with is that Lake of Stars in an International Arts and Music festival. Most of the organization of the event happens in the UK and not in Malawi. Now there are some artists who think they have made a name in Malawi music circles to guarantee an automatic booking at the festival.
During past few weeks, I had a chance to talk to several artists just to check if they had submitted their talent identification/artists application forms. Well some of the responses I got were astounding. There was an artist who said “People know who are doing things in this country and why should I apply? If they want me they will approach me” What? What confidence levels from the artist! This is an Urban Hip Hop artist and I am not mentioning names here.
Then I went to check who had already made a cut on this year’s list. Here is what I found, on Lake of Stars Event page on Facebook, “Young Fathers / RicHassani / Gwamba Mw / George Kalukusha Music / DANNY Kalima AKA Sirius / Lulu &Mathumela Band / Menes la plume official …and many more still to be announced!”
Now from this list, many people maybe familiar with Gwamba and Lulu, but hey! George Kalukusha, Danny Kalima and Menes are also Malawian based artists and they are huge. Yes huge that they got an automatic qualification on the list this year.
Danny Kalima is that boy the whole social media in Malawi was like “Who is Danny?” when he won the best R n B artist in the last MUMA awards. Of course before Salanje’s one night rise to fame.
Now many people wonder how these guys got on the list. These are people who have good management at their disposal and are well connected to influencers that Lake of Stars has no option but to include them on the list. Google their names and you will find their music on iTunes, their interviews on BBC and CNN and they have a vibrant international audience.
Well, fact is a handful Malawians are able to cough a good sum for entertainment of the Lake of stars’ calibre and you must have an international appeal to make it big on that stage. Now the artist scouting process by LOS is open to the whole world and this means one thing. Competition!
Apparently, being in Malawi gives you an advantage as there are no a lot of transport issues and some irrational logistics. The short listing by the way is done in the UK. Now you must have a good online presence aka press kit for you to easily convince the team. And once that is done, you have a stage set before you not only to perform on, take photos and flood out twitter, Instagram and facebook timelines but to meet renowned artists, DJs, producers, poets, media personalities who could just take your art a step further.
Unfortunately, when you get there with your eyes fixed on the money you are paid, the booze which is a bit more expensive than in your local pub, the girls who are a bit too relaxed for a night out on the beach and miss all the side workshops, opportunities to discuss business with other people, then you have just missed a lifetime opportunity.
Truth be told, most artists who go to perform at the event are not wealthier than the audience, and acting all “celebrity” to impress the audience of people who are able to spend well above MK200, 000 on average in 3 days is simply lunacy and inanity. These people are there to be impressed by your art and not your ability to buy more beers or be cool with the girls smooching one after another on the beach.
This is the time to forget all the so called “hype” you have outside the perimeters of Nkopola Lodge to go and strike a conversation with that artist from Scotland. To go and ask for a business card from that producer from Kenya. And, ask those guys from Nigeria how they got their music on MTV. But when you are full of pride and all you want is to impress other people, you will impress none and you will still be where you are.
Apart from the likes of Tay Grin, Sally Nyundo, Black Missionaries, names such as George Kalukusha, Sirus, Menes, Adrian, Jacko Janna, Mafilika, The Home Grown African, Agoroso may not be your regular artists on your playlist or hit your favourite fm radio top 10 charts. But, these are names that are earning some real money from their arts and making tours to Europe and all. They know how to network and create businesses from their arts and they have used the platform Lake of stars has created for the past years to advance their glittering careers.
If you make it to this years’ festival as an artist, please remember this article. Well, remember Kelvin Sulugwe.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :