There is always a moment in life that changes a person from ordinary to extraordinary. For Barack Obama, that moment came in 2008 when, despite being black, he was voted the US president. But for Maskal, it came in 2011.
Whatever the pains 2011 inflicted on Malawians, Maskal will live to tell the sweet stories of the year. It was a year he came from the clouds, dropped a debut album, Nthawi, and in a moment, found a master key that unlocked a thousand doors of opportunity.
Access Communications Limited (ACL) honoured him with a car and also made him its brands ambassador and gave him the most blinding visibility campaign at the Lake of StarsÃ‚Â Arts Festival.Ã‚Â The Malawi Music Awards bestowed him 2011’s best male artist.
Before the organisers of the Lake of Stars made him the first time headliner at the summer festival, he had already performed to a million plus audience at the Big Brother eviction show in South Africa.
It would be rash to call Maskal 2011’s success story in music. But if you look at what he has achieved with just a debut album, you begin to note something unprecedented.
This makes his story quite unique in a constipated music market.
Expect more musicÃ¢â‚¬â€Usi
Having made headlines with Watch Out film and Maloto a Farao play, MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s comedian Michael Usi feels 2011 was great because artists added their voice to the making of a better society.
But he says the film industry in Malawi needs more support from government and private sector to return bigger and better next year. Above all, he feels the main players are busy competing and tearing each other apart instead of uniting as musicians do.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Next year, people should expect more music and stage plays. Having been abroad, I feel film needs more time and resources,” said the man behind the manganya comics.
Kwathu DramaÃ‚Â Group continued to dictate the proceedings on the vernacular theatre scene in Malawi until the closure of their calendar on Monday when they staged Makondamakonda at Kalikuti Hotel in MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s capital, Lilongwe.
“In 2011, we had no competition. Many groups tackledÃ‚Â irrelevant themes. We will bring more shows when the French Cultural Centre reopens next year,Ã¢â‚¬Â says its publicist Charles Mphoka.
One of MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s veteran singers Maurice Maulidi attempted a comeback this year, starring in the newly assembled Mandevu Resident Band alongside Chechule star Peter Chidzanja.
The Sakina legend is still bitter about the peanuts he got from the redone Ulendo Wanga album, a setback which made him sell his equipment and quit music last decade ago. He says he is back to stay.
Lake of StarsÃ¢â‚¬â€feast of cultures
As expected, the Lake of Stars returned bigger and better. Running from September 30 to October 2, the festival returned with a spectacular playlistÃ¢â‚¬â€ including the Black Missionaries and Lucius Banda who missed at the 2010 edition and hosted a parallel show in the vicinity in protest to meagre performance offers.
One is tempted to compare the Lake of Star’s vibe with the Blantyre Arts Festival and Sand festival which was held weeks after its return. But the fallacy of likening the Lake Malawi homage festival is that it assumes it is just another festival.
Locals had the opportunity to make merry together with a rainbow of all nationalities from Africa and beyond. The spectrum was equally diverse on stage where Mafilika Band members shared the spotlight with UK’s soul singer Beverly Knight. Her compatriots Foals and South AfricaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s FreshlyGround were a darling to behold all night long, but not when the stars had fallen from the sky onto the festival ground.
The festival remains the biggest arts and culture feast of arts and culture in Malawi, but the crowd that flew in this year offers a prolific case that there is nothing better globally. It is tourism, arts and culture in motion.
This was a year of revelation for gospel musician Grace Chinga. Apart from releasing the bestselling Udzayimba Nyimbo album, the songstress was crowned the best gospel star in Malawian Music Awards. True to her status, the faithful thronged her performances countrywide.