When Impakt Events director Lucius Banda made his brief address during the opening of the annual Sand Music Festival at Kabumba Hotel in Salima last Friday, he had one strong message.
It was a plea of some sort, directed at the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Francis Phiso, who was the guest of honour.
Banda was unequivocal in the delivery of his message: “Honourable minister, under your ministry you should be making similar considerations in terms of providing funding and support to the arts sector just as you do with sports.”
It was not a moment of long speeches. So, as soon as he delivered this message, he resumed his seat. What the creative industry needs most is support and he knew it. No need to beat about the bush.
On the ground, the organisers had assembled some of the most appetising acts in the history of the festival. The few people who had made it by the time the ribbon was cut were in full anticipation to get things going.
Jamaica’s reggae music old guard King Sounds was in town having spent a week in South Africa where he was practicing with that country’s renowned supporting band, Reggae Sisters. Botswana’s dance music hot-shot Vee Mampeezy was also on the list of international acts.
There was also an equally impressive line-up of local artists which had names such as Lucius Banda himself, Zembani Band, Black Missionaries, Skeffa Chimoto, Wailing Brothers, Lulu, Piksy, Kell Kay, Soul Raiders, Nepman, among others.
There was, however, a marked difference about this year’s festival. The patronage was not generally what has always been associated with a festival of such stature. On the first day, patronage has rarely been ensouraging.
So, the general feeling was that come Saturday the numbers will pick up. The patronage did improve, but not to the expectations of many.
One of the event’s leading organisers, Nkhwachi Mhango, in an interview, admitted the turn-out was not as impressive and indicated it was a reflection of the economic situation Malawi is sailing through.
He said the situation also impacted the festival negatively as the team failed to strike partnership and sponsorship deals as they did in previous years.
“We literally had very little support. Most of them pulled out at the last minute citing slow business,” said Mhango.
He also cited the volatile political situation as another factor that affected the vibrancy of the annual music festival.
Mhango added that during preparations, they failed to hold some meetings because of the spate of demonstrations that have hit the country of late.
He, however, said the team managed to deliver a memorable experience for the patrons better organisation, clear communication and outstanding security system.
“Next year, as we will be celebrating 10 years of the festival, we will come back even stronger. We will change the skeleton and blueprint on which the event is delivered. We are also looking at ways how our sponsors can interact more with the patrons,” said Mhango.
In a separate interview, local event organiser Emmanuel Maliro saluted the Impakt Events team for daring to go ahead with the festival in face of the on-going political turmoil and unhealthy economic situation.
Security during the three-days event also proved to be water-tight.