New festivals: hits and misses

The year 2019 had some interesting developments in the arts industry. One of them was the introduction of new arts festivals. The major ones being Kukaya Music and Arts Festival, Zomba Mountain Music Festival and The European Film Festival. While the country already has a rich list of festivals worth the name, the coming in of the new festivals excited the arts world. It signalled growth.

Was one of the headliners at Kukaya Urban Music Festival: Namadingo

On August 31 and September 1, music lovers in Mzuzu witnessed the launch of the Kukaya Urban Music Festival at Mzuzu Stadium.

After a lot of publicity surrounding the event, it was, however, disappointing to notice the lukewarm reception that the event got.

This was partly due to the fact that during the same week in the same city, reggae giants Black Missionaries and Lucius Banda plus Zembani Band were also performing.

The low patronage forced organisers to halve the entry fee from K10 000 to K5 000.

Artists such as Gwamba, Kell Kay and Patience Namadingo all performed at the event despite the low patronage.

Speaking after the event, Gwamba said he was pleased with the turn of events despite the low patronage.

He said: “For a start, I don’t think this is low patronage. It’s a good turnout and as the event grows, patronage will be increasing. And its the first time for me to see all these artists performing together in Mzuzu. So, as years go by, the festival will also be improving.”

Swagg Entertainment chief executive officer Francis Mkandawire said they were pleased with the festival.

“We wanted to build trust of delivery because people didn’t believe we would bring all these artists,” he said.

Then on October 25 at the Zomba Mountain, a cool breeze and beautiful serene environment welcomed music lovers to the first ever Zomba Music Festival.

The festival, a brain child of Mibawa Television, ran for three days from Friday to Sunday.

During the official launch of the festival, Zomba City Mayor Benson Bullah said the festival was a welcome development as it also raised the profile of the beautiful Zomba Plateau.

In his address, John Nthakomwa proprietor of MibawaTelevision, said their aim was to promote arts as well as raise the profile of Zomba Mountain Forest.

“This is our small way of promoting the entertainment industry,” he said.

The event, which had a fair patronage, started with a bang as various artists, including Black Missionaries, Piksy, WalikoMakhala, Faith Mussa, Zomba Prison Band, Ndirande Anglican Voices and Shammah Vocals performed.

Artist Phyzix said the festival was well organised.

He said: “This event is big enough, visible security and sound quality is top notch. In two years time, this will become Malawi’s leading festival.” 

The film industry was not left out. The country for the first time witnessed the first ever European Film Festival.

The event took place on October 4 in Lilongwe at Crossroads Hotel and in Blantyre on October 11 at Jacaranda Cultural Centre.

The then EU head of delegation to Malawi Sandra Paesen said the event was aimed at celebrating cultural diversity and a commitment to talk about things that really matter to people.

“Culture is critical for any nation to strive and I am happy to see so much Malawian talent represented at this festival, next to established European movies,” she said.

Some of the movies screened at the festival were Going South by Elson Kambalu, The Hunters by MwizaleroNyirenda, and King of Belgian from Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth.

As the year drew to a close, another new festival came up. The Art in the Park Festival. Formerly organised by Wesm, and known as The Wesm Arts Fest, the new festival, celebrated and showcased visual arts.

On November 8 to 10 various visual artists exhibited their artworks at the stunning Four Seasons Gardens in Lilongwe.

 So Malawi goes into the year 2020 with these new festivals.  

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