It is 6am and fisher Ackim Wyson is making his way to the Sunbird Nkopola Lodge beach in Mangochi while carrying his basket full of fish.
At this time, the beach is full of activities as fun-seekers from all walks of life have come to attend the annual Sand Music Festival. At this hour, some are in their rooms in various lodges within the vicinity of the venue and some are at the Boma trying to make up for lost sleeping hours due to the endless performances the previous night.
For Wyson, who comes from Enala Village in Traditional Authority Nankumba in Monkey Bay, Mangochi, it is an opportunity to make a killing due to the rise in demand for fish during the duration of the festival.
“Most of the visitors during the event would like to have a taste of the different fish species from the lake. It provides us with an increased business opportunity. Some buy to take the fish home while others ask us to prepare it for them right here at the beach for consumption,” he said.
Meanwhile, as a result of the pull effect of the festival, all the lodges along the lakeshore are full.
In an earlier interview, Blue Fish Lodge proprietor Allie Mwachande said usually the lodges and resorts are full with a month to go before the event.
The SandFest platform has been graced by a number of artists during its 13-years lifespan. One of the regular performers at the event is urban music artist Piksy, who to date has just missed one event.
The Itsanana hit-maker says the Sand Music Festival is the biggest festival that Malawi has and it is a good platform for every artist.
Said Piksy: “When you perform here, you know that you are performing in front of a lot of people some who are coming from all over Malawi and some from beyond Malawi.”
The experience that comes with SandFest is not limited to the two sectors alone.
During the event, the sight of foreign nationals among the patrons is not a strange one.
When the curtain was brought down on the 13th edition of the festival on Sunday evening, many party-goers had lingering thoughts and questions about which direction the event is taking. Compared to the previous years, the number of patrons has been declining.
This year, the organisers, Impakt Events Management were even dealt a blow when two of their announced artists; Kenyatta Hill and Nigerian Spyro failed to make it to the event because of what they said were challenges due to shortage of forex.
Lilongwe-based festival-goer Luke Chinkhokwe said it is time the organisers changed the approach of executing the festival, especially when it comes to the selection of international artists.
“The organisers should focus on artists that are trending at the time although we know they can be expensive. Being an annual event, I believe they have ample time to plan and do a proper budget. It is also time they migrated to a digital stage,” he said.
On his part, Piksy said the focus of the festival should be promoting local artists as most of the international artists do not perform to the people’s expectations.
“The problem is that most companies will not sponsor an event where there are local artists only. We have a lot of talent here, but sometimes we fail to showcase what we have because the money at our disposal is not enough,” he said.
Festival director ‘Soldier’ Lucius Banda said the prevailing economic challenges made things tough for them, but they are still proud of what they brought to the people which in any normal circumstance would not have been possible.
He said: “The event lived up to its standards. We maintained the number of international artists that we invited for the event. Those that failed were replaced immediately and apologized to the people.”
After 13 years of SandFest experience, it is clear Malawi needs the event. But now the question is in what form will the subsequent editions be delivered and which direction is the festival taking?