Sunday, October 9, 2011

Getting a taste of local music at Lake of Stars

Front seat minibus view coming out of Limbe on
Friday afternoon.
And apparently getting a bad flu as well, but at least I’m on the mend! Last weekend, Dominique (my Canadian housemate) and I headed from Limbe – a neighbourhood east of Blantyre where I transit through to work when I’m at AYISE – on Friday afternoon en route to Mangochi and finally Nkapola Lodge where the Lake of Stars festival took place. A definite downside to travelling to new places by local mini-buses is that you have to rely a bit more on the advice of people around you. 

Friday night saw some pretty good reggae and the UK group The Very Best as a Malawian project – so that was pretty cool. The spot was beautiful, with the stage set up right on the beach and since Nkhapola is situated close to the extreme south on Lake Malawi, it is fairly narrow and you can even see Mozambique – Olá!

Show stealers - Freshly Ground!
The next day, we started checking out the villages in the area surrounding the festival, since we were curious to see how the Festival’s model of responsible tourism was playing out in practice.  At least all the hotels were fully booked, with many people, us included, camping on hotel lawns. But I’m still interested to know if the people in these poor communities just see a whirl of azungu and affluent Malawians, without getting any of the benefits.

On the music side, I highly recommend for everyone to check out Freshly Ground from South Africa, an awesomely talented group of people. Maskal – from Lilongwe – was really great, especially because we had a Malawian giving simultaneous translation during the entire show!

An excited Chinese delegation!
As you’ve already noticed from the title of this blog, Malawians pride themselves in being the “warm heart of Africa”, it doesn’t just refer to the climate – and I really saw this warmth among the people on Saturday night. You might have heard about the magnitude of Chinese presence in Africa, and Malawi is no exception. The Government of China was a sponsor of the event, and a Chinese Cultural Delegation performed, sandwiched in between two reggae and R&B acts. Dressed in traditional outfits, a handful of Chinese singers and musicians played over recorded music, which nearly drowned them out and was a far cry from something you might expect from a music festival in Malawi. But still people danced, cheered and encored throughout the performance!
Poet and activist from Guyana

Moving to his own rhythm

All in all, a fun weekend and an ideal introduction to regional and Malawian music. This weekend I took in Poetry Africa, as part of the Blantyre Arts Festival, which celebrates spoken word, songwriters, musicians and activists – individuals who contribute to social change by making their audiences feel and understand the continent’s burning issues in a new way. I really enjoyed TJ Dema and Chiwoniso and her mbira.

I’ll post about some cultural observations and lessons I have learned, along with some photos of our house later tonight.

Happy Sunday!

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