Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Not the Lake of Wealth Stars

The Lake of Stars Music Festival seems to always vindicate my misgivings of this whole charade. This time round it has compelled me to write about the Lake of wealth stars owing to the exorbitant charges placed before local patrons will get an access to the event.

It is apparent that the Lake of Stars seems to be getting off our hands directly or indirectly.

So far we have the Tanzanians as our biggest instigator of a building confrontation over who owns this lake and as the matter is undergoing arbitration I better not delve into it at the moment; I will let it pass for now and discuss it another day.  

But what I want us to discuss this time round is the Lake of Stars Music Festival. For the eight years that it was running before it took a break of three years I had been complaining of the uncharacteristic latitude displayed by its organisers when it comes to organizing the event.

This is to do with how they hire our local musicians, to start with. If you look at this year's line-up you have the Zambia's award winning Zone Fam, The Swedish/Malawi ‘The Very Best’, European artists and Skeffa Chimoto and if you will check the pay-out for these artists you will find that the local artist will be the least paid by 500 per cent.

This other day I had complained that the organisers were giving musicians outside the Malawi border lucrative contracts worth big sums of money at the expense of the peanuts that they would offer our own artist.

This, forced Lucius Banda and company the other day to stage their protest when they organized a parallel festival which has now been christened as sand festival to drive a message home that as local artists, they deserve better.

I have always argued that there is some scheming and machinations by organisers who use the event to make money for themselves. We have a lot of foreign folks who do a number of activities outside the glare of the concerned authority and therefore do manage to dupe the citizenry.

To start with, to his or her benefit is the Lake of Stars Musical Festival? Ever since it started do we have any positive pointers that the event has benefitted the country?

They talk of promoting tourism, but ever since the festival started, the department of tourism has never come into the open to explain how beneficial the event has become to the nation.

Apart from creating a platform where foreigners come to get stoned with our Malawi gold – as in cannabis – what more do Malawi benefit from the event?

The other day I used to think this is going to create a stage where our Malawian music talent will be showcased and accordingly utilise a window of opportunity to export talent. But lo and behold! It has proven not to belong to the local musical industry.

No wonder therefore, neither Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM) nor Cosoma is involved in earnest when it comes to Lake of Stars.

Last time I asked who these stars shining along our lake? The answers that came showed that, in fact they are not even local and ‘native’ stars.

Now while the government officers with regulatory authority are sleeping on the wheel and shutting off our musical artists, this time round the organisers have even decided to make the festival an all foreign and elite affair.

How do you explain charges for this festival slated for Nkopola Lodge in Mangochi split into early bird tickets at K21, 000 if bought before the month of May and later K31, 000?

Listening to the organisers talk about this fee without any compunction make you realise that this is not Malawi's own.

So far they boast that they are experiencing high demand for the tickets across Africa before describing the pricing as very fair. In fact the organisers have the audacity to compare these prices to high scale economies where spending 90 pounds sterling or K60, 000 does not change anything.

The organisers say local price costs a third of the international price but this is Malawi, if the organisers want more money they better go where they make that lot.

If it were in my power I would really stop this exploitation in its track and at the risk of accusing the authority of being corrupted by the organisers in concept and all sense, they will bury their heads in the sand and pretend all is well.

For the sake of argument, if all is well can I be told how much forex is garnered every time Malawi host this event, touted by CNN as 'One of Africa's most respected festivals' ?
Ever since it started what are the positive deliverables in terms of advancing our tourism sector that we can boast about.

At whose whim does it happen? The other day the organisers decided they were not making enough money through Lake of Stars so they came up with city of stars.
If it is indeed beneficial, why hasn’t government taken it over as a national event when one considers the rhetoric that tourism is one of Malawi’s development pillars of top priority?  

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