Lake of Stars Discovery 2019
Upon landing and stepping foot in “The Warm Heart of Africa,” aka Malawi, it was evident this country had done something to earn their famous nickname. I disembarked the airplane and there was a shuttle bus waiting to drive us from the plane to the gate entrance (which was literally twenty feet away). If nothing else, it made for a nice group laugh amongst strangers.
I landed in Lilongwe, eager to make my way over to the Lake of Stars Discovery Festival. The festival took place on Lake Malawi, also known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania, or Lake Niassa in Mozambique, the two other countries whose shorelines are inhabited by this large lake. I spent the six hour drive from Lilongwe to the Lake watching the undulating roads bordered by vast, dry landscapes turn to grassy shades of green with scattered banana trees along the hills and slopes and then back to drylands. Malawi truly is striking. These views made me all the more excited to see what the famous Lake had to offer. It did not disappoint.
While Lake of Stars has graced Lake Malawi for 15 years, 2019’s Lake of Stars Discovery was the first of its kind. It boasted a smaller, more intimate avenue for festival-goers and artists alike. Set in Kachere Kastle, a Moroccan style castle built on the shores of Lake Malawi, Lake of Stars Discovery was set to be a pleasant experience for creators from all over the world. With two stages, the Garden Stage and the Beach Stage (main stage), the festival hosted acts of all kinds. From poetry, to live interviews, to soulful acoustic sets, to ground-shaking djs, Lake of Stars Discovery did not disappoint when exhibiting artists from throughout the African diaspora.
The festival ran from Friday September 27 to Sunday September 29. This year’s festival was focused on showcasing local Malawi artists and the undiscovered talents of the country. Friday’s performances ranged from artists like Malawi reggae artist Sangie, to Malawian award-winning singer-songwriter Eli Njuchi, to the island of Réunion’s Destyn Maloya. However, Friday’s most memorable performance was by Malawi’s very own, George Kalukusha. His patient guitar strumming matched with his effortless vocals made for a performance as sweet as honey (pun very much intended to reference Kalukusha’s 2019 single, “Honey”).
Saturday was a full day of yoga, poetry, and cultural exchange as Lake of Stars Discovery presented not only internationally-renowned artists, but also local performers like the Amahoro Drummers, a panel on art and health, discussions on “Changing the Narrative: Women and Violence,” presentations like “Nex Millen: Hip Hop History,” and much more. Saturday saw an array of international artists including South Africa’s Amanda Black, Moonchild Sannelly, and Wandile Mbambeni. The last of which closed out the night on the Garden Stage, gracefully steering the crowd away from the booming house music and luring them into the low mellow tones of his soulful voice. Mbambeni, who recently released his debut full-length album titled “Kwakumnandi” (meaning ‘it was nice’) lit up the Garden Stage and left the whole crowd grooving to his music. It was, without a doubt, a very nice way to end the evening. Below is a video of Wandile Mbambeni peforming "Our Lives Matter" off of his album, "Kwakumnandi."
Sunday brought with it more discussions on the African continent and the diaspora alike. With “Art for Action: Campaign Showcase” and “Art for Action: Performance and Discussion,” festival goers were urged to do just that, use art asa medium to bring about action. There was also a panel on helping the environment and a discussion on “Changing the Narrative: African Narratives on the World Stage.” Tanzanian reggae artist, Jhikoman, hit the stage with Afrikabisa Band. Zimbabwean singer Gemma Griffiths performed as well. Malawi-born Drew Moyo closed out the festival with his coveted afro-house sounds.
After the festival, the six hour drive back to Lilongwe seemed much quicker. Maybe the lack of anticipation and excitement to reach the festival was the reason, or possibly the long winding roads in the middle of the night, or (most likely) a weekend of sipping cocktails on the Lake finally caught up to me. I arrived at Lilongwe International Airport eager to make it back home, but so full of love, warmth, and fond memories of the “Warm Heart of Africa.”