Cheated by BAF


Believe it or not but last Sunday was the first time that I have ever attended the Blantyre Arts Festival (BAF). Not because I had any problems with it, but every time it was on I would either be outside the country or something really ‘burning’ would crop up.
Likewise, I missed the festival from Thursday, when it started but chanced upon it on Sunday.
My first impression was that of disappointment.
From the time that I arrived at the Blantyre Cultural Centre in the afternoon, I stayed for two hours without knowing what was happening.
At this time what was going on in my mind was something like disbelief that this was indeed the same festival that brought along Mutabaruka all the way from Jamaica in 2010, Zimbabwe’s music maestro Oliver Mtukudzi in 2011 and even Mali’s legendary performer Salif Keita last year.
The main stage for the cultural centre, which government has chosen to pay no attention to, is grass-thatched and apparently due to the rains that have been falling in the city the roof had to be covered with canvas to protect the equipment. This they were doing in front of an audience pregnant with expectation.
In fact what remained was the performance of a Tanzanian band called Afrikwetu, our own gospel artists Lloyd Phiri and Ethel Kamwendo-Banda and, lastly, what was this year’s headliner band from Botswana called Slizer.
The sound system was top-notch but the shilly-shallying to get things moving was made worse with the lady MC calling on stage some cartoons that insulted the whole arts concept. Their poems were half-baked, their jokes so tired they made me almost puke with shame.
At last came Lloyd Phiri and Ethel Kamwendo-Banda after him. And then the Tanzanian act did not disappoint.
But as is the case with typical Malawian mentality, while Kamwendo-Banda was about to go on stage, after the performance of Piksy who had failed to turn up on Saturday, the MC connived with some people and sneaked on the list someone who was not appearing anywhere on the programme to do some antics he mistook for music.
They called him Collins Chitimbe. I had never seen him perform before but what I witnessed brought shame on BAF and I kept wondering why this act was even left to play longer than was necessary. His voice was forced and his body language exuded negative energies due to choreographically disjointed attempts to do what those in the know do.
I thought for one to appear at BAF they are supposed to earn it, but this clown found himself on stage through the back-door. Organisers acted as if all was well as the pretender wasted 40 minutes of the audience’s precious time with his cacophony of noise.
Then there was also some sign that the festival artists did not do enough to practice their stage antics. Right at the close of the festival Slizer (by the way the group was backed by a Malawian band that also backed Kamwendo-Banda and Phiri although they still they called it Slizer Band) wanted to show something that would have ended up in a disaster.
They wanted to get up there on the supporting wooden poles of the stage, not knowing that termites had done justice to them and the moment they jumped on it, they snapped and nearly hit them.
This was just a dance group, not musicians. They shouted hoarse into the microphone so much that when you consider the other headline artists like Mutabaruka, Mtukudzi and Keita before them you just realise that this was a raw deal.
Perhaps I am missing the point. This was Blantyre Arts Festival and not Blantyre Musical Festival. Granted, but these came as a Tswana band. At least they needed to give out musical performance but, nay, the Malawi band did that while they did the dancing performance.
There was nothing to write home about about these Tswanas when you consider that there was nothing highbrow in terms of choreography that was on display apart from the costumes that revealed more than my grandmother would recommend. They did gyrate their waists, however, forcing men with wet loins to rush to the stage with their smartphones to capture the lewd act for keeps.
As someone who was having his first BAF experience, I guess what I got was something that would not leave a lasting impression.
Notwithstanding my being largely underwhelmed I guess the K1000 that I paid for the show was not wasted considering the performance from the two gospel artists and the Tanzanian outfit.
As for Piksy, here is an entertainer who uses voice and right from the start he apologised for having lost it to flu but still went ahead to perform. My foot! This was daylight robbery. This guy struggled and because we are Malawians we still clapped hands so that he could mock us more.
Feedback: drummingpen@columnist.com
Mobile: 0882233220

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About Gregory Gondwe - Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Gregory Gondwe is a Malawian journalist who started practising journalism in 1993. Until March 31, 2012 he was regional editor and bureau chief for Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS). Gregory is also a media consultant assisting several international journalists pursuing assignments in Malawi. He holds a Diploma of Journalism and an Intermediate Certificate in Journalism among other media-related certificates. He is also columnist for Malawi's first and oldest weekly, Malawi News. He can be contacted on gregorygondwe@gmail.com.
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