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Lake Malawi | © hiroo yamagata/Flickr
Lake Malawi | © hiroo yamagata/Flickr

Malawi’s Lake Of Stars Festival Returns To Its Roots

Picture of Megan Iacobini
Updated: 24 October 2016
An eclectic mix of live music and DJs, palm-fringed white beaches, cold beer, hammocks, and some of the best stargazing in the world: can anything sound more appealing? These are only a few of the things drawing an ever-increasing number of music lovers to Malawi’s biggest music event, Lake of Stars. Set on the white sandy beaches of Lake Malawi, Lake of Stars has been showcasing Malawian talent alongside well-known international musicians since 2004 and is quickly becoming one of Africa’s most well-respected and exciting festivals.

 

Lake of Stars was founded by club promoter Will Jameson who, after spending his gap year in Malawi, decided to bring back some African vibes to the UK by starting Chibuku Shake Shake, later named as the best club night in the UK by Mixmag in 2004. Encouraged by the success of his club night and realizing that most people would not be opposed to listening to the music they love on a hot beach rather than in the breezy British Isles, Will returned to Malawi to put on the first edition of the now famous festival.

After five successful consecutive years in Mangochi, the Lake of Stars will be moving back to Chintheche Inn, where the first edition was held. ‘The move back to Chintheche is an exciting opportunity for us to reconnect with our roots and support the creative growth in the region’, says Jameson. From its inception it was intended that the festival would be moved around the country so that different areas of Malawi could take advantage of the boost in tourism, social outreach and economic benefits that Lake of Stars brings.

Not that the festival can possibly go wrong with its lake-side locations: TNT Magazine recently described Lake Malawi as ‘sublime, luxurious and unforgettable – a beautiful place for relaxing and unwinding on the gorgeous sandy beaches, resting in hammocks or sheltering from the sun under large palm trees.’ The Lake – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – also offers opportunities for snorkelling and diving as well as (yes, it gets even better) the chance to feast on freshwater fish.

Lake of Stars has evolved into much more than a music festival – there are short films, talks, poetry readings and workshops – but the quality of the musicians that are booked each year ensures that the music remains center stage. The stellar line up has included anything from cutting-edge British DJs to bands from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, South Africa, the UK and, of course, Malawi’s very own hippest musical talents.

The 2016 edition promises to continue Lake of Stars’ tradition of uniting international acts with mainstream and niche Malawian musicians. The first international headliners to be announced for the Lake of Stars Festival 2016 are Freshlyground, who have been topping the Southern African music scene since 2002 with  hits such as Waka Waka, Doo Be Doo, and Pot Belly. Afro-soul artist Faith Mussa and Blantyre hip-hop MC Flo Dee join a line-up that already includes local talent such as Patience Namadingo, Piksy, and Lusubilo Band.

But Lake of Stars does not stop at simply promoting local musicians: the project has supported cultural tourism and Malawi’s creative industries for 13 years and has been recognized by the Malawian government for the central role it plays in developing the country’s culture and tourism spheres. Lake of Stars has also supported a number of other arts projects in Malawi, including the Malawi Musician’s Union awards, Tumaini Festival, Likoma Fest, Sand Fest, Blantyre Arts Festival and the Ndife Amodzi concerts, and has delivered training for artists in all three regions of the country.

From its inception, Lake of Stars has also engaged with local communities through a variety of different projects and outreach activities, and during the festival it is possible to visit surrounding villages. For the 2016 event a partnership has been established with Root to Fruit, a tree-planting enterprise located at Chintheche, with the aim of reducing the carbon footprint of the festival. Every 10 trees planted with Root to Fruit will cost just $20, which is enough to offset the pollution from a festival-goer’s flight to Malawi from anywhere in the world.

So, even if you don’t live in Malawi there are few excuses for missing this gem of a festival. Whether you want to escape the harsh European/North American winters and relax on a hot tropical beach, discover a new country or listen to music you have never heard before, travelling to Malawi for Lake of Stars 2016 will not disappoint.

Practical Information:

  • For those in Africa but outside Malawi, you can now book your Lake of Stars Festival tickets online here and those living in the rest of the world here.
  • There is a range of accommodation in the area; a list of options can be found on the travel page of the Lake of Stars website. Camping registration will open in May and will include options for pre-erected tents. For queries about festival accommodation please contact festivaltravel@lakeofstars.org