Lake of Stars Festival is an annual three-day international festival held on the shores of Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa. The first festival began in 2004 and attracts over 4,000 attendees with musical acts drawn mainly from Africa and Europe. Lake of Stars promotes Malawian arts and tourism through international interaction and exposure. The project was born from a desire to raise money for a developing economy, help promote Malawi as a tourist destination and expose Malawian artists to an international audience.
From the 23rd to 30th September 2018, six young and critically acclaimed musicians from five countries assembled in Lilongwe Malawi for xJazz, an exciting jazz music residency programme. The weeklong music and creative project brought together female artists from Southern Africa and the UK working in the contemporary jazz scene. The residency created opportunities for new connections, collaborations and showcasing while providing a platform for the artists to share insights, ideas, expertise and to broaden their networks. The Residency then culminated in a live performance of collaborative material by the band at the Lake of Stars Malawi Music Festival 2018.
The first residency band “Banou Azania or Royal Africa” comprised a multi-country ensemble of the most sought after jazz talent including Isobella Burnham – Bass (UK), Marlyn Chimombo – Vocals (Malawi), Sheila Maurice-Grey – Trumpet (UK), Siya Makuzeni - Trombone (RSA), Micah Miyanda – Guitar (Zambia) and Kasiva Mutua – Drummer (Kenya).
With multifaceted skills including composition, arrangement, improvisation, songwriting, lyrics and vocals, the band created a unique and experimental sound that infuses African music with traditional Jazz elements. The band’s residency activities include creating music, networking and external activities. This included a music workshop with young women at the Music Cross Roads centre on Thursday 27 September followed by a Creative Hustles session at 1Five Entertainment where ideas and insights about the music sector were shared. The activity-packed day ended off with a live music jam session by the band and other local artists at Area 10 Café. Banou Azania then moved to Lake of Stars Malawi Arts Festival where they showcased performances on Friday 28 and Sunday 30 September.
The xJazz Music Residency is a project by the British Council in partnership with Lake of Stars Malawi Arts Festival, Umodzi Park, Music Cross Roads, The Presidents Hotel and 1Five Entertainment.
The residency then moved to Johannesburg, South Africa from the 1st to 4th October where the band showcased a collaborative live performance at the trendy Restaurant and Gallery ‘Artivist Untitled’ in Braamfontein as well as engaging with other young women in the music sector.
“Through the xJazz music residency the aim is to bring together young and phenomenal jazz musicians who happen to be women, from five countries different countries; for them to experiment, create music together and build connections that will hopefully be beneficial to their careers going forward while inspiring other young women to pick up music instruments.” Siya Makuzeni, curator and band leader for the project