Zambia’s first ever Kariba Music Festival — bands a make him dance

Sara Drawwater
11 April 2013
This year, the first-ever Kariba Music Festival took place on the sandy beaches of Lake Kariba in Siavonga, Zambia. Creative writer Benny Blow shares a personal account of his experience at the…

This year, the first-ever Kariba Music Festival took place on the sandy beaches of Lake Kariba in Siavonga, Zambia. Creative writer Benny Blow shares a personal account of his experience at the exciting festival that was held from March 29 to April 1.

Life is a beachI had never been to Siavonga before, let alone a beach, so the Kariba Music Festival was a good place to start. Bongwe Safaris and Inzy Music came up with an agreement to have a a live music festival along the banks of Lake Kariba. I hope they signed the agreement in blood because I want this to last forever!

I spent my time on the virtually empty bus forcing myself to nap because I knew I wasn’t going to get much sleep, if any, that night. My cousins and I got there by 15:00 hours. There were a few people scattered around the bank as bands carried out sound-checks.

The sun was relentlessly licking my face and it seemed like I was the only person in jeans and Converse. My cousin and faithful sidekick Womba (he will probably kill me for calling him my sidekick) was wise enough to pack some beachwear. Becky and Kuni, my other cousins, seemed to have the right gear too. Who comes to the beach in jeans and sneakers?

The Kariba Music Festival

Here is a video promo of the event. It features some of the artists that took part. It really makes you want to bag tickets for next year!

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The festival kicked off with J-Bus, the sounds of his acoustic guitar permeating the air. The crowd was still small, but I smiled to myself as I thought about the possibility of the musicians crowd surfing over hundreds of drunken sun-baked hands that night. Becky had been looking at me funny the whole time because I’d been taking notes for my article. Who takes notes at the beach?

Speed boats farted as they took off for the island across the lake; bikini clad bodies bathed along the shore and a couple of kids played on a water slide. We were a little hungry, so we got ourselves some chicken hot dogs, which weren’t so bad if you smothered them in hot sauce and mustard. We had to use the festival’s own currency, the “Bongwe Buck” to purchase anything. I must admit it was a little painful for me to fork out 20 Bongwe bucks for a bun and Vienna I would only drown in sauce.

Thankfully the music made up for it. A reggae cat named Milz really killed it later that afternoon. The vocals and keyboards of his set tempted me to get up and dance. Live music casts such a spell on people. The sun, sand and water only complimented how wonderful it all was. You could almost actually SEE the music!

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When shirts hit the fanThe Kapiri Mposhi Top Rank Suite, a classic rock cover band, was playing Come Together by The Beatles when things got even more interesting. One of the dudes sipped on his Mosi before he played a black magic-like harmonica tune. I don’t know what form of sorcery it was, but it had me taking my shirt off and folding my jeans up to the knees. I RARELY take my shirt off. My bare toes burnt when I dug them into the sand, but my nerve endings were becoming less responsive to the sensation, as I swayed to the infectious music.

Hours before his set, Cactus Agony graced us with his presence for a bit. He had recognised my cousin Kuni and we all had a nice chat. I asked him a few questions, and he told me about how he got his name, and how he used to rap back in the day.

“The Cactus symbolises endurance you know? How it can go for days without water…And my music prickles and gets under your skin,” he said as he gestured his fingers in a prickling motion.

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The music had caught hold of everybody and set the mood by then. There were more clusters of people around the sandy location. Beach bums sat around and sipped their various elixirs waiting for the night ahead. I could tell it wouldn’t be as wild as I’d thought. No mosh pits or crowd surfing… the festival had more of a hippie vibe to it. That all switched up very nicely though when a couple of DJs played some dance and hip-hop. It all had me feeling very free! I made the declaration to never wear a shirt again! Who wears shirts at music festivals?

A music themed dreamAs it got darker, the lights came on and added a certain je ne sais quoi to the live music. Mumba Yachi rocked the stage wearing a pink suit. It worked well with the band.

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Clearly he is a master of his craft. I spoke to him briefly at the bar before his performance. It was a hard act to take notes, and hold my large cup between my teeth. He referred to me as ‘the media’ and said that he appreciated all ‘we’ do for artists to promote their work. He was the only person that didn’t look at me funny for carrying a pen and pad.

Some firewood had been set ablaze in rusty drums and lit up the waterfront. But I felt more warmth from Mutinta’s performance when she asked the crowd to come closer to the stage and sing with her. Mutinta crossed her legs in her chair and strummed wonderful music from her acoustic guitar. Her performance stood out most when she sang ‘Nibani’.

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It’s a shame we were only there for one night. I could have stayed in this fun filled, live music themed dream forever. Who leaves three day music festivals after one night?

The morning afterIt was morning before I knew it and my notes were a nightmare to read. I’d spent the remnants of the night having one of those soulful chats with Kuni. Shame I can’t remember what it was about, I think we may have found they key to world peace. It may lie in live bands and music.

Aside from Becky, we barely got any sleep in those beach chairs. Stacy, one of the event’s organisers was kind enough to drive us to the bus in our zombie like state. Womba looked like he got the worst of it. He told me he’d strayed off somewhere during the night and threw up three lungs and a kidney. As the bus roared to a start and I got flashes of what an awesome festival it was. I thought to myself, who throws up three lungs and a kidney?

Your thoughtsDid you get to go to the first ever Kariba Music Festival? What did you make of it? What do you think of some of the artists we have included in this blog?