Counting stars on Lake Malawi

MalawiThe sun-kissed sands of blissful Lake Malawi are the setting for Africa’s most magical, musical gathering, the Lake of Stars Festival. Malawi is known as the warm heart of Africa, but every September as the festival gets going, the lakeside really hots up

The Lake of Stars Festival began life back in 2003 as British promoter Will Jameson sought to raise the profile of Malawi and its music on the international stage. As Will explained at the festival, the motivation was “a desire to raise money for a developing economy, help promote Malawi as a tourist destination and expose Malawian artists to an international audience”. Judging by the diverse crowd swaying on the sands in 2014, the mission has been a spectacular success, with 70 acts from 15 countries performing to more than 4000 revellers.

The 2015 edition of the Lake of Stars will once again be held on the shores of the Sunbird Nkopola Lodge at the southern end of Lake Malawi from 25-27 September. The setting is breathtaking, the cobalt clear waters of the lake shimmering under the sun and the mountains of Malawi and Mozambique visible across the water. Pinch yourself, this is not the Caribbean, but Malawi, one of the lesser-known gems of this incredible continent, boasting beautiful beaches that defy its landlocked location.

On the Saturday of the festival, the beautiful people arrive from Lilongwe and Blantyre and the Sunbird Nkopola looks more like a Cape Town beach than usually conservative Lake Malawi.

Musical highlights in 2014 included South African rapper Reason and headliners Mafikizolo. Local favourites included MC Tay Grin who rocked the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2104 and Malawi megastars Body, Mind & Soul.

The Lake of Stars always draws an eclectic blend of Malawian music, African megastars and international bright young things. The 2015 line-up includes homegrown rapper Gwamba, Nigerian Afro-pop sensation Ric Hassani and the UK hip hop band Young Fathers.

Q magazine called it “simply the finest festival in the world” and they know their music. And it’s not just the music that makes it a must: it’s hard to think of a more stunning setting for a music festival on earth.

Accommodation
Sunbird Nkopola Lodge
It doesn’t get any closer to the action than staying on-site, but rooms are booked out far in advance. (www.sunbirdmalawi.com)
The Makokola Retreat
Not Club Med, but Club Mak, and a quiet alternative to the Sunbird when the late-night bands are rumbling on. (www.clubmak.com)

Getting there
By Air Kenya Airways (www.kenya-airways.com) offers connections to Malawi via its hub in Nairobi, including two flights a day to Lilongwe and direct connections with Blantyre.
By land From Lilongwe and Blantyre, the festival organises shuttle buses to the venue from the airports and partner hotels and lodges. Self-drive vehicles are available for rent at the airports and through local travel agents.

More info Find out more about the 2015 festival including the line-up and ticket sales at: www.lakeofstars.org