Miombo Magic fans fell in love with the festival all over again on the last weekend of May. It was a chilly one, with a touch of drizzle on the Friday morning leading up to the event, but those in attendance were once again delighted by the atmosphere and quality of the 2016 edition.
Festival co-director Gus Le Breton expressed satisfaction with the smooth transition from a two day to a three day festival, and was happy with the additional facilities including showers to meet the needs of the hardcore campers in it for the long haul. The incredible setting and music aside, the fine detail in logistics and amenities at Miombo form a great foundation for the whole event. Careful thought was apparent in:
Performances over the three days included genres ranging from heavy metal (Dividing the Element), to house (Djembe Monks), to jazz (Eve Kawadza), to Dancehall (Jah Prayzah), to rock (various), and much, much more. There were amazing performances by artists including Tariro ne Gitare, Evicted, Rob Burrell, Ammara Brown, Vee Mukarati to name but a few. Of note was Gemma Griffiths, who at just 21 years old, is already a hard act to follow. She performed with a full band and set a tone and pace that Mokoomba, who played after her, but without their full drum kit and against a backdrop of high expectations, struggled to match.
Le Breton believes that musicians tend to excel on the Miombo stage. “Because they are playing both to an appreciative crowd and with a very good sound system, the bands perform to a really exceptional level,” he said. Le Breton believes that by mixing not just genres, but experience levels, Miombo can play a role in the development of local talent. “I want Miombo to be a blend – not just a showcase for the finest artists, but also a launch pad for emerging artists. Three years ago we had the little-known Gemma Griffiths on stage. She was back this year, and look at her now. Miombo is a really important platform for new talent.”
Apart from being an arts platform, Miombo Festival is a charity event aimed at raising money for the Christon Bank primary school. Asked about their success in this regard, Le Breton said that moneywise, the festival is struggling to break even. “All said, I think that 1,000 people came through the gates with 500 people on site at any given time. Sunday was the busiest day. It’s still not quite enough. We haven’t solved the problem that Miombo is expensive to put on because it’s a high calibre festival with high calibre artists performing, and we have limited financial resources and we don’t go after sponsorship from NGOs and businesses. We’re going in the right direction, but still haven’t quite cracked it.” In spite of this, Le Breton and co-director Angus Wakeling have used the festival’s strong brand to fundraise for the school. “We approached the Australian Embassy as Miombo for support for the school, and they helped us build houses for two teachers,” said Le Breton. With full weekend tickets at $80 a head, festival goers who appreciate the charitable side of the festival will be reassured that their cash commitment to the huge and colourful party that is Miombo, is still helping Christon Bank School, albeit indirectly for now.