Revelers at Voi Town in Taita-Taveta County were yesterday treated to an evening of pomp and sound as the Malaika Festival hit town for the second time in two years time.

The audience who braved gustily winds and asthmatic clouds of dust blowing across the stadium with signs of a heavy downpour in the evening said the event is the best thing that has happened to Voi Town in a very long time.

Mzee George Ngatia, 66, a retired civil servant and fervent admirer of the late Fadhili Williams left his wife at home to bring his grandchildren to the event. He termed the event as the major highlight of his old life saying it conjured in him memories of his young years when ‘music was still music’.

“I was in the first event which was organized last year at Mwanyambo secondary school…I liked what I saw and made a point to attend all similar events,” he said.

Fadhili Williams

Malaika Festival
Fadhili Williams (left) with Duncan Mwanyumba

Part of the audience however did not have an inkling as to who Fadhili Williams was but nonetheless recognized his music when the band struck ‘Malaika’ and ‘Taxi Driver’ which are some of Fadhili’s most popular songs.

Apart from the Magesho Women Dancers who performed most of Fadhili’s classical hits, rigorous performances from Fahari Girls Dancers left some audience calling for more while some wished they were a few decades younger.

Other spectacular performances came from Njama ya Mzanhgo dancers who performed the traditional ‘Kitila’ dance which lifted the audience off their seats and poured them into the dance floor in massive numbers.

Acrobatics, dancing competitions, mimicry and solo performances from upcoming rap artistes and comedians also highlighted the evening in a sheer and unanticipated burst of talent from the small Voi Town.

The festival which aims to celebrate and revive the Taita culture as well as celebrate the works of the late Fadhili Williams who passed away on 11th February 2001 also attracted merchants of traditional brews, curios and foodstuffs.

Halted businesses

Local entertainment business entrepreneurs were however left counting their losses as the event brought their business to an abrupt standstill as most clients preferred the free and much livelier entertainment in the stadium.

A bartender in a local club who refused to be named hailed the Festival for freeing her from what would otherwise have been a rigorous end-of-month weekend.

“My Boss is also here…business has come to a standstill…there are no clients in the bar. We will however have to bring our wares here if the event continues all nightlong,” she said.

Mr. Mwanyumba, the proprietor of the Mwanyumba law Firm and sole-sponsor of the Malaika Festival said he was happy with the outcome of the event.

Underutilized potential

He however lamented at the dismal economic growth of Voi District and blamed it on high levels of illiteracy and lack of entrepreneurial skills by most of the population.

“It is obvious that we have a lot of untapped potential in the district,” he said. “We however lack an avenue and aggressive marketing strategies to showcase the talent and market it to the outside world.”

He added that in as much as Malaika Festival was about celebrating the life and music works of the late Fadhili Williams and to trace the origin of the ‘Malaika’ song, it was also geared towards promoting budding local talent, environmental conservation and to position the Taita hills as a major tourist destination.

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