It’s fair to say that Malawi is some way off the traditionally beaten track of a musician’s tour, particularly one with international fame. Unless that person is called Joss Stone.
Most singers or bands on a ‘world tour’ normally take in a lot of Europe and North America, in addition to a couple of megacities which fit into the schedule. South Africa aside, I doubt many singing superstars would even contemplate the possibility of going to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Why? I’m sure they have their reasons and the world is a large place. You can’t tour everywhere.
Unless you’re Joss Stone, of course. The British singer-songwriter is currently on what’s being dubbed a ‘Total World Tour’ – actually visiting every country in the world which will take her. You can read more about the idea here. Having started in 2014, her next stop – the 89th so far – was Malawi.
The interest for me was probably heightened as I know her older music fairly well and her style is fairly unique. Her most famous album and songs were released just over 10 years ago, when I most listened to the radio.
It may be a ‘Total World Tour’ but I imagine the audience, maybe due to the price of tickets or not having the global appeal of a Beyoncé or Rihanna, in many countries would be similar to ours in the Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe. A lot of expats and a lot of wealth.
The room in the BICC which was used seemed peculiar for a music concert, looking more like a lecture theatre. Having paid a little bit more money, we had VIP access. That sounds impressive; in reality, it meant we could be a little bit closer to the front.
In truth, we became very glad we had paid the extra 12,000MWK (about £13) when Joss started her third song and left the stage, starting to walk up the aisle and stopping mere metres from where we were sat in order to warm up the crowd’s singing voices. We were described as ‘terrible’.
The following song, the audience nearer the front were encouraged to get out of their seats and dance at the front of the stage. We helped her sing ‘Super Duper Love’, arguably her most famous mainstream song.
This was just one example of this gig being different from any other I’ve been to before. Joss would spend time chatting to the audience and sipping something from her teacup in between performing. She even invited three young girls who go to our school to come on stage for a song and be her backing dancers or ‘hike-men’. It probably made their year.
In addition to this personable and smiley nature, she has the most incredible voice. When you hear her speak as softly as she does, you would imagine it’s a completely different person. Her singing voice is soulful and brilliantly powerful.
I can’t imagine I’ll see too many international musicians of varying degrees of fame during my time in Malawi. Whoever comes to Lilongwe in the future, they have a lot to live up to. Awesome concert.