Paddy’s Day, the Malawi way!

Malawi’s very own Westlife!

As part of the Irish Society in Lilongwe, James Sherry of the Irish Embassy and I decided to bring a flavour of home to sunny southeast Africa by hosting an evening of music and dance to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  It was an opportunity for cultural exchange between Irish and Malawian artists, with all proceeds going to the IRLI Malawi project.

The event took place at the Madsoc Theatre; a local community theatre in Lilongwe that invests in the promotion of theatre and support of local artists.  The theatre is home to the ‘Kuyenda’ band, who gave real flavour to some favourite Irish tunes like the Wild Rover and Molly Malone.

The Irish Embassy were kind enough to lend us a trio of Irish musicians and a dancer who had flown to Malawi for a week of performances around the country.  They opened the night with an Irish trad session accompanied by some fabulous Irish dancing.  The sounds of north and south later collided in a jam session with the ‘Kuyenda’ band, where uileann pipes were combined with African drumming.

We also had Irish poetry performed by Patrick Geraty and his students from the Jesuit Refugee Services. This was followed by a group of 6 Irish girls who never thought they’d move to Malawi to take up Irish dancing!  Led by a professional Irish dancer now working in Concern, together they performed jigs Michael Flatley would be proud of.  With only one week to practice they did a stunning job that really brought the house down.

The final act saw a surprise performance from WESTLIFE…..or 5 of our straping Irish lads striking some dance moves to an inspired Westlife medley. The wolf whistling and cheering sent the neighbourhood dogs crazy!

The evening was rounded off by an all-in, good ole Irish singsong, with some of our now adopted-Irish audience members needing a hand with the words!

It was a wonderful night and a fantastic celebration of ‘Irishness’ together with our Malawian friends. In the spirit of fundraiser we had a raffle with kindly donated Irish trinkets, Jameson Whiskey, restaurant and beautician vouchers, and a bake sale of sorts with Irish Guinness cake, green vodka jelly and a face painting studio! Through ticket sales, donations, and raffle the event raised 177,000 MK for the work undertaken by IRLI in Malawi.

A big thank you to all involved whether you donated your time, money, raffle prizes, voice or dancing feet! IRLI would like to extend a huge “go raibh mile maith agaibh”, or “a thousand thank you’s”, to everyone who made the night such a huge success!

By Ruth Dowling