With the continent of Africa growing as a significant cultural and entertainment hub, music festivals are fast becoming a regular and popular feature on the continent’s cultural space. Pack your camera, happiness and dancing shoes!
Traverse Africa to experience extraordinary talent and awesome good times. Planning your trip around a music festival is a great excuse to travel to some of Africa’s most exciting destinations and enjoy a fantastic cultural event with people from all over the world. Festivals in Africa are flavoured with a distinct sense of adventure, some more of an epic undertaking than others, but all promising a kaleidoscope of sound, sights and cultures.
- Festival sur le Niger (Segou, Mali)
The Festival sur le Niger is a four-day cultural festival that celebrates the music, dance and tradition of the Segou region. The festival takes place on the banks of the mighty Niger River in the ancient capital of the Bambara kingdom. The culture and tradition of this area provides a fascinating backdrop to the festival. Past musicians to have played in the festival include Fema Kuti, King Mensah, Amadou & Mariam, Oumou Sangare, and many more.
Date: 3 to 7 February 2016
- Cape Town International Jazz Festival (Cape Town, South Africa)
One of the largest jazz festivals in the world and the largest on the African continent. Founded in 2000, the annual two-day celebration of jazz attracts crowds of over 37 000 people. Five stages host jazz legends from all over the world, as well as local South African talent. Tickets sell out fast, so put this one in your diary.
Date: 1 to 2 April 2016
- Saint Louis Jazz Festival (St Louis, Senegal)
Held annually, jazz legends from all over the world come together to play in various venues throughout the town. Past musicians who took part in the festival include Herbie Hancock, Randy Weston and Joe Zainul. The festival is also an excellent platform for new jazz groups, with at least 30 new groups performing each year.
Date: 11 to 16 May 2016
- Fes Festival of World Sacred Music (Fes, Morocco)
This annual spiritual festival allows you to bump into whirling dervishes from Iran, as well as mystics, chanters and dancers from all around the world. A festival celebrating the local culture of Fes is held concurrently and both festivals allow visitors a wonderful insight into traditional life in the old walled city. Sip some mint tea, enjoy Sufi chanting and, of course, all that delicious Moroccan food.
Date: 6 to 14 May 2016
- Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival (Essaouria, Morocco)
This successful annual festival celebrating the traditions and music of Gnaoua has been around for over a decade and venues are dotted all around the picturesque Atlantic town of Essaouira. Gnaoua music is a combination of acrobatic dancing as well as music, with the origins in a unique mixture of Berber, African and Arabic songs, religious rites and dance. The four-day festival is touted as a laboratory of musical fusion attracting an imagination-stretching spectrum of musicians and fans. The crowd numbers in the hundreds of thousands for the festival, which features jazz, pop, rock, hip-hop and contemporary world music fused with Gnaoua music.
Date: 12 to 15 May 2016
- Afrika Burn (Northern Cape, SA)
AfrikaBurn is an official Burning Man regional event set in the arid semi-desert of the Northern Cape province. Festivals principles include the virtues of gifting, self-reliance, self-expression, communal effort, leaving no trace and participation. This gives birth to a self-sufficient, cashless and radically expressive community congregating in a temporary centre called Tankwa Town, to unabashedly celebrate pure expression. Community, inclusion and participation are what drive the festival. Days are timeless excursions and interactions through the community, while nights are centred on the burns, which see towering, painstakingly created pieces of art set ablaze to the conviviality of everyone. This is a highly recommended festival for adventurous, nonconformist and creative souls.
Date: 25 April to 1 May
- MTN Bushfire Festival – House on Fire (Ezulwini Valley, Swaziland)
The southern hemisphere’s smallest country throws the 20 000-strong MTN Bushfire Festival every May in lush valley surroundings. MTN Bushfire cry to ‘bring your fire’ to the festival – your energy, enthusiasm, happiness and togetherness – gets answered by a spectacular crowd of diverse individuals ready to have a ridiculously good time and participate in a collective response for positive change. Profits from the festival go to supporting local charities.
Date: 27 to 29 May 2016
- Oppikoppi (Northam, Limpopo, South Africa)
This is the daddy of South African music festivals – loud, tenacious and packed full of big, quality acts that have given festivalgoers stiff necks since 1994. Each August 20 000 die-hard fans make the trek to Northam for Oppikoppi, a pilgrimage to live music. You’ll come to hear big names and end up discovering a bunch of new acts and artists in the process; you’ll also party like an animal. It’s dusty, hot and has a camp area affectionately referred to as Mordor, none of which is a sufficient deterrent to the scores of fans that return year in, year out.
Date: 5 to 7 August 2016
- Lake of Stars Malawi Music Festival (Lake Malawi, Malawi)
Lake of Stars pulses every September in the warm heart of Africa. Set on the palmed shores of one of Africa’s largest lakes, this is essentially a three-day beach party in a mind-blowing setting. The project uses cultural tourism to generate revenue and exposure for Malawi. Couple that with the renowned warm, friendly locals, beautiful weather, laidback atmosphere, real toilets, international flair, and an eclectic mix of musicians with a small, intimate crowd, and you’ve got yourself a slice of aural paradise. Lake of Stars also works as a superb focal point for travel in Malawi.
Date: 30 September to 2 October 2016
- Rocking the Daisies (Cloof Wine Estate, Darling, South Africa)
South Africa kicks off its music festival season with its eco-friendly ethos and hard-rocking lineups. Every October the festival hosts a sell-out crowd of over 15 000 revellers keen to party like there’s no tomorrow…for three days. A slew of international acts have headlined the main stage over the years, including heavy weights like Band of Skulls, Alt-J, Bloc Party and The Hives. Enjoy gourmet food, well-maintained amenities, a tread-lightly philosophy, a hip crowd and a hard-working team that globetrot on reconnaissance missions to continually push Rocking the Daisies to the forefront of conscientious global music festivals.
Date: 6 to 9 October 2016