A continent with a range of musical genres as diverse as its population, Africa is home to some of the best music festivals on the planet – many of which are in spectacular locations.
Here’s our pick of eight of the best African music festivals you can’t miss.
Now a decade old, Sauti za Busara, or “Sounds of Wisdom”, is East Africa’s biggest music festival. Zanzibar’s atmospheric Stone Town plays host to musicians from all over the continent each year, with a diverse range of sounds and genres, from Zimbabwean rap-rock to Rwandan Afro-pop.
Serenely beautiful Lake Malawi is the venue for what has been called the world’s best festival – a multi-day event that draws performers from all over Africa and the world to play on sandy palm-fringed beaches. In between watching bands play, take a dip in the lake or volunteer in one of the event’s community projects.
The beginning of spring in South Africa’s Western Cape heralds the time of Rocking the Daisies, the province’s biggest music festival, which takes place on a beautiful wine farm near Cape Town. With multiple stages (including an electro stage and a comedy stage) and big international acts (past performers include Alt-J and Bloc Party), there’s plenty to please music lovers.
Every year around 20 000 people attend the tiny kingdom of Swaziland’s famed Bushfire Festival, a family-friendly three-day arts event that combines music, dance, poetry, theatre, film and the visual arts in the beautiful Malkerns Valley. The festival is entirely socially responsible and not-for-profit – all of its profits are donated to Swaziland charities.
Now in its 15th year, the Cape Town Jazz Festival showcases some of the world’s best jazz musicians at the biggest jazz festival in Africa over two days. With five stages and over 40 performers, the hardest part about attending the festival is deciding who to watch!
Morocco’s beautiful medieval city of Fez hosts a magical music festival that’s more for connoisseurs than it is for partiers. In enchanting centuries-old palaces and gardens, musicians, poets and dancers from all over the globe performing a range of spiritual and religious music ranging from medieval melodies from Uzbekistan to the songs of Björk.
Zimbabwe’s capital Harare is the venue for the country’s largest cultural event, a six-day-long festival which encompasses dance, music, street performance as well as fashion, circus, spoken word and theatre, which has been dubbed the Glastonbury of Southern Africa.
While not strictly a music festival, AfrikaBurn makes it onto this list because it’s a festival beyond compare. There’s nothing else quite like it in Africa – an event where all the entertainment and art is created by the participants themselves, and there’s nothing for sale: everyone is meant to bring a gift to share. You never know what you’re going to get when it comes to music, but you’re guaranteed an eclectic array of live performances and DJs playing everything from hip hop to techno.
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