From Lake Malawi to Zanzibar and jazz to hip hop, the African continent is alive with many of the world’s most eclectic music festivals. Here we give you 10 signature events — in order of occurrence — you shouldn’t miss in 2014:
You’ll need to pack your bags and hit the road pretty quickly to make it to this fantastic festival — or save the date for 2015. Held in Zanzibar’s mystical Stone Town, it features a variety of Tanzanian musical styles from traditional taarb and ngoma to home grown Swahili hip hop and other funky beats.
This venerable jazz festival, now in its 15th year, is one of the world’s best. It is a high-profile event that attracts international and South African musicians to multiple stages. Source: www.capetcwnjazzfest.com
Staged in a gorgeous setting at the base of the Drakensberg Mountains, this is another popular South African music festival — especially with families. The line-up includes everything from hip hop to folk bands, and there are glamping options. www.splashyfen.co.za
This festival includes concerts and carnival-style parades in Gambia’s beach resort towns, and a pilgrimage up river to the rural village of Juffureh that adopted African American author Alex Haley after he traced his roots to Gambia.
Party with a purpose in Swaziland’s Ezulweni Valley during the three-day Bushfire Festival. It has a fun vibe and a diverse line-up of bands, along with poetry, dance and visual art performances. It attracts 20,000 people annually and best of all profits are donated to non-governmental organizations and community development projects.
Held in the coastal town of Essouira, Morocco, this is one of Africa’s most acclaimed world music festivals, when traditional Gnaoua musicians use the pounding beats of drums, reed pipes and other local instruments to work the audience into a hypnotic frenzy. They are joined by jazz, rock and pop performers from across the globe at performances in venues across the ancient town of busy bazaars and skinny alleys.
Those who appreciate the regional classics will love this festival set amid the medieval palaces and gardens of Fes. Billing itself as “a beacon of peace from the Islamic world” it attracts artists from various faiths and traditions.
If you really want to go to a festival your friends probably haven’t been to, then head out to Sao Vicente, Cape Verde Islands, in August for the largest music festival in this volcanic archipelago off Africa’s west coast. It’s been held on the beach every year since 1983, and attracts tens of thousands of partiers over three days who come to dance to a variety of musical styles under the light of a full moon.
Held in the middle of nowhere in the bushveld just north of the tiny town of Northam in Limpopo, this raucous festival has been going strong for 20 years now and is kind of like South Africa’s version of Burning Man crossed with the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. It features South African jam bands, a naked Olympics, wild parties, bush camping and other shenanigans. It is also loads of fun if you are up for an intense festival experience.
Raising funds for local causes, this arts and music festival is held at the edge of the crystal-clear waters of Lake Malawi and attracts African and international big-name bands and DJs.