From Lake Malawi to Zanzibar, and from jazz to hip-hop, the African continent is alive with many of the world’s most electric and eclectic music festivals. Here we give you 10 African music festivals — in order of occurrence — that you shouldn’t miss in during your next trip to the continent.
Please check the website for each festival for exact dates and times, which are subject to change.
This article originally appeared on AFKInsider.com.
1. Sauti Za Busara, Zanzibar, February
Held in Zanzibar’s mystical Stone Town, Sauti Za Busara features a variety of Tanzanian musical styles from traditional taarb and ngoma to home-grown Swahili hip-hop and other funky beats.
2. Cape Town International Jazz Festival, South Africa, late March
This venerable jazz festival, now in its 17th year, is one of the world’s best. It is a high-profile event that attracts international and South African musicians to multiple stages.
3. Splashy Fen, South Africa, mid-April
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 both camping and “glamping” options.
4. Roots Festival, Gambia, mid-May
This festival includes concerts and carnival-style parades in Gambia’s beach resort towns, and a pilgrimage upriver to the rural village of Juffureh, which “adopted” African-American author Alex Haley after he traced his roots to Gambia.
5. Bushfire, Swaziland, end of May
Party with a purpose in Swaziland’s Ezulweni Valley during the three-day Bushfire Festival. It has a fun vibe and a diverse lineup 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.
6. Gnaoua World Music Festival, Morocco, mid-June
Held in the coastal town of Essaouira, this is one of Africa’s most acclaimed world music festivals. 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 shows that take place across everywhere from the busy bazaars to the narrow alleys of this ancient town.
7. Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, Morocco, mid-June
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.
8. Festival de Baia das Gatas, Cape Verde Islands, early August
If you really want to go to a festival your friends probably haven’t been to, then head out to Sao Vicente, in trhe Cape Verde islands, in August. It’s the the largest music festival in this volcanic archipelago off Africa’s west coast. Held on the beach every year since 1983, it 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.
9. OppiKoppi Festival, South Africa, early August
Held in the bushveld just north of the tiny town of Northam in Limpopo (ie the middle of nowhere), this raucous festival has been going strong for 22 years now and is sort of like AfrikaBurn crossed with the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. It features South African jam bands, a naked Olympics, wild parties, bush camping and other shenanigans. It is loads of fun if you are up for an intense festival experience.
10. Lake of Stars, Malawi, late September
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.
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