10 African Music Festivals You Simply Cannot Miss

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.

Courtesy of BusaraMusic.org

Courtesy of BusaraMusic.org

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.

(Courtesy of Cape Town International Jazz Fest)

Courtesy of Cape Town International Jazz Fest

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.

Courtesy of SplashyFen.co.za

Courtesy of SplashyFen.co.za

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.

Courtesy of RootsGambia.gm

Courtesy of RootsGambia.gm

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.

(Courtesy of bush-fire.com)

Courtesy of bush-fire.com

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.

(Photo by Abdelhak Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo by Abdelhak Senna/AFP/Getty Images

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.

Courtesy of Sapo.cv

Courtesy of Sapo.cv

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.

Photo by HannesTheAgent / Wikimedia Commons

Photo by HannesTheAgent/Wikimedia Commons

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.

Photo by Brian Dell / Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Brian Dell / Wikimedia Commons

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.

Related content on AFKTravel:

OppiKoppi Report: 20 Years of Music Festival Madness
Five Fab Cape Town Festivals You Have To Go To
And the Beat Goes On: Where To Hear African Music, Live


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