African Music Festivals To Look Out for
Attending music festivals in Africa will introduce the unique sounds, beats and vibes of the huge continent and help you better understand the culture. Many of these incredible festivals combine the best big-name international artists with local acts, introducing a new crowd to fusion Afrobeats and African musicians mixing hip-hop, pop, rock and other genres with their culture and heritage.
With 54 countries and countless different cultures, the African continent is home to some pretty spectacular annual events and festivals.. Others showcase Africa’s incredible creative talent, through the mediums of music.
Huge international music acts like Sting, J.Lo, Maroon 5, Usher, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake and Rod Stewart have taken the stage alongside African greats such as Amadou & Mariam, P Square and Tinariwen at one of the biggest music festivals in Africa. More than just music, this is a celebration of Moroccan culture and arts and was started by the personal secretary to King Mohammad IV. These days it attracts a crowd of around 2.65 million (yes, million!) each year. Mawazine continues to be a huge tribute to African music.
Where: Rabat, Morocco
Cape Town International Jazz Festival, South Africa
Southern Africa’s biggest jazz festival is held annually in Cape Town. Jazz legends from all over the world perform for two days at the city’s International Convention Centre, either on the last weekend of March or the first weekend of April. Now in its 21st year, the festival routinely attracts crowds of more than 37,000 people and tickets must be booked well in advance. Past performers range from global acts like Miles Mosley, Corinne Bailey Rae, and the Gipsy Kings; to South African favorites like the Ndlovu Youth Choir.
Where: Cape Town, South Africa
When: March or April
Fez Festival of World Sacred Music, Morocco
This spiritual festival has been held every year for more than quarter of a century in Fez, Morocco, and hosts musicians and dancers from all over the world. Over the course of the nine-day extravaganza, you might see Iranian whirling dervishes or Sufi chanters, dancers from America or groups singing sacred Gaelic hymns. Performances take place outside, in the city’s Jnan Sbil Gardens or in the historic plaza in front of the Royal Palace. In addition to the scheduled performances, expect an abundance of delicious Moroccan street food.
Where: Fez, Morocco
Gnaoua World Music Festival, Morocco
Held every year in the coastal town of Essaouira, this festival was founded more than 20 years ago to celebrate traditional Gnaoua music, which borrows inspiration from the religious songs and acrobatic dance rhythms of Berber, African, and Arabic culture. Since then, it has grown to include musicians from all over the world. The festival lasts for four days, with performances taking place at venues dotted all over the town. In between shows, take the time to discover Essaouira’s beautiful beaches and renowned seafood restaurants.
Where: Essaouira, Morocco
Vic Falls Carnival, Zimbabwe
Dance on into a new year at this festival of Southern African music. Over three days an eclectic program of artists from Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia bring their beats to the falls, alongside entertainment like fire breathers and traditional dancers. Spend your days bungee jumping or white water rafting and your nights dancing to unique sounds. Don’t miss the steam train and secret bush party on the first day!
Where: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
When: 29-31 December
Sauti Za Busara, Tanzania
Every year more than 400 African musicians gather in Zanzibar for this four-day carnival-style music festival, celebrating African music and culture over three enormous stages. Beyond the beats expect to see dancers, fire eaters and a food market with Zanzibar’s favourite foods. The 2021 line-up is already released with artists from Uganda, South Africa, Mozambique, Ghana, Reunion island, Morocco and Algeria joining the bill.
Where: Zanzibar, Tanzania
Rocking the Daisies, South Africa
South Africa’s music culture is on show at one of the biggest music festivals in Africa, Rocking the Daisies. Held at the Cloff Wine Estate in Cape Town and in Johannesburg in Ellis Park, these two unforgettable weekends includes a lineup of local South African musicians and international acts. In 2021 that means Stormzy, Ari Lennox, Col3trane, Saint Jhn, Elaine, Lordkez and Scorpion Kings.
Where: Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa
Lake of Stars, Malawi
Set by the golden sands and blue waters of ocean-like Lake Malawi, this magical location is the backdrop for an awe-inspiring Afro-pop music and arts festival. Dance all day and night to a mix of international acts, African musicians and party DJs – you’ll want to stay up late enough to watch the magical sunrise over the water. If you are open minded about the unfamiliar acts, you’ll be rewarded with eye-opening new African music, poetry, workshops and short films.
Where: Mangochi, Malawi
Afropunk, South Africa
“Afro: as in, born of African spirit and heritage; see also Black, see also rhythm and color, see also other, see also underdog.
“Punk: as in, rebel, opposing the simple route, imbued with a DIY ethic, looking forward with simplicity, rawness and open curiosity; see also other, see also underdog.”
When you see the line-up for Afropunk, you certainly won’t be thinking underdog. In 2019 Solange headlined alongside Masego, Miguel, GoldLink, Busiswa, Nao, the Destruction Boys and so many more. This epic Johannesburg African music festival is where the biggest names in African music, creativity and conversation collide over a few days in late December.
Where: Johannesburg, South Africa
When: Late December
Will you be buying tickets to music festivals in Africa? If yes, let us know which African music festival in the comments…