7 music festivals in Africa everyone should experience at least once

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. If you’re planning a trip to Africa, consider attending one of these unmissable African music festivals.

Mawazine, Morocco

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
When: May

Cape Town International Jazz Festival, South Africa 

The Cape Town International Jazz Festival is one of Africa's largest music festivals

On the last weekend of March or first weekend of April, one of the biggest music festivals in Africa takes over Cape Town. This two-day festival features a mix of international and South African musicians across five stages. In the past artists like Chaka Khan, Sho Madjozi, Amel Larrieux, Beatenberg and Amanda Black have taken their jazzy sound to the stages. On top of music, the festival also throws a big photography exhibition, jazz gala dinner and golf day. 

Where: Cape Town, South Africa
When: March-April

RELATED CONTENT: From then to now: How South African music has changed over the last century

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 

Sauti za Busara is a music festival in Zanzibar, Africa

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
When: February

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
When: October

RELATED CONTENT: Sip happy on South Africa’s Route 62, the world’s longest wine route

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
When: September

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…

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