Featured image, Lake of Stars by Jean Jameson
From a yoga festival on the remote island of Lamu, on the coast of Kenya – to sunset celebrations on Malawi’s beaches and the courtyards of Moroccan palaces, Africa is home to some of the best festivals in the world; covering everything from well-being, art, film and religion to food and music. Set in some of the most stunning locations, the music festivals have everything you’d expect from an international festival, with big name head-liners and DJ’s from Europe and the US. However, many festivals focus on African performers, with a key element being the development and promotion of the local art scene and the creative industries. So why not plan a trip around one of Africa’s many festivals, some of which are listed below. What better opportunity to travel to some of the continents most beautiful destinations.
JANUARY, FEBRUARY, MARCH
- Festival-au-Desert, Mali: January
Each year, the Touareg tribe (known as the blue people of the Sahara) host a fascinating music and arts festival that takes place in the remote desert of Essakane, Mali. Enjoy three days of international and traditional Malian music, art and camel races.
- Timkat/Epiphany, Ethiopia: January
Timket (aka the Feast of the Epiphany), is Ethiopia’s biggest festival, which is celebrated every January. This is a three-day religious festival that commemorates the baptism of Christ. The event includes the ringing of bells, blowing of trumpets and people carrying lighted oil lamps and some leaping into the river.
- Argungu Fishing Festival: January
Taking place in Kebbi State town, near Sokoto. This fishing fest is long standing – the first one was held in 1934. The Argungu involves literally thousands of men and boys dashing into the local river intent on scooping up the largest fish in the river, the Nile perch. The fish are protected specially for this event. Canoe and other river-based events are now also held at this time
- Sauti za Busara, Zanzibar: (next one 9th – 12th Feb 2017)
This is an annual music festival that is held in Zanzibar. It was started in 2004, under Busara Promotions, a Non-Government Organization in Zanzibar, and brings together hundreds of artists from the East African region, in arguably the biggest music carnival in the region. It is hosted in the Zanzibar towns of Old Fort and Stone Town and has provided a solid foundation for the local Swahili music to flourish.
- Lamu Yoga Festival, Kenya: 2nd – 6th Mar
The heart of the festival is based in Shela in four beautiful, cool and peaceful yoga studios. The festival encompasses Manda and Lamu so the whole area is abuzz with the spirit of yoga. A variety of yoga classes and meditations will be on offer throughout the four day festival for all abilities to participate in. Our goal is to empower, strengthen and support the community by encouraging harmony in mind and body through the practice of yoga.
- Asa Baako Festival, Ghana: 5th – 7th Mar
Asa Baako is an annual festival that features musicians from across Ghana, West Africa and around the world. It’s 3 days & 2 nights of sound systems, parties, open-mics, workshops and entertainment, taking place on the beach by day and in the jungle by night.
- Splashy Fen, South Africa: 24th – 27th Mar
This is a revival music festival, with four stages. It has been running for 26 years, making it the oldest in South Africa. On offer are a variety of activities; from trail running courses each morning, supervised kids entertainment and there’s a full craft market. There’s a variety of artisan and craft food offerings, along with quality beer gardens and bar services. There’s also a glamping (posh camping) option.
APRIL, MAY, JUNE
- Cape Town International Jazz Festival, South Africa: 1st – 2nd Apr
Affectionately referred to as “Africa’s Grandest Gathering” this jazz festival is the largest music event in sub-saharan Africa and boasts 5 stages with over 40 artists performing during the two-day event, and they include jazz legends from all over the world, as well as local South African talent.
- HIFA, Zimbabwe,April: 2016 Dates TBC
HIFA is an annual international arts festival that showcases the best of Zimbabwean musicians and fine arts while at the same time staging and exhibiting the most exciting and creative international and regional performances.
- Afrikaburn, South Africa: 25th Apr – 1st May
It’s many things: a community of volunteers who gather in the middle of a desert, the Tankwas Karoo, to create a temporary city of art, theme camps, costume, music and performance…& it’s a big, big party.
- Essaouira Gnaoua & World Music Festival, Morocco: 12th – 15th May
A music festival based on the traditions of Gnaoua music, has grown to include musicians from all over the world, with venues doted all around the picturesque town of Essaouira.
- Mawazine, Rabat, Morocco: 20th – 28th May
This is one of the most star-studded festivals on the continent. Big-name head-liners have included Stevie Wonder, Kylie Minogue, Quincy Jones, Elton John and Whitney Houston, and musicians and singers from across Africa, India, Europe, the Caribbean and South America have rounded out the roster.
- Bushfire, Swaziland: 27th – 29th May
Bushfire is Swaziland’s internationally acclaimed music & arts festival that celebrates creative expression, whilst promoting social responsibility, stimulating the economy and drawing talent and tourists from across Africa and around the world.
- Safiko Music Festival, Reunion Island: 3rd – 5th Jun
This festival takes place on the Reunion Island, which is in the Indian Ocean (next to Madagascar). This festival has several stages along the beach of Saint Pierre and schedules the great names of international music who seldom have the opportunity to perform in the region.
JULY, AUGUST, SEPTEMBER
- Africa Nouveau, Kenya: Sep – Dates TBC
This is a 2 day festival of music, food, art and style, “designed to showcase the most innovative, trend-setting artists on the continent,” bringing together great names in music, fashion, art and food.
- Lake Of Stars, Malawi: 30th Sep – 2nd Oct
Lake Of Stars, which has been described as one of the worlds best music festivals, returns to the shores of Lake Malawi on the 30th Sep – 2nd Oct, for more music, art, poetry, dance, comedy, theatre and children’s activities.
- The Gerewol Festival, Chad: Sep – Dates TBC
Each year the Mbororo people gather for a very colourful week of celebrations known as the Gerewol. Apart from the dancing and feasting, the main attraction is the young Mbororo men, who decorate themselves in make up and jewellery to display themselves to young women in search of a partner.
OCTOBER, NOVEMBER, DECEMBER
- Cairo International Film Festival, Egypt: Nov – Dates TBC
The Cairo International Film Festival is a competitive event held annually in November. The festival brings together film-makers, writers, directors, producers and actors over 10 days showing various international films and hosting an awards ceremony.
- Baaba Maals Blues Du Fleuve Music festival, Senegal: Dec – Dates TBC
Senegal’s Blues du Fleuve is an annual music festival founded and headlined by Baaba Maal – a singer so popular and influential in this part of the world that over the course of the weekend a shipment of mosquito nets is dropped off at his house for protecting his guests courtesy of the minister of health. Maal is the man who gets things done around here. In Francophone West Africa he is Kanye West with a diplomatic passport, the Pope with better dance moves.
- Vic Falls Carnival, Zimbabwe: Dec – Dates TBC
Held at the end of Dec, this 3 day festival is the perfect way to welcome the New Year and is described as ‘Africa’s most exciting new years festival!’
Special guest post by @MissYolisa1. Yolisa’s passions include Travel, Africa & Food. With a working background as a TV presenter, she has been lucky enough to be able to combine her passions with her work and has an online restaurant video guide YoYumTum and is currently in the process of creating a travel programme that champions the sights, sounds and luxury of Africa.