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10 Major African Music Festivals You Don’t Want To Miss

By Kimberly Wilson

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Many African cultures hold traditional festivals in a bid to keep their art and traditions alive. In the 21st century, music festivals across the continent have built on that tradition and have become premier cultural and tourist events throughout the region. Ayiba brings you a list of music festivals to add to your bucket list.

Asa Baako– One Dance Festival : Ghana

When: March 4 – 7, 2016

This celebration of local culture takes place in the village of Busua in Ghana’s Western Region, renown for its beautiful beaches. The festival features a Jungle Party and activities ranging from treks and beach parties, to yoga and cinema. Dubbed the “Party with a Purpose,” Asa Baako’s operations revolve around celebrating local African art, conservation, and social inclusion.

Lake of Stars: Malawi

When: September 30 – October 2, 2016

The Lake of Stars Music + Arts Project is not only run along the shores of Lake Malawi, but also holds events around Europe. The festival aims to introduce local Malawian artists to a global audience and encourage cultural tourism to the country. International headliners have included K’Naan, Uhuru, and Toya Delazy.

Bushfire: Swaziland


When: May 27 – 29, 2016

This three-day music and arts festival invites revelers to “Bring Your Fire.” It features theatre, music, poetry, art exhibitions, and workshops. Family entertainment, puppetry, and storytelling make this event kid friendly, so the whole family can join in the fun. This year’s impressive line-up includes South Africa’s Mafikizolo, Estere (New Zealand), Cold Specks (Canada), as well as other others stars from around the world.

Harare International Festival of the Arts: Harare, Zimbabwe

When: TBA

The Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) is a six day festival and workshop that aims at showcasing the best in art, music, poetry, circus, fashion, street performances, theatre, and dance. The event also attempts to unify disparate ideological groups in Zimbabwe. Past performances have included M.anifest (Ghana), Pan (Zimbabwe), and Zal Sissokho (Canada/ Senegal).

Essaouira Gnaoua World Music Festival: Morocco

When: May 12 – 15, 2016

First launched in 1988, the Essaouira Gnaoua World Music Festival is celebrating its eighteen year anniversary, by hosting musical performances from Gnaoua artists, as well as acts from Morocco, Guadalupe, France, and Denmark. The best part? Entry to the festival is free! The festival will also host an Annual Forum on the role of women in entrepreneurship and innovation, and their role in socio-economic development in African countries.

Cape Town Jazz Festival: Cape Town, South Africa

When: April 1 – 2, 2016

The festival has several events including a free concert, photo exhibition, gala dinner, and a golf day. This year’s impressive musical line-up features SWV, Angie Stone, Mafikizolo among other acts from around Africa and the world, a fact which leaves little doubt as to why this festival has been repeatedly ranked as one of the best in the world (World’s Best Festivals, Fest300 2016).

Vic Falls Carnival: Zimbabwe

When: December 29 – 31, 2016

The three day carnival at gorgeous Victoria Falls is undoubtedly one of the best ways to usher in the New Year. This family-friendly event has, in the past, included a Steam Train and Secret Bush Party, several parties around town, and culminates in an epic New Year’s Party. Acts have included Jason Le Roux, Bhana, and Judgement Yard.

Felabration: Nigeria

When: October 2016

Felabration celebrates the life and influence of Fela Kuti. The festival, which is held a week long event, has previously attracted industry greats such as Hugh Masekela, Asa, Les Nubians, as well as Femi and Seun Kuti, just to name a few. It uses a multi-faceted approach to celebrating African art and culture by hosting symposiums, debates, art exhibitions, and the Fela Street Carnival Parade.

AfrikaBurn: Tankwa Karoo, South Africa

When: April 25 – May 1, 2016

The celebration of art and culture that includes art, burning sculptures, music, and even mutant vehicles, all held in a temporary city in Tankwa. No vendors are allowed, and nothing is on sale. Instead, it runs on a ‘gift economy,’ where people give without expecting anything in return.

Essence Festival: Durban, South Africa

When: TBA

The popular Essence Festival will be hosted in Durban in 2016 and 2017. The event, which is usually held in New Orleans, will be marked by both international and local performers, and will include workshops aimed at empowering the youth. Additionally, several local women-led businesses will be handpicked and selected to trade at the event.

This story was originally published here.

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Kimberly Wilson

Kimberly is a NYC-based editor, writer and social media strategist. She also moonlights as the editor of Travel Noire.

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