Whether you’re looking for the foreign Lowlands, a laidback rave, or want to discover new musical treasures, there’s something for everyone at the festivals in Africa. South Africa and Morocco are the biggest party animals, but other countries are certainly not inferior. Feet in the sand, dancing in the jungle or an intimate performance in a riad: see the most special festivals of Africa here.
Festivals in South Africa:
Ultra South Africa
This electronic music festival is an offshoot of Miami’s Ultra Music Festival. The line-up includes the biggest names in electronic music such as Martin Garrix, The Chainsmokers and Black Coffee. The two-day festival is in Cape Town on one day and in Johannesburg, with the same line-up, on the next day. The next edition will take place somewhere in the last weekend of February or the first weekend of March. Subscribe to the waiting list of Ultra South Africa to score a ticket.
Afrikaburn is the little brother of the great Burning Man Festival in America. The festival started small with about a thousand people, but has grown into a six-day festival with over seven thousand visitors. Afrikaburn has the same magical atmosphere as Burning Man. The semi-circle-shaped terrain may only be visited with a ‘mutant vehicle’, a specially modified vehicle. At the final celebration, a grand finale fire is lit, with a giant wooden sculpture going up in flames. The festival takes place at Stonehenge Farm, just outside Cape Town, toward the end of April/beginning of May.
Rocking the Daisies
The indie music festival Rocking the Daisies takes place every October. Previous headliners include Tash Sultana, The 1975 and Mura Masa. Like the Ultra Festival, this festival can be found in both Johannesburg and Cape Town. In Cape Town, the festival site is on the fields of Cloof Wine Estate and the event lasts for three days. The Johannesburg edition is two days and is based at Ellis Park. The next Rocking the Daisies is scheduled for the first weekend of October.
Up the creek
Basically a birthday party that got out of hand and attracted way too many people; Cape Town’s Up the Creek might be the most refreshing festival of South Africa. Now, thirty years later, it has grown into a full-fledged festival featuring dozens of South African artists. The festival has a stage for the performers, but the main gimmick is the ability to jump up and into the river by the hundreds. There are no VIP treatments: everyone at the festival is part of the festival. Maybe the lead singer of your favorite band is floating next to you on that way-too-big inflatable unicorn…
Cape Town International Jazz Festival
This fourth largest jazz festival in the world takes place annually in late March/early April. This event is the largest music festival in all of sub-Saharan Africa. Among the biggest names from the jazz scene are also local South African jazz performers. Just like the Amsterdam Dance Event, the clubs, venues and squares change into all kinds of jazz venues with performances throughout the city. With both free and paid performances, over 34,000 visitors are drawn to the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.
Festivals in Morocco:
Jazzablaca is a six-day festival with three different stages on Casablanca’s horse racing track (hippodrome). International artists like Patti Smith have performed there, but Moroccan jazz heroes are also given the stage. The festival is every summer during the first days of July.
The collaboration of Moroccan and Dutch entrepreneurs has brought the laidback festival Atlas Electronic in Marrakech into the world. The young music festival has already become a major player within electronic African music with great artists like Ben UFO, Shanti Celeste and Floating Points. The festival combines western electronic music with African folk music, all kinds of art exhibitions and African food. The festival is at the end of the summer season in the last weekend of August or the first weekend of September.
Gnaoua World Music Festival
Want to dive fully into African folk music? Then Gnaoua Festival in the coastal town of Essaouira is perfect for you. This four-day festival focuses on the ancient desert music gnaoua or gnawa, surrounded by pop, jazz and rock performances. Throughout Essaouira there are indoor and outdoor stages, and performances that continue until the late/early hours. Almost half a million people from all corners of the world come to this big event in May.
The United Nations praises the Fez World Sacred Music Festival for its great interweaving of music, culture, and gatherings of different people. First of all, it’s a music festival in the city of Fez, where big names like Björk, Youssou N’Dour and Patti Smith have already performed. But it is the great variety of artists and music genres that make this festival so special. From flamenco music to Colombian harps and Irish folk music: this festival presents various and unknown talents. For the musicians and speakers, there are stages in small riads and on the squares. The biggest stage is at the palace of Fez. The festival takes place in mid-June and lasts over a week.
Festivals in Zimbabwe
Vic Falls Carnival
New Year’s Eve is, of course, an occasion for celebration. What could be better than celebrating New Year’s Eve at a music festival? That’s what the people in the town Victoria Falls obviously thought as well. From 29 to 31 December it is Vic Falls Carnival near Africa’s largest waterfall. The previous edition took place in a train transformed into a DJ stage on one day and in the middle of the jungle on the next day. There are traditional dancers, artists and fire breathers. But you want something to listen to as well, and with DJs and African indie music, there is more than enough.
The Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) is one of Africa’s largest arts festivals. Toward the end of April or the beginning of May, this seven-day festival takes place in the capital of Zimbabwe. There’s music here, of course, but there’s much more: theatre, dance, spoken word, fashion and even street performances. Fifteen stages throughout the city make up this festival, with artists from over forty countries on stage. Prices per performance vary from five to thirty euros.
A laidback festival on the beach of the Red Sea. The Sandbox Festival isn’t about showing off big headliners, but more about the relaxed atmosphere of the festival in Hurghada. With your feet in the sand, you can listen, dance and enjoy over seventy DJs playing at the electronic party. Besides the music it is also possible to kitesurf and snorkel on the water next to the festival site or just sunbathe. The three-day event takes place in the middle of June.
Header Photo: Wilfred Paulse