5 must-see African music festivals

25 Jan 2018

Whether it’s big-name, big budget corporate-sponsored events or cozy, independent music weekends, if you want to hear some of the most edgy, innovative sounds, you need to head to Africa.

An explosion of live music events in recent years is providing opportunities for the continent’s up-and-coming artists and cross-country collaborations.

Now home to some of the most ground-shaking music festivals, here is our list of must-see music festivals in 2018.

Cape Town International Jazz Festival (South Africa)

23-24 March 2018

While it is Africa’s largest jazz festival, and the fourth-largest in the world, it also encompasses every genre and has a little bit of something for everyone. Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Vijay Iyer Sextet, Mi Casa and The Feya Faku Spirit Unit are among the world-class talent that have led the bill. More than 40 artists give soothing, soulful performances on five stages, all to full houses, putting this sold-out festival on the checklist of music lovers everywhere.

MTN Bushfire Festival (Swaziland)

25-27 May 2018

On open farmlands in Swaziland’s Malkerns Valley, about 20km from Mbabane, this three-day festival boasts stunning sunsets against mountain backdrops with unforgettable line-ups. Last year that included sets by trumpeter Hugh Masekela, Tuareg guitarist Bombino and chart-topper Jah Prayzah. Event organisers have made social change a central theme of the festival each year and have earned awards for incorporating responsible, sustainable tourism and support of Swazi organisations and local charities.

Fes Festival of World Sacred Music (Morocco)

22-30 June 2018

This week-long string of concerts is held within the medieval Moroccan city’s labyrinthine medina, palaces, gardens and riads with traditional bands and spiritual dancers from around the world. Whirling dervishes from Turkey, chanting mystics from Iran, Buddhist dancing monks from Tibet, shamans from Colombia, Chinese Noh opera singers and Ghanaian jazz vocalists are known to spellbind.

Chale Wote (Ghana)

August 2018

More than 30,000 people converge on Accra’s historic James Town district to see Ghanaian and international headliners including Afrobeat superstar Mr. Eazi and singer-songwriter Jojo Abot. The free festival blends live music with electrifying street performances and interactive art installations, and has become a showcase of the continent’s most distinctive street style.

Lake of Stars (Malawi)

28-30 September 2018

Pop, folk, techno, Afro-soul and kwela take over idyllic white sandy beaches in northern Malawi in what has become known as one of the most diverse, unpredictable festivals in the world. Performances range from Swedish DJ sets to the Amahoro Drummers, a Burundian music group living in exile in the nearby Dzaleka refugee camp, with festival-goers lounging in hammocks or in the water and surprise guests skydiving in to make a grand entrance.