Last Updated on November 17, 2022
In Arthur Schopenhauer’s words, music is food for the soul. As the oldest inhabited continent on earth, Africa has several goodies to offer. And music is one of them. The continent is home to numerous African music festivals that will keep you electrified for days!
Over the years, music festivals have become a way to experience the arts and cultures of the societies that host them. It provides the potential for economic growth as thousands of tourists flock in each year. Emerging artists can use this opportunity to launch their music careers and put themselves on the map. Local traders also enjoy a surge of business activities during the celebration.
Africa is bustling with music festivals and celebrations that preserve their cultural heritage and pay respect to musical legends. If you’re a lover of music (who isn’t?), we’ve compiled this list of ten African music festivals that are absolutely must-sees.
Wherever you are on the planet, these festivals are worth the flight tickets and time away from home. Not only do you enjoy the stimulating afrobeat, but you’ll also experience beautiful sights, African culture, outdoor camping, and sumptuous meals.
So, the next time you’re planning your vacation, stick these locations on your map because you’ll never regret it!
Felabration is arguably the biggest music festival in Nigeria. If you’re a lover of afrobeat, then you must have heard of this special celebration. The annual week-long music festival is one of the best things you can do in Lagos.
Held at the New Afrika Shrine, Felabration celebrates the life of the musical legend and Afrobeats pioneer Fela Kuti.
Felabration was founded by Fela’s daughter, Yeni Anikulapo Kuti, in 1998 and takes place on the week of Fela Kuti’s birthday in October. You just cannot miss this on your next trip to Lagos. It exposes you to the original Fela sound and helps you understand the true origin of Afrobeats!
Cape Town Jazz Festival, South Africa
Admittedly, not everyone is a fan of jazz music. But this is one of a few African music festivals you must absolutely see in your lifetime. Although it only lasts two days, the Cape Town Jazz Festival in South Africa is one of Africa’s biggest festivals and has a lineup of local and global A-list jazz icons. In March 2020, the festival had a star-studded list of Sho Madjozi, Nubya Garcia, Chaka Khan, and Amanda Black.
The Cape Town Jazz festival offers a thrilling mix of African sounds, mainstream jazz, and hip-hop. If you’re an artist, videographer, journalist, music label executive, or photographer, there’s a place for you at this festival. There are workshop sessions for different creatives to learn and enjoy their crafts for 48 hours.
Festival au Désert, Mali
Have you ever been to Mali? If you haven’t found a reason to visit, here’s the only reason you need! Arguably the best music festival in Mali, the Festival au Désert is held annually in Timbuktu. The festival features mainstream rock and indigenous Tuareg music, a nomadic ethnic group from the Sahara Desert.
The desert is yours to take as you party like a rockstar with the brown earth at your feet. The desert nomad Touareg of the Sahara has formed the adored genre of desert rock by mastering the acoustic blues guitar. This music festival will show you what it feels like to be a desert nomad.
Through beautiful blues songs, bands like Terakaft and Tinariwen have shown the gloriously compelling stories of the life of desert nomads. Festival au Désert is the birthplace of these sounds.
Unfortunately, the Festival au Désert has been abandoned for a while due to the unrest in Mali. But we will continue to hope this awe-inspiring celebration is resuscitated at least once again.
Lake of Stars Festival, Malawi
The Lake of Stars Festival, held in Malawi in September, is one African music festival that pulls global music lovers each year.
Not only will you be exposed to the beautiful music and Malawian culture, you’ll also take in the grandeur of Lake Malawi. The event is held on Africa’s third-largest lake and hosts around 4,000 visitors from every part of the world. In addition to music, the event features TED talks, theater, comedy, dance, and mixed martial arts.
It is not only one of Africa’s best music festivals, but also the world’s.
Calabar Carnival, Nigeria
Many people say the Calabar Carnival is the biggest street party in Nigeria due to the lavish costumes and wild street parties. Whether or not it is the biggest, it is certainly one of the best festivals in Nigeria and Africa. Although it is more of a cultural festival, it features enthralling music that invites people from far and wide.
The annual event holds from December 1 through December 31, and its non-stop partying every day of the month.
Afropunk, South Africa
South Africans have some of the best dancers in the continent. So, it’s no surprise that they dominate the list of African music festivals. Afropunk is dedicated to highlighting Africa’s history and exhibiting its originality to the rest of the world. Top South African, continental, and international urban bands will perform live music for festival attendees in Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa and one of the most popular tourist destinations on the continent.
Afropunk is usually held between December 30th and 31st, but the 2022 edition will not hold on these dates till further notice. Keep your ears wide open, though, because when the Afropunk music festival starts, it’s party time!
Sabolai Radio Music Festival, Ghana
From South Africa up to West Africa, we look at Ghana’s Sabolai Radio Music Festival. Held in December, the event is the center of life for independent experimental music in Accra.
Formerly known as Indie Fuse before changing its name to Sabolai Radio, the festival continues to offer a different experience to the numerous entertainment events that take place during the holiday season in Accra by welcoming the latest talents in the underground music scene to showcase their work, from traditional folk to rock music and Hausa rap.
In fact, many contemporary international afrobeat musicians, including Mr. Eazi and Juls, have appeared in this glorious music festival.
Asa Baako, Ghana
We’re still in Ghana, and the Aso Baako held in March is our destination. The Asa Baako festival is an inclusive music event that brings people from all walks of life together through music, dance, and Ghanaian culture.
Regardless of your music taste, you’ll always find something that suits you at the Aso Baako music festival. That’s because most of the lineups are varied from different genres. It also features established and emerging talents. Whether you like funk, hip hop, dancehall, afro-UK bass, or afrobeat, there is something for you.
Besides the music, you’re assured of a fun time. The music festival features surfing, volleyball, boat trips, yoga, workshops, and a special jungle party! Looks like Ghana is the place to be next March!
Afro Nation, Ghana
After a three-year hiatus, the Afro Nation Ghana is finally back. The event, which takes place in Accra, Ghana, is held on the 29th and 30th of December. Some past headliners for this African music festival include Wizkid, Burna Boy, and Davido. It remains one of the biggest urban music festivals in the world and is held on Ghana’s stunning coastline!
Sandbox Festival, Egypt
Our last stop takes us to North Africa for the biggest electronic music festival in Egypt – Sandbox. Being a beautiful country, you should expect to be treated to stunning views. The Sandbox is held on the breathtaking landscape of the Gouna Red Sea. It’s an African music festival that honours the Red Sea’s spectacular location. Attendees will have the pleasure of watching performances by talented local and international artists.
Africa has a wealth of music festivals, and it’s almost impossible to list them all. But make sure that you attend these top ten African music festivals at least once in your lifetime. It’ll be worth it. We’ll give honourable mentions to the Nyege Nyege Festival in Uganda, Afrochella in Ghana, Vic Falls Carnival in Zimbabwe, Africa Nouveau in Kenya, and Oasis Festival in Morocco.
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