There’s something about Nyege Nyege Festival in Uganda that usually takes place at the banks of River Nile in Jinja; it teems of art, music, fashion and creativity. It’s arguably one of the best festivals on the continent. And Africa has dime a dozen festivals of a kind. Festivals where music and art meet in creativity matrimony. Festivals where fashion, food, drinks and music takes the center stage. The Nyege Nyege Festival attendees will tell you how their experience at the shores of the Nile, listening and dancing to music, camping and all, is incomparable. Listed below are some of the festivals that you should attend in Africa.
There’s more to Swaziland than King Mswati and the Reed Dance. Too tiny a nation, Swaziland, but it has one of the biggest festivals on the continent. Size doesn’t matter, it seems. Every year, over 20,000 people throng Swaziland for a three-day extravaganza that is Bushfire Festival. Imagine a festival that merges film, theatre, poetry, visual arts, music, dance and more, all happening in a beautiful valley in Mbabane, Swaziland. The festival hosts various international and local acts for a three-day music fete. Folks camp on the site. And fun never stops. The proceeds from the festival always go to the local communities.
Lake of stars has been hailed as simply one of the finest festivals in the world. Its name was obviously inspired by the fact that it is held at Lake Malawi. There’s never a dull moment at this event; some performers have been known to do their sets from trees, while the Minister of Tourism even skydived into the festival. One of the most interesting aspects of the festival is that none of the international artists who perform are paid a fee. Past editions have included headliners The Noisettes, Oliver Mtukudzi, and Freshly Ground. There’s a range of music on the line up, from electro to Afro-pop, and while you’re taking a break in between checking out the acts, you can swim in the lake, laze on sandy beaches, or get involved in one of the festival’s community projects.
Just like Nyege Nyege Festival in Uganda that takes place at River Nile, Victoria Falls Carnival takes place around the famous Victoria Falls in Victoria Falls Town. It begun in 2011. Performances take place during the evening so that guests can take advantage of the tourist capital by day by indulging in activities like white water rafting, paying a visit to the Victoria Falls, bungee jumping or visiting the museum. One of the unique aspects of Vic Falls fest is the journey there. A steam train picks up attendees in South Africa, while Namibians, Tswana’s and Zambians can catch buses in their respective countries. On one night of the festival, guests are packed into the steam train which stops in the middle of a national park and hosts a DJ fueled dance party. Imagine that!
Sauti Za Busara is like Uganda’s Bayimba International Festival of the Arts, though on a bigger scale. The Sauti Za Busara festival, which translates to “Sounds of Wisdom,” is held every year in February in Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania. Performance spaces include old forts, amphitheaters and other historic buildings. Besides live music shows, the festival includes several other activities such as movie screenings, fashion shows and networking events for those in the entertainment industry. Each year there’s a diverse line up of acts, covering genres such as Zimbabwean rap-rock, Senegalese reggae and Rwandan Afro- pop. In addition to music performances, during the festival you can also catch fringe shows of drumming, music documentaries and traditional dancing.
All that jazz happens here. South Africa plays hosts to many of Africa’s big festivals including Oppikoppi, Joburg Arts Fest and Grahamstown Festival. However, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival is one of the most popular and longest running. Founded in 2000, the festival is recognized as the fourth-largest jazz festival in the world and the largest jazz festival on the African continent. The great thing about this festival is that it features performers across a variety of genres, so there’s something for everyone. The action takes place across two huge stages. It’s a must-attend festival. Especially, if you’re into jazz music and all that jazz.
Do you know the famous Burning Man that happens in the Black Rock desert in Nevada, US? Now, this is an African version of it. AfrikaBurn is the continent’s most alternative arts festival. Everything that happens in Tankwa Town (the temporary settlement where 10, 000 festival goers gather in the Karoo desert) is up to the creativity of participants. There is no entertainment organised – instead the participants of the festival create their own art works, their own music and their own performances. You have no idea what to expect each year, but you’re guaranteed an experience that will blow your mind.
A festival in a desert? How cool is that? The International Festival of the Sahara is an annual festival held in Douz, Tunisia. Douz, a place where palm trees outnumber residents, swells in population by 50 000 each year when people arrive to share in a four-day celebration the art, traditions and culture of the people of the desert. Expect to see camel marathons, displays of horse riding, a Bedouin marriage, lively dancing, music performances and a poetry competition. It’s an extraordinary event in Tunisia celebrating horses, the desert and the arts.