Who better to write a guest post on the best African festivals than Yolisa Segone, founder of the platform ‘African Festival Adventures’, a festival lover who has made it her mission to discover and experience all of the very best music festivals around the African continent. Yolisa and I met through our Instagram pages and I am so excited for her to share her 8 favourite festival selections from across the African festival calendar on That Festival Life!
From a New Year festival held under the stars, in the shade of thousand-year-old Baobab trees on the coast of Kenya – to sunset celebrations on Malawi’s beaches and courtyards set against the backdrop of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco; Africa is home to some of the best music festivals in the world. Set in the most beautiful locations, the African music festival scene has everything you’d expect from an international festival and more, with many of the events fast becoming renowned fixtures on the international festival calendar.
So, if a trip to Africa is on your radar, be sure to plan your travels around a music festival for a brilliant weekend of good vibes, great food and fantastic music. It’s a perfect way of immersing yourself into the local culture and giving back to the community.
8 of the Best African Music Festivals…
Jinja, Uganda – September
This renowned East African music festival has established itself as a paradise for adventurers, free-spirits, party lovers and music enthusiasts with a thirst to discover. It’s an opportunity to be immersed in authentic Ugandan culture with its focus on East African acts, artists & DJs. Apart from taking in the beautiful surroundings and experiencing all 6 stages, take it from me, no Nyege Nyege experience would be complete without sampling Ugandan Waragi (a locally distilled gin), a Rolex (a popular street food, combining an egg omelette and veggies, wrapped in a chapati) and taking a dip in the River Nile!
I attended this festival in 2018 and still talk about it today. It is definitely one of the best festivals in Africa and one for the bucket-list! Nyege Nyege in the local Luganda language means ‘the irresistible urge to dance’ & believe me, you’ll dance yourself to exhaustion…(Ugandans know how to party)! You can watch my full festival highlights and interviews here…
The Setting – This African festival takes place along the breathtaking banks of the River Nile, in Jinja, Uganda.
Lake of Stars
Nkhata Bay, Malawi – September
A unique, immersive adventure through curated music, talks, poetry, theatre, film and wellness activities. The annual 3 day festival is held on the shores of Lake Malawi in South-Eastern Africa and mainly focuses on music from Malawi and across the region, providing local artists with a unique platform to showcase their art to a global audience. The festival also attracts high profile names to perform from around the world and is routinely called one of the best festivals in the world by international media.
The Lake of Stars will always have a special place in my heart, as this was my first African festival adventure, back in 2015! Here are my 2015 festival highlights.
The Setting: Described by Time Out magazine as “possibly the most beautiful festival location in the world”, Lake Of Stars is held on the palm fringed shores of Lake Malawi and in 2019 moved to a new location – Kachere Kastle, a stunning lodge built in the style of a Moroccan castle, set on rolling white sands by the crystal-clear waters of the lake.
Marrakech, Morocco – September
An intimate destination music festival featuring today’s top underground electronic talent and showcasing the finest international DJs, whilst also shining a spotlight on North Africa’s own music. Created in 2015, the festival brings a truly unique cultural experience to the ancient city and away from the dancefloor, Oasis showcases the contemporary art, fashion and culinary experiences that are redefining North Africa.
The Setting: Set against the backdrop of the Atlas Mountains, on the outskirts of Marrakech, the festival takes place at the luxury Fellah Hotel. With azure pools, hidden enclaves and spectacular views, the Fellah’s unique rustic-pop aesthetic is the perfect location to spend a hazy weekend chilling out and finding your groove.
Rocking the Daisies
Cape Town, South Africa October
Being South Africa’s premier eco-friendly music and lifestyle festival, Rocking the Daisies raises the bar every year, incorporating innovative environmentally conscious products into the festival and spreading the message of ‘play hard, tread lightly’. An unforgettable weekend camping music experience is guaranteed, whilst experiencing the beauty and magic of South Africa. With a lineup of local and international artists, whether you’re into rock, folk, house, indie, drum and bass, RnB, hip-hop, UK grime or gqom, there’s something for everyone.
The Setting: Held on the Cloof Wine Estate, set against the stunning, autumnal backdrop of wine country, about an hours drive from Cape Town.
Kilifi New Year
Kilifi Town, Kenya – December
Kilifi New Year is a boutique house, alternative and reggae music festival held in Kilifi town on the coast of Kenya. The African festival is a melting pot of global cultures, a brilliant source of inspiration and a haven for freedom of expression, with a strong commitment to conscious living and sustainability, culminating with the burning of a large wooden sculpture on New Year’s Eve, symbolizing new beginnings and optimism for a brighter future. Throw in some forward-thinking and open-minded acts, DJs and artists and you end up with the perfect new years festival.
I was lucky enough to be invited to cover Kilifi New Year 2020 and you can watch my video coverage here…
The Setting: The festival is set on 20 acres of pristine lush plateau, home to secret wild orange and lemon orchards, bamboo forests and thousand year-old baobabs in the upper reaches of Takaungu Creek on the Indian Ocean.
Sauti Za Busara
Stone Town, Zanzibar – February
Sauti za Busara brings people together to celebrate African music under African skies. If you’re open to discovering new sounds and unique artists from the continent, this festival is for you. Celebrate Africa’s rich musical catalogue and culture with several hundreds of musicians participating each year and live performances over four days and three enormous stages. Every February, Stone Town, Zanzibar is buzzing with tourists and locals alike, music, dancing and a carnival-like atmosphere. If you’re a music festival lover and spending time in East Africa then the Sauti za Busara should be on your calendar to attend at least once.
The Setting: The festival’s main venue is in Stone Town’s Old Fort: a stunning piece of Omani colonial architecture which has stood for over 200 years and remains the oldest surviving building in town.
Busua, Ghana – March
Asa Baako is Ghana’s premier outdoor music festival offering a unique, exciting and forward-thinking experience that takes festival goers through a journey of new and classic African beats and rhythms. The festival offers a programme of live music, sound systems, parties, open-mics, surfing, treks, tours, yoga, football & volleyball tournaments, BBQs and boat trips. As night falls, the party turns to the surrounding forest for the legendary Asa Baako Jungle Party.
The setting: Asa Baako festival is held in the spectacular beach and forest locations of Busua village in Ghana’s Western region
STRAB (Subterranean Rhythm & Blues) Festival
Ponta Malongane, Mozambique – May
“If you haven’t been to STRAB, imagine this…A bunch of great musicians playing tunes, add some sun, sea, sand and lots of R&R and mix them. Now imagine a combination of them for 3-4 days” – sounds idyllic! This annual event first started off life as a live show for a birthday party for a group of scuba divers and since then, it’s grown organically, now featuring 20 bands with people travelling far and wide to attend the beach party, against the backdrop of the ocean!
The setting: The festival takes place at Ponta Malongane Resort, set against the backdrop of the ocean and wondrous reefs.
I don’t know about you – but I’ve got some serious festival wanderlust now! My adventure to Beat Hotel in Morocco was my first time on the African continent (and only right on the edge!), so it definitely looks like I’ve definitely got a lot more exploring to do… I only really had Afrika Burn on my festival bucket list for African festivals (which isn’t strictly a music festival) so it will need some editing after this!
Make sure you follow African Festival Adventures for all the scoop on the very best festivals in Africa, and don’t forget to let us know which your favourite was in the comments! Check back here later in the year as we’ll be updating this list with confirmed dates for 2021 and more info too!