With hopes of influencing your 2012 event calendar, we’re sharing some of the best music festivals from around the continent:

Festival Au Desert (Jan 12-14 Mali)- This 3-day music festival was founded by Tuareg legends Tinariwen, and takes place literally in the desert outside of Timbuktu. Stars including Bono have already rocked the sandy stage this year, but start prepping now for next year’s scorching hot days and cool nights (you’ll be too busy fist-pumping to the sounds of desert blues to notice). For more information on the most remote music festival in the world, watch our interview with the director, Manny Ansar.

Sauti Za Busara (Feb 8-12 Zanzibar)- All aboard for a quality island cultural showcase – complete with its own carnival. Also commonly known as the Zanzibar Music Festival, the event is set at the heart of Zanzibar’s most breathtaking scenery. Do make sure to immerse yourself in the history and art of the island or relax by the ocean before heading over to one of the biggest East-African festivals. Featuring an average of 400 artists each year, Sauti za Busara attracts locals and tourists from all corners of the globe.

Festival sur le Niger (Feb 15-19 Mali)- Head to the banks of the Niger River and transport yourself back in time as you indulge in folk music. Nigeria’s Femi Kuti was a huge hit last year and this year is set to be even bigger and better!

Cape Town International Jazz Festival (March 30-31 South Africa)- Dubbed “Africa’s Grandest Gathering,” Cape Town’s international jazz festival is dedicated to uniting urban jazz, funk n’ soul lovers and anyone else that’s up for an unforgettable weekend. With iconic performances each year, festival-goers have much to look forward to. This year, expect to see over 40 different international and local musicians on five stages. Tickets sell out pretty fast so make sure to check out the exciting line-up pronto!

Saint Louis Jazz Festival (May 24-28 Senegal)-  Rivalling the jazz giant that is Cape Town, the former West African capital of Saint Louis is not only famous for its urban culture but also for the high-energy experience associated with its world-renowned jazz festival. Since its first appearance in the early 90s, the Saint Louis Jazz Festival has established itself as the must-attend event on the African music calendar.

Bushfire Festival (May 25-27 Swaziland)- Neighbouring Swaziland may be a tiny country compared to South Africa, but thanks to Bushfire, it stands tall among our contenders for Africa’s most notable music festivals. There’s certainly nothing tiny about its 20,000-strong crowd and 3 days of non-stop music, art and runway for the eager fashionista. Featuring some of the most prominent members of African music royalty (Zimbabwean legend Oliver Mtukudzi graced the stage last year), Bushfire has blossomed into a major hub of African cultural extravagance.

Fes Festival of World Sacred Music (June 8-16 Morocco) – We recommend this one for fans of world music. At this increasingly popular event, you can expect to make deep spiritual connections with the captivating city of Fes or face the intellectual challenges and political activism that drives this intense culmination of art, culture, dance and music.

Gnaoua World Music Festival (June 21-24 Morocco)- Stick around Morocco a little longer to catch another celebration of world music. The Gnaoua Festival is a massive hit with thousands of visitors each year.

Lake of Stars (October Malawi)- The landlocked country of Malawi hosts Africa’s ultimate beach party (ahem, we mean music festival) on the sandy shores of Lake Malawi each year. Previous acts include the Noisettes and the Maccabees, as well as the biggest local artists and emerging talent in Malawi. The festival’s vibrant and energetic atmosphere (not to mention the lake’s astonishing views) makes it a great locale to enjoy the emerging sounds of Southern Africa. Sadly the festival has cancelled its 2012 line up to “support local initiatives” but in 2013 the party will be back in full swing.

Fest’Horn Festival (December Djibouti)- End the year with the horn of Africa’s regional music festival, aimed at redefining the East African experience. With a diverse mixture of international and local artists, the emphasis is placed on promoting development alongside values of peace. Killing two birds with one stone- we love it!

Story by OKA contributor Vinjeru Mkandawire


  • Nanc_B

    You forgot to include the Ugandan Bayimba International Festival for arts in Kampala September 2012 http://bayimba.org/