One of my favourite things about living in, and traveling around Africa is the fact that we know how to throw a damn good party. And there is no better place to get your groove on than at a festival.
1. Sauti za Busara
East Africa’s biggest music festival has the perfect location at the historic Old Fort in Stonetown. It also has the perfect line up: artists are exclusively African and represent many of the continent’s diverse sounds from traditional to contemporary sounds. The Island’s legendary taraab singer, BI Kidude, who passed away in 2013, was the only permanent fixture. South Africans who’ve featured include Thandiswa Mazwai, Kwani Experience and Tumi and the Volume. There have also been musicians from Mali, Senegal, Cape Verde, Comoros, Sudan and Re-Union Islands. The festival is held over four days and features more than 30 artists before ending with an after party at the postcard perfect Kendwa beach. Busara’s location in one of the most beautiful places in the world makes this a must-experience festival. By day you’ll play tourist scuba diving, swimming with dolphins and hanging out in the best beaches in Africa before turning into a culture vulture at night.
www.busaramusic.org; +255 24 223 2423 or +255 773 822 294
Burkina Faso: February/March
Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso is the one of the sleepiest capital cities in West Africa. But once every two years, the town becomes the place to be to for film, television and entertainment professionals. They meet to show case their work, celebrate their achievements and most importantly, to party with film enthusiasts in what’s also known as the best secret festival on the continent. The 44 year old festival spans a week of film screenings, cultural exhibitions and the parties. What this festivals lacks in razzle and dazzle it makes up for with the welcoming spirit of the Burkinabe; making Fespaco the most soulful experience you can have while partying and catching up with Africa’s film industry. And you get to mingle with people from around Africa and the Diaspora.
http://www.fespaco-bf.net /+ 226 50 30 83 70
3. Bush Fire
Ezulwini valley in Swaziland comes alive with the sound of music every year in May for the country’s most famous music event. The fest is held at an arena called House on Fire. The mood is relaxed with some people sitting in semi circle on the floor to enjoy the music of the likes of Oliver Mtukudzi, Johnny Clegg, Oliver Mtukuzi, Vieux Farka Toure and Freshly Ground. Go for the not-so-known bands. You can also volunteer to work at the festival. The thing I LOVE about Bushfire is that Swati people love to party, they love their vice and the undeclared party motto is sex, drugs (weed), and rock and roll (there’s a club called If Not/Why Not)
www.bush-veld.com / +268 2528 2110
4. Harare International Festival of the Arts or HIFA.
Southern Africa’s most comprehensive festival has a six day programme of theatre, dance, music, circus, street performance, spoken word, craft and visual arts. To be here is to be in an artist wonderland-the music ranges from traditional bira to classical paino. There are dance shows and plays, big bands and solo superstars the caliber of Oliver Mtukudzi and Ishmael Lo. The diversity of the line up and the caliber of the talent that performs here have turned HIFA into one of the biggest eight festivals in Africa. I love HIFA because you pay per performance, which makes it one of the most affordable festivals. In case you are wondering what Harare is like at the moment-Zimbabwe’s capital city is on the rise and fast becoming one of the most vibrant cities in Southern Africa. You’ll want for nothing in Harare.
www.hifa.co.zw /+263 772 978 763/ +263 4 300 977
5. Festival of the Niger/Festival Sur Le Niger
Set on the banks of the legendary Niger river in Segou, outside Bamako, this festival lives up to the promise of combining the best of Malian music, culture and tradition to give revelers the time of their life with a 24 hour program. Day time activities feature art exhibitions, griot minstrels and parades. The night belongs to Malian and regional stars performing on the banks of the river. Around town, there’s drumming session and traditional dancing. Local bars put on unofficial after parties until sunrise. It spans five days. If I had to pick a favourite fest, it would be this one. It brings it on in every regard.
www.festivalsegou.org /+223 23 21 804 / 67 26 502
6. Festival of the Desert
Traditionally, this festival is held in Timbuktu but since the city’s occupation by Islamists in 2012, and the drama that followed turned this into a nomadic show in 2013. Timbuktu is peaceful again, and the 2014 edition being held there. The festival that celebrates the nomadic Tuareg people’s music and culture . This festival is without doubt one of the best in the world according to people who follow music everywhere. It features legendary award winning Malian artists, with a very big focus on Tuareg bands. It’s also an unforgettable taste of Tuareg life. You’ live as nomads do in tents, take part in the tea ritual and get the party with the graceful and spirited people. It attracts word music fans from across the globe.
Other festivals worth wander-lusting over
1. Lake of the Stars, Malawi, brings together the best of African musicians. www.lakeofstars.org for updates on when the 2014 edition will be held.
2. Zanzibar Film Festival, Zanzibar, showcases movies and music from around the Swahii coast and the Middle East. Takes place in July. www.ziff.or.tz
3. The Santa Maria Festival in Cape Verde. A little known but incredibly magical festival held on the beach.www.capeverde.co.uk
4. Fez Festival of World Sacred Music in Morocco, an incredible destination that excites all senses at once, takes place in June. www.fez-riads.com
5. Look out for the Saint Louis Jazz Festival in Senegal, when Jazz legends from all over the world gather in West Africa. Hunt for info on the net if you’re keen to go, and send me a link when you find it 🙂