1.Lagos International Jazz Festival
Africa’s most populous city plays host to the annual outdoor Lagos Jazz Festival every November, as the dry season begins. In true bombastic Nigerian style, the month of November has accordingly been named Jazz Month, and festivities around the mammoth event have been dubbed the Jazz Series. The three-day festival has been inviting international and Nigerian jazz aficionados to its stages since 2010 and previous artists have included Hugh Masekhela, Morrie Louden and jazz heavyweights Four play.
2.Asabaako Music Festival
Asabaako Music Festival in beachy Busua is Ghana’s fledgling foray into the international festival arena. The festival hosts DJs from Ghana, Europe and the USA and features everything from frenzied YouTube sensation Azonto dancing to London afrotronica, with a single purpose in mind: keep it African. The jungle stage uses Busua’s unique proximity to the unchartered African wild to throw a mega-bush party at the end of every festival.
3.Sauti Za Busara
East Africa’s No. 1 festival brings people together in celebration of the richness and variety of African music.
Everything about Stone Town speaks of antiquity except Sauti Za Busara Music Festival, now in its 10th year. Thousands flock from all over the world to experience partying in the forts, amphitheaters and historic buildings that make this island city a big tourist hit through the seasons. The two hundred musicians provide most of the allure, but African music documentaries, traditional ngoma song and dance, fashion shows, dhow races, open-mic sessions, after-parties and orchestras are also included in buzz of activities.
4.Rift Valley Festival
Music festival could just as easily meet safari in this magical adventure tour of one of Africa’s most attractive areas. Taking place on the shores of endless Lake Naivasha deep in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, the aptly named festival drew around 5000 people in 2011 and is billed as a ‘musical experience in the cradle of humankind.’ While afrobeat dominates the bill, internationals such as DJ Yoda have also graced the stage in the event’s 3-year history.
5. Bayimba International Festival
The Bayimba International Festival of the Arts is without a doubt Uganda’s number one music festival. Curated by the local Bayimba Cultural Foundation in capital city Kampala, the festival seeks to serve as a platform for artistic expression and creative entrepreneurship as well as give festival-goers an insight into the throbbing culture of the equatorial nation. In the past 5 years the festival has grown from 100 to 55 000 guests, and has progressively included more foreign nationals on the bill, which refreshingly features R&B, urban and jazz as well as familiar lashings of afro-beat and comedy.
Mawazine (“Rhythms”) is one the world’s biggest music festivals. Past Mawazine festival acts have included international heavyweights Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, Shakira, Whitney Houston, Lenny Kravitz, LMFAO and Evanescence. The city of Rabat in Morocco plays host to this juggernaut of global pop culture for the 12th time in 2013, and will be headlined by 10-time Grammy award-winner George Benson. The star-studded 9-day festival is free to many, and routinely attracts numbers of up to 1 million people.
Oppikoppi is one of South Africa’s longest running outdoor music festivals. Taken from the Afrikaans phrase meaning ‘on the hill’, Oppikoppi is credited with kick-starting the South African rock revolution in the late 90s. Still staged atop a hill 18 years later, the festival now boasts artists of all genres, including rock, hip hop, hardcore, punk, ska, folk, blues, drum ‘n bass, big beats, funk, kwaito, jazz, traditional, world music, metal and indie, and attracts around 20,000 campers annually.
8.Festival sur le Niger
Perhaps misleadingly, Festival sur le Niger takes place not in Niger itself but along the banks of the vast Niger River in Segou, Mali. The main stage is positioned with the river as a backdrop. The festival is rich in cultural and high-energy African traditional dance music. Masks, costumes and animals are not uncommon in the crowds. Previous artists in the festival’s 9-year history have included Fema Kuti, King Mensah, Amadou & Mariam, and Oumou Sangare.
Held annually in the Moroccan town of Essaouira, FDE is an international world music event featuring over 30 acts from Morocco and beyond. Known to some as “Morocco’s answer to Woodstock”, the coastal town has achieved fame as a cultural getaway with its enchanting maze of streets and beautiful beaches. The festival has been running for the past 15 years. While the local youth are drawn in by international acts like France’s electro-rock export Nasser, foreign visitors will be snake-charmed by the abundance of traditional and mystical Ghawa music on the bill.
10.Festival au Desert
The 2013 Freemuse Award for Freedom of Musical Expression went to Festival au Desert in Mali, which, as music festivals go, is about as aptly named as can be. With origins in the trading meetings between the Toureg nomads, the festival has been oozing authenticity and gradually opening doors of the unstable region to the Western world since 2001. Expect camels and breath-taking sunsets in the arid festival site two hours from Timbuktu, and bring your own tent.