On a continent with such a deep-rooted culture of music, it's only right that there's no shortage of amazing festivals. From celebrations of traditional sounds to modern flag-bearers of burgeoning new scenes, here are our favourites.
- Top 20 Music Festivals in Asia
- The Best Music Festivals in South America
- Top 20 Music Festivals in Europe
Headliners (2017): Chic & Nile Rodgers, Ellie Goulding, Wiz Khalifa, Lauryn Hill
With total attendance figures for the week-long festival regularly topping 2 million, this Moroccan fiesta is one of the biggest music festivals anywhere in the world. And when the lineup includes bona fide international megastars like Rihanna, Stevie Wonder, Avicii or Pharrell Williams each year, it's easy to see why.
When & where: 22-30 June 2018; Rabat, Morocco
Sauti za Busara
Headliners (2018): El Dey, Ribab Fusion, Makadem
While some festivals relish the opportunity to bring overseas stars to perform in Africa, Sauti za Busara – translated as Sounds of Wisdom – wholeheartedly and exclusively celebrates African talent, with a lineup showcasing diverse acts from all corners of the vibrant continent.
When & where: February 2019; Zanzibar
Cape Town International Jazz Festival
Headliners: Seu Jorge, Corinne Bailey Rae, Amanda Black, Trombone Shorty
South Africa's coastal capital plays host to the festival that calls itself 'Africa's Grandest Gathering', featuring performers not just from the jazz world but also from soul, funk, hip-hop, Afropop and more.
When & where: 23-24 March 2018; Cape Town, South Africa
Headliners: Carl Cox, The Black Madonna B2B Derrick Carter, Nastia
Oasis is already staking its claim as one of the most exciting electronic music festivals anywhere in the world, despite only launching in 2015. Carefully curated lineups combine with a stunning location, leading the charge for North Africa's blossoming underground scene.
When & where: 14-16 September; Marrakech, Morocco
Lake of Stars
Headliners (2016): Freshlyground, Timo Maas, Roberto, My Nu Leng
Established back in 2004 by a British student, the Malawian festival is now one of Africa's most globally recognised. Each year the lineup celebrates Malawian and African musical talent, while also including a selection of British/Western acts – including the likes of Foals, The Maccabees and Young Fathers over recent years.
When & where: 28-30 September 2018; Lake Malawi, Malawi
Headliners: Beth Ditto, Morcheeba, Tom Odell
Of all the festivals, in all the towns, in all the world...
This week-long affair is dedicated to jazz music, its enduring legacy, and its modern proponents, from stages in the city's grand squares to a purpose-built intimate jazz club.
When & where: 14-22 April 2018; Casablanca, Morocco
Headliners (2017): YCEE, Davido, Sir Shina Peters, Kiss Daniel
Few African musicians have achieved such global recognition, respect and fame as Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. Felabration was first organised in 1998 by Yeni Kuti to honour her father's legacy. It is now a stalwart of the African festival scene and a huge celebration of the iconic figure, held in the Nigerian city of Ikeja each year on the week of his birthday.
When & where: October 2018; Ikeja, Nigeria
Headliners (2017): Âme, Mike Servito, Butch
One of the major players in developing Africa's burgeoning electronic music scene. Held on the stretch of Egypt's coast known as the 'Red Sea Riviera', the festival doesn't rest on the laurels of its beautiful location, with a lineup that offers a platform for local talent as well as featuring globally respected figures from underground house and techno.
When & where: 3-5 May 2018; El Gouna, Egypt
Headliners (2017): Two Door Cinema Club, Flume, Beatenberg, Black Coffee
Formerly a champion of the harder-edged side of rock music (Wolfmother, Deftones, Gogol Bordello and Bullet For My Valentine are among those to appear), this South African festival has diversified in recent years with pop, indie, hiphop and dance music now sharing top billing out in the bush.
When & where: October 2018; nr. Northam, South Africa
Headliners (2018): Dub Inc, Chameleone, Ferre Gola
For only $1 per ticket, Amani Festival combines the old and the new of Congolese music and culture. Traditional dance, theatre and craft from the surrounding regions are celebrated alongside modern stars of African music, rap, reggae and pop, while young entrepreneurs have a chance to showcase their ideas at the on-site exhibition.
When & where: February 2019; Goma, DR Congo
Previous Performers: Diplo, Oliver Koletzki, MK
Africa's answer to the iconic American festival/gathering Burning Man – complete with mutant vehicles, spectacular daily burns, the core principles of self-expression, community and tolerance, and a soundtrack of electronic music from more or less whoever wants to play.
When & where: 23-29 April 2018; Tankwa, South Africa
Headliners (2017): Anderson .Paak, Laura Mvula, Black Motion
Although it was established in Brooklyn in the early 2000s, its fair to say the spiritual home of the now worldwide movement is the continent of Africa; given its celebration of the talent, strength, solidarity and beauty of the global African diaspora.
When & where: 2018 Dates TBA; Johannesburg, South Africa
Headliners (2017): Carlinhos Brown, Hindi Zahra, Lucky Peterson, Bill Laurance
A real melting pot of music and cultural fusion, blending the traditional rhythms of spiritual Gnawa music with modern musical sounds and styles from across the globe.
When & where: 21-24 June 2018; Essaouira, Morocco
Headliners: Hugh Masakela, Faada Freddy, GoodLuck, Baloji
Swaziland's flag-bearer is one of Africa's best-known and best-loved festivals, with recognition and awards from across the globe. A big part of this comes from its commitment to social responsibility, with all profits going to charities that support local communities and help to fund development projects.
When & where: 25-27 May 2018; Malkerns, Swaziland
Headliners (2017): Habib Koité & Friends, Rocky Dawuni, Kareyce Fotso
HIFA – the Harare International Festival of the Arts – has been showcasing all manner of artistic and creative talent in the Zimbabwean capital for almost two decades. Music, dance, theatre, spoken word and design all make up the six-day programme.
When & where: 1-6 May 2018; Harare, Zimbabwe
Cape Town Electronic Music Festival
Headliners: DJ Stingray, Deetron, The Hacker, Egyptian Lover
Established as a platform for South Africa's blossoming electronic music scene, the festival now balances internationally revered DJs and emerging local talent on their consistently forward-thinking lineup, spanning techno, house, electro, bass and experimental sounds.
When & where: 6-8 April 2018; Cape Town, South Africa
Rocking the Daisies
Headliners (2017): Flume, Two Door Cinema Club, Black Coffee, Joey Bada$$
In terms of your 'classic' open-air music festival – one ticket for a whole summer weekend, a green space with several stages, camping, a multi-genre lineup – they don't come much bigger in Africa than Rocking the Daisies, held each year in the wine-growing region of the Western Cape.
When & where: 2018 Date TBA; Darling, South Africa
Headliners: Jamie xx, John Talabot, Ben UFO, Pearson Sound
Another major player in Africa's new wave of electronic music festivals, with increasingly impressive lineups of forward-thinking and innovative DJs, producers and live acts year on year.
When & where: 30 August - 3 September; Marrakech, Morocco
Ultra South Africa
Headliners: Afrojack, Armin van Buuren, Axwell Λ Ingrosso, Dubfire, Hardwell
At this point, the Ultra Music brand needs very little introduction. Their flagship party in Miami is now two decades old, but it's only in the last 5 or 6 years that the global family has truly established itself. And at present, the South African duo – held in the country's biggest cities – are the only African satellites of the dance music giant.
Up The Creek
Headliners (2017): Mango Groove, Fokofpolisiekar, The Kiffness
While the music on offer is certainly not to be sniffed at, this festival is really only about one thing: the location. Held on the banks of the Breede River, hundreds of fans congregate on the water's surface on inflatable dinghies, lilos, inflatable animals and basically anything that floats.
When & where: January 2019; Barrydale, South Africa
More like this: