A continent of 54 countries, 2000 languages and over 3000 tribes, Africa has a staggeringly diverse array of cultures. It’s no surprise that Africa is home to some of the best cultural festivals on the planet
The wide variety of music, cultural, harvest, and religious festivals in Africa is almost as unique as the continent itself. Some of these festivals are well-known and attract people from around the world, but all offer a distinctive form of celebration that highlights the wide array of African cultures and customs.
If you plan on journeying to the Motherland, Here are must-attend music festivals in Africa that will blow your mind
- Sauti za Busara, Zanzibar
For 10 years Zanzibar has been host of the “Sounds of Wisdom” festival – a celebration of the best music from across the African continent. Each year there’s a diverse line up of acts, covering genres such as Zimbabwean rap-rock, Senegalese reggae and Rwandan Afro-pop. In addition to music performances, during the festival you can also catch fringe shows of drumming, music documentaries and traditional dancing.
2020 Sauti za Busara Festival Dates: 13th -16th of February
- Ouidah Voodoo Festival, Benin
Voodoo is a part of everyday life in Benin, and this wild festival in Ouidah (in January) showcases the ceremonies surrounding the magic. Almost 10,000 people visit Ouidah every year to attend this festival, for Benin’s voodoo adherents is an inevitable appointment, but there are also many natives living in the Americas, particularly in Brazil and Haiti, returning to their Ancestors’ land to relive cultural and traditional practices.
- THE GEREWOL FESTIVAL – LATE SEPTEMBER, CHAD
During this week-long festival, tribes gather on foot, via camel or donkey to come together to dance, feast, and most importantly – attract a lover or mate. The men, who carry a small pocket mirror with them at all times, spend hours preparing their clothing and makeup for the Yakke dancing – in which three female judges each pick a winner who will carry acclaim and fame for years.
Being a witness to the Gerewol festival is a rare opportunity for travellers to broaden their cultural horizons, and definitely worth planning a trip around!
- Panafest, Ghana
Panafest is a festival of African dance, music and other performing arts. It holds in Ghana biennially for Africans and people of African descent as well as all persons committed to the well-being of Africans on the continent and in the diaspora. It launched in 1992, and has continued to witness huge following and colours. The festival mainly addresses the traumatic interruption that occurred in the natural evolution of African societies.
- Fêtes des Masques (Festival of Masks), Ivory Coast
Fêtes des Masques is Ivory Coast’s famous annual festival which holds in November. It features colourful competitions between villages in order to find the best dancers. Fêtes des Masques is used to pay homage to the forested spirits embodied by the villagers who wear colourful costumes and fabulous, handcrafted masks (many handed down from one generation to another) during the festival.
- Calabar Festival, Nigeria.
Arguably Africa’s biggest street party, this festival lasts the better second half of December featuring unmatchable entertainment, spectacular colours, unbeatable activities and unimaginable exhibition of culture. It began in 2004 as part of activities to make Cross Rivers States, Nigeria, an African leading tourism destination. Its venues include the Millennium Park, The UJ Esuene Stadium, the Cultural Centre Complex, Marina Beach and Resort, Tinapa and the Botanical Garden all in Calabar.
- Argungun Fishing Festival, Nigeria
The Argungu international fishing and cultural festival is the most widely attended in Nigeria and perhaps the oldest known festival of its kind. The festival started initially as an informal family and communal affair, and has undergone several changes and modifications. The main event is the fishing contest in the River Mata Fada. More than 30,000 fishermen had taken part in the annual Argungu fishing contest, using nets and traditional gourds made with calabashes. The festival holds in Kebbi State in north east Nigeria.
- Livingstone Cultural Festival, Zambia
April is a great time to visit Zambia. Not only is the Victoria Falls at its fullest, but the Livingstone International Cultural Arts Festival is held – celebrating its 5th year in 2019. Held during the Freedom Day long weekend, visitors have the opportunity to indulge in traditional cuisine and celebrate Zambian culture. Visitors experience the power of African music and culture at the annual event that showcases the best Zambia has to offer. From music, art, to thrilling adventure activities like bungee jumping and helicopter rides, this festival truly is the epitome of Zambian culture.And if that wasn’t enough, there may even be a chance to see a lunar rainbow over the Vitoria Falls. So, whether you’re a foodie, thrill seeker, or a culture vulture, there is something for everyone at Livingstone International Cultural Arts Festival.
- Mombasa Carnival Festival
The Mombasa Carnival happens every November. It is one of the biggest and most popular festivals in Kenya. The event is organized by the Ministry of Tourism, and it celebrates the traditions and ethnic diversity in Kenya. This vibrant festival in Mombasa, a city that has been influenced by African and Arabic customs for many years.
The main features of the event revolve around two colourful parades with people showcasing amazing costumes from different ethnic groups. Dance and music are also play an integral part of this festival. Men and women are often dressed in the traditional Kikoy and Kanga, which usually have Swahili phrases boldly printed.
A mix of traditional and contemporary artists join the celebration, making it a refreshing introduction to east Africa’s rich cultural diversity. Energetic traditional dances, as well as contemporary forms and belly dancers are performed as local bands showcase their art and talent.
Tourists who visit Mombasa during the festival have the opportunity to shop for souvenirs and enjoy delicious Kenyan dishes.