Africa is known for some amazing traditional festivals that showcase the rich and diverse cultures found across the continent. But it is also home to a growing number of modern-day festivals, created in the current era and celebrating the vibrancy of music and arts in Africa now. Kelly White, writing on his blog, takes a look at some of the continent’s best modern-day festivals.
Lake of Stars, Malawi
This three-day music and culture experience, hosted at the end of September, sees over 5 000 festival-goers coming to the shores of Lake Malawi. For visitors looking for more than African wildlife safaris, Lake of Stars festival has continued to act as a beacon for Malawi’s unique cultural and natural attractions, drawing in ever more visitors and gaining a huge amount of international exposure.
Lake of Stars plays a pivotal role in helping local artists showcase their talent alongside acts from Europe and North America. While traditional music and dance are represented at the festival, the main focus is on the contemporary. With the likes of Malawian hip-hop, singer-songwriters, Afro-pop and psychedelic gospel, Lake of Stars caters to everyone’s interests, which is why this festival goes from strength to strength and has recently celebrated its 15th year.
“This festival is about changing perceptions.”
MTN Bushfire, Eswatini
Bushfire festival, named as BBC’s Top African Festival, is held in the last weekend of May and draws a multi-generational global community of up to 20,000 to the scenic Malkerns Valley to experience an eclectic Pan-African and international line-up of live music, theatre, poetry, film, circus, dance and visual arts.
A vibrant handcraft market, family-friendly performances & Kid Zone as well as the newly-introduced interactive art and dialogue space, create a truly diverse and magical three-day entertainment experience.
Spread over three days, the festival can sometimes feel like three different festivals, starting with Friday introducing lesser-known folk and traditional bands. The Saturday offering stadium-like concerts with radio-friendly songs, and Sunday’s day festival bringing the big names that appeal across many generations.
Natron 100, Tanzania
Every November, this unique three-day, two-night festival unfolds in the amazing sand dunes of Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania. A celebration of nature, culture and adventure, this festival offers much more than just music – a gastronomic thrill with signature cocktails and free-flowing wine, adventure, and good music.
There are only 100 tickets available, and the festival wristbands are handmade by the local Maasai women. This wristband gives you access to free activities during the weekend, including rock climbing, waterfall hikes, and viewing flamingos and fossilised footprints. In addition to free activities, guests also get free wine, beer, evening meals, and a brunch on the last day of the festival.
The Nile River Festival, Uganda
If it’s thrill and excitement that you look for in an event, welcome to Africa’s largest and longest running white water festival. This four-day event, taking place in January makes the most of some of the biggest rapids in the world and celebrates all that the River Nile has to offer. This festival attracts some of the best kayakers from all over the globe to compete for the champion title.
This year, the festival and its guests saw the introduction of the mountain biking race as well, and the first ever freestyle white water rafting event. It is still a festival so the likes of the obligatory parties, live music and general festival vibes are also very present.
With the imminent Isimba dam already well under way; the last few years of Nile River Festival are rapidly approaching. So be sure to get yourself to Uganda to enjoy this unique event before it’s too late.
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 Victoria Falls. So, whether you’re a foodie, thrill seeker, or a culture vulture, there is something for everyone at Livingstone International Cultural Arts Festival. n
*Kelly White is Director of the Malawi Travel Marketing Consortium. Malawi Travel Marketing Consortium aims to provide you with the best information to make Malawi your tourism destination.