7 African Music Festivals Around the World to Attend in 2021
As the vaccine to combat coronavirus becomes more widely available and people begin safely gathering in groups again, festival and concert announcements seem to be pouring in all at once. Unsurprisingly, musicians and artists are anxious to get out and connect with their audiences, and the feeling is mutual with audiences who want to go out and experience the communal magic of live music after being isolated for so long. Festivals scheduled for this summer and beyond are especially going all out in order to celebrate the return of music, art, and culture to their stages.
Here are seven festivals taking place in Africa and across the diaspora that have gained dedicated followings for their acclaimed musical lineups and unique fan experiences, any one of which is sure to serve as an unforgettable entry back into live concert events.
Known for bringing activism and culture together in one massive event, Afropunk has earned its place as a staple of the festival season in multiple locations since its debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2005. Following the initial launch of this “open cultural space”, offshoot events have taken place in Miami, Johannesburg, London, and Atlanta. The most recent Brooklyn lineup included such globally popular artists as Jill Scott, Leon Bridges, FKA Twigs, and Brittany Howard. Even as the festival grows, the organizers still place emphasis on featuring young black artists and incorporating the concerns of marginalized groups into all aspects of the festival. Though the pandemic forced Afropunk to move online in 2020, the show will finally go on in Atlanta this year on September 25 and 26.
Rocking the Daisies
By introducing the best of South African art and music to the global stage, Rocking the Daisies has gained attention as a must-attend event for anyone looking to find the next big thing in hip-hop, soul, R&B, and Afrobeats. The event draws huge crowds, with more than 100,000 attendees at the last in-person event in 2019. Past lineups have included local musicians and DJs such as Akio, Muzi, Tiny T, and Glen Stylez. Though the beloved festival has previously taken place in Darling in the Western Cape, Rocking the Daisies is returning in full force in both Cape Town and Johannesburg for its rescheduled dates in October 2022.
Founded in celebration of Nigerian music and Afrobeats pioneer Fela Kuti’s illustrious career, this week-long music and arts festival attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world to Ikeja, Lagos each year. In previous iterations of the festival, the lineups have included African music legends such as Hugh Masekela, Femi Kuti, and King Sunny Ade. The Felabration festivities also include a symposium, an arts competition, and an Afrobics dance competition which is open for all attendees to enter. The festival recently confirmed that 2021’s Felabration will take place in person from October 11-17, and that the week’s theme will be “Viva Nigeria, Viva Africa.”
Often called the “world’s number one beach festival,” Afronation has gained a reputation as a must-attend event for international festival goers, partially due to the fact that it takes place on the stunning Praia Da Rocha beach in Portimão. However, it’s far more than just the location that keeps fans coming back year after year: the event boasts a diverse range of musical performances, dining options, and numerous dance parties. Now that Afronation is slated for a July 2022 return, organizers have already begun teasing this year’s extensive programming of live performances and DJ sets from Afrobeats, hip-hop, dancehall, and bashment artists hailing from all over the world.
Though Moga Festival specializes in showcasing electronic music, it uses its historic location in the beautiful city of Essaouira to create an immersive experience for all of its attendees. Alongside an annual roster of over 65 artists and DJs, the festival also offers classes and workshops which allow festival goers to ingratiate themselves into Moroccan culture. In 2019, these activity options included yoga sessions, audio collage workshops, and marocaine cuisine classes alongside the weekend’s musical performances. This year, the festival is planning to relaunch in October, bringing its clash of new music with classic traditions to audiences for its fourth year.
One Africa Music Festival
The One Africa Music Festival prides itself on bringing emerging African music to American soil, identifying themselves as the leading platform for Africa’s best and brightest musical talents to bring their art to a global audience. Now, the festival plans to return to the Ford Amphitheatre on Coney Island’s famous boardwalk on October 1, promising “the best Afrobeat experience” available to brand new audiences. The mix of African and American culture which the festival thrives on is sure to create a unique musical experience for all in attendance as the continent’s distinctive sound meets one of New York’s most iconic landmarks.
With headliners Davido, Kehlani, Ari Lennox, and Honey Dijon already confirmed, YAM Carnival is set to be one of the biggest festival events of the summer. Making its return to London’s Clapham Common, the event prides itself on hosting a celebration of black culture around the world and attracting people from all over the world to join the festivities. Alongside a stellar musical lineup, the festival also holds its own masquerade events in order to bring traditional African culture to London. Elsewhere on the grounds, the festival boasts its own “foodie paradise” featuring eats from across the globe.
Image: Afropunk Johannesburg, courtesy of Instagram
Words: Elise Soutar