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5 modern-day African festivals

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. In this blog, we are taking 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 5000 festivalgoers 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 & magical three-day entertainment experience. Spread over three days, the festival can sometime feels 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 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. 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. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Kelly White

Kelly White is Managing Director of Geo Group Marketing and has been promoting and marketing Malawi’s tourism for over 20 years, after falling in love with the country (as so many of its visitors do), on his first trip to Africa in 1995. Geo Group works for the Malawi Travel Marketing Consortium which consists of the members of Malawi’s tourist industry who are focussed on international markets. Members cater for all travel and tourism needs across the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’ – tours & safaris, game lodges, lakeshore resorts, hotels, adventure activities, watersports, car hire, air charter, etc. Recent leaps in its safari experiences are helping to make Malawi one of the fastest emerging and most complete destinations in Africa. Kelly co-authored a guide book on Malawi, has now visited all the countries in southern Africa and has also been working for the Eswatini (Swaziland) Tourism Authority since 2010.

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  1. Party time!!! These festivals are such joyous celebrations. From the photos it looks like everyone’s having a fabulous time.

  2. The Lake Stars three day festival in Malawi puts the likes of Glasto and Reading in their place. I guess we are not talking deluges and quagmires. I like that there’s art too. Imagine having this festival at the heart of your African travels, what an awesome experience that would be.

  3. How do you get one of those precious 100 tickets to the Natron festival in Tanzania? It is a festival on another level especially with the gastronomy. I bet that there are some interesting people among the lucky 100 with s ticket. What an amazingly beautiful location for a fantastic festival!

  4. I wonder what Livingstone would make of the Cultural festival named after him? Nowadays with the bungee jumping and helicopter rides the Falls are very different to back in his day. He would probably be thrilled to see Zambian Culture thriving.

  5. I feel another gap year coming on. Looking back I was too young and Immature to make the most of the experience first time round. Imagine putting together a travel plan to take in three or four of these festivals travelling round Africa between gigs, being away for 6 or 7 months. To be honest I can see someone basing a great African travel series of TV programmes around these festivals.

  6. I’m so into any kind of festival, so I’m really digging this blog. It’s nice to read about mixes of both modern and traditional festivals in Africa, and I would love to experience all of it if I get the chance. Natron 100 sounds enticing since Tanzania also has tons of top attractions that all kinds of guests can enjoy, so hopping on a festival there would be a fun bonus. Thanks for this blog! It’s a great reference for an African trip. Keep it up!

  7. Oh wow! These are interesting modern day festivals to check out when in the continent. I didn’t actually know there were such events in Africa. I’ve only been familiar of the traditional festivals in Ethiopia. It’s nice to see the other side of things too! More options.

  8. These festivals all look so full of colour and energy, what a great way to experience the culture and soak up the inclusive atmosphere. It’s fascinating that there’s even one for white water kayaking, though I think I’d spectate on the safety of the shore for that one! I really like that there’s something for everyone, whatever your age or interests, whether you want something more traditional or contemporary that you can join in with or just spectate. There seems to be a strong, warm community vibe, and that’s so appealing for travellers who want to get involved.

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