Top 7 Music Festivals in East Africa

One of the most popular music festivals on the continent, Morocco’s Mawazine Festival opened its echoing gates over the past weekend for an earth-breaking lineup of artists throughout this week. Fans were treated to an exhilarating performance by Jennifer Lopez’s opening act on Saturday night, and continue to relish in the soulful rhythms of big movers such as Avicii, Pharell Williams and P Square. Closer home, or rather in Kenya, every music lover loves the Koroga Festival for its healing musical dose as well as rejuvenating outdoor fun. Here are a few more festivals that you can mark your calendar for, as you enjoy the region’s vast touristic offers with



As DJ Yusuf, the founder describes it, SautizaBusara Festival is an African music festival which prioritizes and highlights East Africa. The title which translates to “sound of wisdom” also goes further to intone that it’s not merely a form of entertainment or tourist attraction (although it scores high on both lists!) but also, a learning channel for its massive audience and followers.This event premiered in 2004, and has grown enormously, gaining an enviable position on World’s Top 25 Festivals (Song lines Magazine). The fiesta takes place every February in Stone Town – Zanzibar, bringing together talent from across the region, the continent as well as a diverse fan base from across the globe.

SawaSawa Festival


Now prepping up for its 9th edition, SawaSawa festival strives to promote (music/arts), participate and achieve positive impact on the society through the annual festival. Part of the activities marking the programme include workshops, exchanges between local and international musicians/artists as well as seminars. The event is a brainchild of Sarakasi Trust, an organization that builds, develops and promotes performing arts and entertainment in East Africa. The two-day festival usually takes place in December every year, and has continued to attract higher numbers especially because of its family-friendly concept.

Bayimba International Festival of Arts


If Busara happened too early for you and SawaSawa seems to take a century in coming, then you have Bayimba this September! The festival is a three-day unparalleled festival of music, performed arts, film and visual arts blazing the capital city of Uganda – Kampala with reverberating rhythms and sounds. This year’s edition marks eight calendars since inception and will take place on 18th – 20th September, bringing together celebrated artists from across the region.

Kigali Up


Fairly new in comparison to the rest of East Africa’s Music Festivals, but KigaliUp is causing quite a stir in the region. The festival, now in its fourth year boasts of local and international live performances, a family zone and a diversified art and craft market. This year’s event will take place between 25th – 26TH July

B-Global Indigenous Hip Hop Festival


Another September event, B-Global celebrates hip hop in Uganda by bringing together both upcoming and accomplished artists to hundreds of a youthful fan base. The event, now marking its eleventh year is also celebrated for promoting patriotism as well as embracing virtues that endorse positive living and self-liberation through talents and skills among the youth.

Rift Valley Festival


Techno, house, Jungle, Reggae, Afropop and more, all on the shores of one the most picturesque shores in the Great Rift Valley! Rift Valley festival is a colorful and energetic three day event that has been taking place at fisherman’s camp, one of the most popular camps on the shores of Lake Naivasha. The festival also has the unique factor of bringing together diversified talent especially in the craft and heritage industry, thus presenting great opportunities for souvenir shopping. Its worth of note that RVF is guided by cores woven around a community based concept that promotes welfare and growth. The organization’s ethics revolve around environmental awareness, hygiene and HIV, with different projects marking the respective initiatives.

Lake Of Stars Festival


Since Will Jameson discovered the favorite Malawian drink, Chibuku Shake Shake, its popularity blew off like the proverbial beanstalk. Spreading its roots and pentacles to the furthest corners of the globe (never mind it’s round) Jameson’s invention, the Lake of Stars Festival has since grown to a globally recognized musical celebration taking place on the serene shores of Lake Malawi. The project, born from the desire to expose Malawi as a tourist destination as well as an economical boost has not disappointed from either angles. The 2014 edition is reported to have generated about $1.7 million into Malawi’s economy, with more than eighty seven businesses said to benefit directly from the festival. The festival focuses on growth through seminars and workshops as well as an abundantly refreshing convention of both local and international musicians.

The list could go on and on; from the epic Safaricom Jazz festival, to Ethiopia’s music festival, and Kenya’s picnic styled Blanket & Wines, the list is endless. Feel free to add and mention as many as you think could be our own Glastonbury in the making!

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