Gosh, hasn't it been a while since we all got to unwind amongst our friends under the stars, as the pulsing beats of the latest bands teased our eardrums to oblivion?
With any luck we’ll get the chance to do this again soon, as we make slow but steady steps towards recovery thanks to the increasing availability of the vaccines. In fact a number of festivals are looking to take place this year - so if like me you’ve missed them I’m sure you’re waiting with indrawn breath for the official go ahead for these!
In case you're wondering (and you must be since you're reading this blog), festivals in Africa are pretty awesome. Over the years the continent has seen the likes of Michael Jackson, Oasis, U2, Wiz Khalifa, Foals, Elton John, Rihanna and more all grace it’s shores to share their greatest hits live with adoring fans under the beautiful rays of the African sun. And these festivals are increasingly pulling in a diverse international crowd, which isn't a surprise. I mean, what other trip could combine safaris, beautiful natural landmarks, glorious sunshine and your greatest bands all one?
If you’re one for festivals and you’re ready to embrace your next amazing adventure, here are 3 awesome festivals in Africa to check out this year or next:
Mawazine (meaning "rhythms of the world") is a Moroccan International music festival held annually in Rabat, Morocco that has been going on since 2001.
It’s popularity knows no bounds, reaching attendees of 2.5 million people in 2013. Artists of all sorts have graces it stages; from the likes Rod Steward to Kanye, Maroon 5, Usher, Akon, Pit Bull, Mariah Carey and even the great Whitney Houston (boy would I have loved to see that!) Expect unforgettable concerts from phenomenal bands all set in the backdrop of the beautiful Rabat and it’s sister city Sale. Given it's size the festival has no less than 8 different stages and offers 8 wonderful days of non stop entertainment. This is certainly one to watch for the music lovers.
The festival also presents an opportunity to explore the historic coast city of Rabat—which was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012 for its many 12th-century buildings and it’s Islamic and French-colonial heritage, including the Kasbah of the Udayas. This Berber-era royal fort is surrounded by formal French-designed gardens and overlooks the ocean. It’s also worth mentioning the city's iconic Hassan Tower, a 12th-century minaret, which soars above the ruins of a mosque.
Lake of Stars, Malawi
This amazing festival usually takes place every September besides the sun kissed sandy shores and crisp waters of the ocean-like Lake Malawi, an incredible location for an awe-inspiring Afro-pop music and arts festival. Ticket holders can expect to dance all day and night to a diverse array of performers from all parts of the globe including local musicians and recognized DJs.
Lake of Stars usually lasts for 3 days and welcomes hundreds of performers. If you are open minded about the unfamiliar acts, you’ll be rewarded with eye-opening new African music, poetry, workshops and short films. And for those who like their comfort, rest assure the festival comes with electricity, showers and proper toilets - woohoo!
Not to forget while you're there, you’ll be spoiled by an endless list of things to do in Malawi - check out our recommendations here.
Cape Town International Jazz Festival – Cape Town, South Africa
Ahhh how could we forget South Africa. Given the impressive number of festivals that take place here every year it couldn’t escape our list. We had loads to choose from, in the end we decided to go with The Cape Town International Jazz Festival to offer a new genre of music. This annual music festival is usually held in Cape Town in the first half of the year. Recognized as the fourth largest jazz festival in the world, it is also the largest jazz festival on the African continent.
The festival attracts over 35,000 people every year who come to see live performances from over forty international and African artists, across 5 different stages in 2 days.
This phenomenal event takes place at the foot of the Table Mountain, which make it worth the trip for the views alone. And South Africa of course offers much to the visitor, from vineyard tours to safaris, beaches and more. One that should be on your list.
And here's a bonus tip ... Afrochella, Ghana
I know we said 3 but there's just so much choice I had to squeeze one more in there. Ghana is closely following South Africa's footsteps with a rich plethora of festivals worth checking out every year. This time we’ll be focusing on Afrochella, Africa's answer to Chochella, which usually takes place between Christmas and New Year.
Afrochella celebrates the continent's diverse culture and the glowing work of African creatives and entrepreneurs. This one day festival attracts 10,000 visitors every year from all over the world to learn about African culture, interact with people of all backgrounds and absorb top notch African music from the likes of Afro beats pioneers like Wande Coal. And charity is a big part of Afrocahella, with the organisation investing in food trucks to deliver free meals to poor communities across Ghana.
Did I mention that Ghana made CNN's list of top places to visit in Africa this year? Here’s why
So if music and adventure are your thing, be sure to check these out - and see do some more digging to see what else is there - these examples of just the tip of the iceberg.
Ready to go on a trip? Here’s a list of things you need to bring
Today we celebrate Independence Day in Malawi woohoo!
At midnight on July 6th 1966, Malawi became a fully independent member of the Commonwealth, with thousands attending the changing of the flag ceremony at the Central Stadium. It marked a day of freedom, celebration and hope for the nation, and to this day is celebrated annually. Like many countries in Africa it’s independence day reflects just how young a nation Malawi truly is as it makes determined steps towards prosperity.
But what's the history of Malawi, how did it come to be colonised and what led to independence in the end you might ask?
Never fear, we’ve got the answers for you right here!
The region was once part of the Maravi Empire. The name Malawi is thought to come from the word Maravi. The people of the Maravi Empire were iron workers. Maravi is thought to mean "Flames" and may have come from the sight of many kilns lighting up the night sky. The people of the Maravi empire are said to have migrated from what is known as modern day Congo to escape unrest and disease. They migrated, and made their way to the Malawi lake.
Initially, the Maravi Empire's economy was largely dependent on agriculture, producing crops which led to progressive agricultural practices. It was during the Maravi Empire, sometime during the 16th century, that Europeans first came into contact with the people of Malawi. During that time the people of the Marvai empire had access to the coast, so they used this to trade with Portuguese who wanted ivory, iron, and slaves who were sent to work on plantations mainly in Mozambique or Brazil.
Over time the Maravi Empire dissipated, to give way to the Agoni people followed by the Yao people who came up from Southern Africa in the 1830’s. By the time they arrived, independent growth of indigenous governments and improved economic systems was severely disturbed by by the arrival of foreign intruders in the late 19th century.The French who were in the area started trading with the Yao people and also introduced the Sultan of Zanibar to the region who facilitated the expansion of the Islam faith. The Yao were known to be travelled, could read and write using the Arabic alphabet, knew irrigation and built schools.
In 1859 Livingstione arrived. He recorded that he discovered Lake Malawi and after 2 years there started to establish his plans for colonising the land. His first move was to build a church, however his attempts to ‘civilise’ the Yoas was met with resistance bcause they had already converted to Islam. To win the conflict Lingstone took sides with the Mang'anja who were non-Muslims. Together they shot the Yao, burnt their houses and fields. Because the Yaos resisted Chritianity they were branded as uncivilised invaders and enslavers. After failing to convert the Yao in Magomero in 1861 the Scottish sent different groups of missionaries to the region and slowly won the rounding areas to Chsirtianity, drowning out the Yao's faith and their beliefs. Arabic education was not recognised from the 1860s and by 1940’s education in Malawi was controlled by the church.
British influence continued under the church until colonial rule was formalised in 1891 when 1891 the British established the Nyasaland Districts Protectorate. Road. This brought some benefits such as the building of railways and the cultivation of cash crops by European settlers. On the other hand little was done to enhance the welfare of the African majority, while the needs of the European settlers were prioritised. African agriculture remained underdeveloped causing many able-bodied men to migrate to neighbouring countries to seek employment. Between 1951 and 1953 the colonial government's decision to expand the federation beyond Nyasaland caused further despair to it’s African inhabitants.
These negative effects of colonial rule prompted the rise of a nationalist movement. From its humble beginnings during the period between the World Wars, African nationalism gathered momentum in the early 1950s. A key driver was the imposition of the federation, which nationalists feared as an extension of colonial power. The full force of nationalism as an instrument of change became evident after 1958 under the leadership of Hastings Kamuzu Banda, who had returned to the country from the UK where he had studied and practiced medicine. Under Banda’s leadership the nationals achieved independence as the federation was dissolved in 1963.
After independence the countries still face numerous challenges. For one, political independence didn’t result in economic independence. In its first year as an independent nation the country had a £7 million deficit out of a recurrent budget of £16 million. In a country with 4 millions inhabitants just 300 roles in the 2,000 posts in the civil service were held by Africans and no commissioned African officers in the Malawi army. There was also huge regional inequality. After independence the country made some positive strides under Hastings Kamuzu Banda; transport and communications systems developed as well as cash crop agriculture and food production. But this was curtailed by external pressures in the 1980s including Banda’s ties with South Africa's apartheid regime with affected relations with many influential countries and civil unrest fueled by a president who established a single party system and was declared ‘President for Life’.
So where are we now?
Banda has since stepped down and Malawi is embracing a future with promise; it continues to work towards agricultural self-sufficiency, it is investing in conservation and tourism and it’s peaceful and welcoming nature is reputable across the continent - and indeed the world!
There are still many strides to go for it to attain political and economical utopia but it’s determination to achieve this is palpable. Something you do to help is pay it a visit from time to time. And if you happen to arrive on independence day, you will be welcomed with national flags dressing the streets and people celebrating together and a sense of joy and hope for the future lingers in the air.
African Affairs Vol. 69, No. 274 (Jan., 1970), pp. 60-64 (5 pages)