My Top 10 South African Festivals

Andrea Chothia

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Festivals are highly treasured all around the world as it brings together completely different people with the help of one common interest. Not only are you there to get a taste of your favourite things, but to have the time of your life while doing it. South Africa more specifically has some of the most […]

Festivals are highly treasured all around the world as it brings together completely different people with the help of one common interest. Not only are you there to get a taste of your favourite things, but to have the time of your life while doing it. South Africa more specifically has some of the most entertaining and spectacular festivals, showing the rest of the world how it’s done. It is no easy task narrowing it down to ten but here they are: the best of the best.

#10 Standard Bank Joy of Jazz- Johannesburg

standard bank

All you jazz lovers, this festival is for you. Placed in the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, this festival has been going strong for sixteen years. The three-day festival has grown so much that the current audience sits at 24 000 people. I am not surprised at that number as the sweet soulful sounds of jazz could probably attract guinea fowls. Even if jazz is not your favourite, the atmosphere alone should win you over.

#9 Synergy Live- Theewaterskloof, Western Cape


If you believe that nature is a gift, something majestic that adds to the experience of your love for music then this is the festival for you. Your hate for camping should not be voiced in the planning of this festival. This event is all about energised fun and simplicity so please don’t bring your kitchen sink along. You should survive without it. The festival is located in between mountains, near a dam, surrounded by graceful farmlands and the stars above. How can the music be anything but a pleasure? The festival offers approximately four stages, each stage dedicated to its own genre. These include hip hop, dub step, rave and indie. So let’s say there is something for everyone under the age of forty? As if it could not get any better, this festival includes a carnival. Yes you read right. A CARNIVAL. As well as a Synergy souk for festival merchandise and a fully-kitted market place with everything irresistible. So, work stressing you out? Trying your utmost best not to hire a hit man? Car problems? Get away and enjoy the simple things in life once more.

#8 FNB Dance Umbrella- Johannesburg

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If you are a dancer, this festival is for you. Just kidding. If anything to do with dance gets your blood flowing then this festival is for you. If you find yourself at an event looking at all the people that are too ‘cool’ to dance, while you are popping red bulls in an attempt to break dance then my dear friend, this is the place to be. Celebrating its 19th year of existence, the festival has become super popular. Dancers and viewers cannot contain their excitement and mark the date off in their calendars each year. The dance umbrella provides a free platform for all contemporary choreographers and dancers to showcase their work to a very interested audience. The festival creates great opportunity for up-and-coming artists as well as programs for youth and community groups. This festival shows the magic in the air when dance, music and creativity collide.

#7 Earth Dance Festival- Pronkles holiday farm, Piketburg, Western Cape

earth dance

If you feel strongly that worldwide peace should be accomplished. If you consider yourself to be a free, spiritual, celebratory person who is constantly one with nature then this festival is for you, no doubt. No, you don’t have to be a hippy. Held annually, Earth Dance has been the largest synchronised music and dance event in an attempt for world peace. The party arenas are decorated in a psychedelic, imaginative way to enhance the trance beats. Established in 1997, the event has since been held in over 600 different locations and over 60 countries. How lucky are we that South Africa is one of them? What makes this festival unique is that it is not just a party but a poetic sacrifice in the prayer for peace. Poetic because you are not alone – the rest of the world is praying along with you for the same thing. The party is the bonus of this event and overall, it should not be missed.

#6 Holi One Colour Festival- Cape Town

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If you are not attached to your plain white t-shirt then do yourself a favour and attend. The Holi One Colour festival invites everyone to come together and enjoy the experience of music, dance, and art. However there is a catch. Quite a thrilling catch. While dressed as convicts or painters, whichever one tickles your fancy, you get thrown with every colour of the rainbow. Remember that it is not just you getting thrown but you have the opportunity to throw other people. The event symbolises freedom of expression and allows for spectacular visual stimulation. This festival should be ticked off on everyone’s bucket list.

#5 Macufe Festival- Bloemfonein


South Africans pay attention! We are not separate from the African continent. We are all Africans so for all of those who firmly believe this, the Mangaung African Cultural Festival (MACUFE) is for you. The theme of 2013’s Macufe Festival was ‘When your heart and soul are African’. 2014’s theme is yet to be announced but we just know it will be something empowering. The Macufe Festival in Bloemfontein is the biggest showcase of African art and culture. It aims to give you the most magnetic of local and international artists. The festival runs for more or less nine days and includes the promotion of art, music, crafts, theatre and even sport. If you feel highly cultured in your African roots or lacking thereof, then this is where you need to be. Developed in 1997, the festival has grown since then attracting more people to the divine diversity and indistinct African heritage. Support your brothers and sisters by going to Caltex garage and taking a road trip to Bloemfontein for the most uplifting experience.

#4 Splashy Fen Music Festival – KwaZulu- Natal

splashy fen

All you need to know is that this is the longest running music festival in South Africa. Splashy Fen now attracts a total of 10 000 people annually and if that is not an indication of a good time then I don’t know what is. If you are a nature junkie, somewhat of a tree-hugger and cannot live without music in between your daily activities then this is the festival for you. Set in the serene Underberg of KwaZulu- Natal, the music is elevated to another level. The picturesque mountains, winding rivers and vast open fields make it the perfect venue to just chill and camp out with those important to you. The festival includes craft markets, food stalls, helicopter flights, swimming and a media centre so even the obsessive business orientated people can feast on free Wi-fi. My fingers are crossed for you guys. The special thing about the Splashy Fen festival is that it is light-hearted; everyone is able to feel relaxed and frolic like a kid in mud (literally). Arriving at a festival to realise that you have successfully escaped the hustle and bustle of reality is ultimately what you want. Therefore what you want is Splashy Fen, hear my voice, you want Splashy Fen.

#3 Rocking the Daisies Music and Lifestyle Festival- Cloof Wine Estate, Darling, Cape West Coast

rocking the daisies

Rocking the Daisies is one of South Africa’s most praised music festivals simply because it is an overdose of adrenaline. Found in the Western Cape, it is the place to let loose. Tickets to this event sell out like hot cakes due to its ever growing popularity. The name already wins me over. Everybody wants to rock something, whether it is an electric guitar or someone’s world. Rocking the Daisies is the ultimate outdoor rock festival that is eagerly awaited every year. I think we can all agree that food at a festival plays a big part in the overall experience and there is a hardcore food court that will keep you head-banging throughout the four days. Camping with friends, channelling your favourite rock n roll is bliss. Just remember to get your early bird tickets.

#2 Cape Town International Jazz Festival


My number 2 has got to be none other than the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF). The festival also known as “Africa’s Grandest Gathering,” has earned that name for never failing to impress. If you enjoy the smooth, spine-chilling notes of Jazz and see trance and dub step as a headache then this is the festival for you. Jazz music having been around for many years, holds the power to bring around good nostalgia and awe of sultry voices with a shiny instrument. Taking on its 15th year, the CTIJF is known for having the most exciting line-ups of accredited artists. Held over just two nights at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), everyone is keen to fit those two nights into their calendar. By everyone I mean the staggering 37 000 jazz lovers. I am sure some people have even ditched their nephew’s birthday to attend. I would. Hopefully my family doesn’t find this article.

#1 National Arts Festival- Grahamstown


Can we get a drum roll for my number 1 festival in South Africa? That’s right, the National Arts Festival held in Grahamstown. If you appreciate all art, whether it’s music, dance theatre, visual art, or film, it’s all at your disposal. Feel free to be a kid in a candy store. This festival not only celebrates the importance of all things art but also manages to create unison of culturally different people with one passion. This festival includes craft fairs, workshops, and tours. The fact that the festival is located in a historic setting such as Grahamstown extends its greatness. You are guaranteed to leave feeling completely immersed in the African culture.

Written by Andrea Chothia

Images sourced online