travel journal

Essence Festival Durban 2017, Joy of Jazz Festival 2017

South Africa knows how to have a good time. If the beautiful beaches, once-in-lifetime adventures, and incredible food and wine aren’t enticing enough for you: the country is also home to dozens of music festivals throughout the year.

South Africans and festival tourists from across the globe travel to see their favorite artists perform against this incomparable natural backdrop. If you’re looking for a wild getaway before 2017 comes to a close, two of South Africa’s largest, most celebrated, international festivals are coming up this summer: Essence Festival Durban and Joy of Jazz Festival 2017.

South Africa Music Festivals Travel

Essence Festival Durban 2017

The Essence Festival started in 1994 and quickly became known as “the party with a purpose.” The first festival was planned as a one-time event in New Orleans to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Essence magazine. Today it is the largest event celebrating African Culture and Music in the United States.

The festival has grown significantly over the decades and is now held around the world. In 2016 and 2017 it was decided that festival would be held in Durban, South Africa. This year the Essence Festival will be held during the first week of November.

Essence Festival Durban Lineup

Last year’s lineup included Grammy Award winners Yolanda Adams, Mary Mary, Ne Yo, and Wizkid. The performances cover a wide variety of genres from DJs to Gospel artists to Rap and R&B. Most of the artists featured, including Wizkid, are from Africa or even local to Durban in the case of DJ Black Coffee and Big NUZ.

South Africa native DJ Zinhle took the stage last year with a performance that garnered international attention. Zinhle one of the most respected house DJs in the country and one of the few female DJs in the industry.

Most notably in 2016, Steve Harvey was the keynote speaker. All of the speakers selected, including mayor of Durban Zandile Gumede. All speakers were there to give talks of empowerment and success. The 2017 lineup promises to be bigger and better, drawing more talent, celebrities, and visitors from all corners of the earth.

Planning Your Trip: Where to Stay in Durban

Durban’s beautiful beaches and entertainment make it a vacation destination for South Africans and international travelers alike. There are options for every budget and all are family-friendly. We recommend: African Pride Audacia Manor Boutique Hotel, Garden Court Marine Parade, and Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani.

Planning Your Trip: What to See in Durban

Durban is known for its entertainment and beaches, but it’s also a fantastic location for a family holiday. There is plenty of fun to be had if you’d like to plan an extended trip around the festival. Our top picks for activities and sightseeing in the city are uShaka Marine World, The Valley of 1000 Hills, and Shakaland Zulu Cultural Center.

South Africa’s Joy of Jazz Festival 2017

The Joy of Jazz is South Africa’s oldest jazz festival, celebrating 20 years this September. Held in Johannesburg, this festival attracts an international crowd of 37,000 people annually. Johannesburg is a thriving cultural epicenter of music, art, history, museums, nature and wildlife. The city is a top vacation destination without the festival and a must-see during the Joy of Jazz.

Often referred to as “Africa’s Grandest Gathering,” the Joy of Jazz features 40 artists annually performing an array of jazz styles from across the globe in addition to fusion styles including samba, funk, hip hop, rap, and even electronica. Art, culture, and history are king in Johannesburg. The Joy of Jazz Festival invites artists from the other cultural epicenters of the world to share in South Africa’s uniquely progressive and experimental music scene.

The Joy of Jazz Festival is a testament to how far and how fast the influence of jazz music spread throughout the world. South Africa’s jazz scene took off in the 1940s and had a pivotal role in the anti-apartheid movement. There is also a subset of jazz called Cape Jazz, originating from Cape Town. Cape Jazz is inspired by the carnival music of the area, sometimes referred to as Goema.

With such rich jazz history, it’s no wonder that South Africa is home to several jazz festivals throughout the year. This year the Joy of Jazz Festival 2017 will take place from September 28th through the 30th at the Sandton Convention Center.

Joy of Jazz Festival 2017 Lineup

Headliners for the 20th celebration of the Joy of Jazz include Thandiswa Mazwai, Christian McBride, and “the Golden Voice of Africa” Salif Keita. A majority of the artists are from within South Africa and well-known in jazz circles globally. Mazwai, for example, has been called “South Africa’s finest female contemporary singer” by The Guardian.

Christian McBride, on the other hand, is a master American jazz bassist. He is considered one of the most recorded musicians of his generation appearing on more than 300 recordings in his career. Take a look at the rest of the can’t-miss Joy of Jazz 2017 lineup.

Planning Your Trip: Where to Stay in Johannesburg

Hotels we recommend in Johannesburg that will keep you close to all the action of the Joy of Jazz Festival, but within reach of everything else the city has to offer are: Protea Balalaika Hotel, Da Vinci Hotel Johannesburg, the Sandton Sun Hotel, and the Sandton Garden Court.

Planning Your Trip: What to See in Johannesburg

Johannesburg is a center for art, music, and history. The Joy of Jazz festival is the perfect event to immerse yourself in the vibrant Johannesburg cultural scene. If you’re extending your trip in Johannesburg (believe us, you’ll want to) consider taking in one of these unforgettable historical tour to round out your experience:

For more ideas for activities and sights in Durban or Johannesburg visit us at or view our tours.

South Africa Music Festivals: Let’s Celebrate


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