11 African Music Conferences and Showcases You Need To Know About

Updated: Jan 30

Compass Music is a small team, usually based in London & Paris. I — Sal — am the latest addition, having joined this Spring to take over our social media (follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn) and communication for the company. Usually based in London, I have found myself stranded in Tanzania for the last 6 months, where I came to visit my parents, and I am yet to leave due to the pandemic.

A Moroccan national, I have been enjoying being out of the hustle and bustle of London for the last 6 months, and I am grateful that I ended up self isolating in a warm country surrounded by nature rather than in my tiny room in my drafty flatshare in East London!

Being stranded here made me reflect on what my continent has to offer in terms of homegrown music conferences and showcases, and I decided I wanted to help shine a light on 11 African events that I believe deserve more recognition from the global music community. This isn’t an all inclusive list of all events of the kind across the continent, but simply a small curated selection. If I do not mention an event that you think should be on the list, I would love to hear about it in the comments section.

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1.The Music Imbizo — Durban, South Africa | 26th — 29th August 2020

The Music Imbizo is Durban’s very own international music business conference and exhibition, and stands as a platform for business and cultural exchange in Africa, providing networking opportunities for entrepreneurs in the music Industry. It aims at developing and exporting talent within the continent by encouraging continental travel and collaborations but also internationally. This year it will be running its conference virtually, through a series of virtual sessions, live Q&As, attendee matchmaking and networking, as well as chat rooms for impromptu meetings. You can register to participate here.

Over the years, it has hosted legendary figures like Prof. Joseph Shabalala (Ladysmith Black Mambazo — South Africa), Monte Malone (SNR Vice President — MUSEXPO, USA), Karabo Motijoane (General Manager — Sheer Publishing), and Seymour Stein (Vice President: Warner Bros, USA) Music Imbizo also includes a showcase portion in its programmation, featuring 27 artists from 11 different countries.

The conference will be taking place 26th to the 29th of August 2020.


2. Nyege Nyege Festival — Jinja, Uganda | 3rd — 6th September 2020

Uganda’s world renowned electronic music festival is returning this year with a groundbreaking digital edition. In partnership with Midem, Nyege Nyege will be showcasing East African music to the world with a programme split between physical live events and a free 2 day digital “Spotlight on East Africa” conference accessible through the Midem platform. The conference will be focusing on shining the spotlight on the rich music industry in the region, by featuring key stakeholders and creating new opportunities. In Uganda, the festival will be hosting an exciting line up of african artists in their pan-african showcase in full compliance with COVID safety measures. The showcase will also be broadcasted digitally in collaboration with Kenyan artist and African Digital Art founder Jepchumba, using virtual stages, 360 live camera as well as an “artists only” collaborative area.

Keep up with their latest news on Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/nyegenyegefest/

3. Visa For Music — Rabat, Morocco | 18th — 21st November 2020

Visa for Music is an international music conference and showcase promoting the musical sectors of Africa and the Middle East. Taking place in the Moroccan capital of Rabat this November, VFM focuses on developing relation and exchange between African and middle eastern artists, and encourages music export with the European market. It actively participates in the development of African scenes and the bettering of the status of artists in the region. Now on its 7th edition, Visa for Music invites 30 speakers to participate in panels, workshops and networking sessions. Its showcase represents over 200 artists from an average of 30 countries. The conference hosts more than 200 journalists and 1 000 delegates every year, representing labels and festivals from around the world.

More info & to register : https://visaformusic.com/

4. ACCES — Various locations: Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania | 26th — 28th November 2020

Edit : As we publish this article today 12th August, unfortunately we just learnt ACCES have decided today also to cancelled their 2020 edition.

The Music In Africa Conference for Collaboration, Exchange and Showcases (ACCES) is an annual multi-city showcase for artists across Africa. This year it is scheduled to take place in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania from the 26th to the 28th of November 2020. Organized by the Music In Africa Foundation (MIAF), the conference offers a robust programme including training workshops, industry talks, networking sessions, collaborative recording sessions and visits to key music venues and hubs in the host cities. Their showcase offers a platform for African artists in diverse genres to play in front of local audiences as well as a delegation of international festival promoters, booking agents and record labels. This will be ACCES’ 4th edition, following its launch in 2017 in Dakar, Senegal, its second edition in Nairobi, Kenya and last year’s event in Accra, Ghana. https://www.musicinafrica.net/magazine/call-applications-acces-2020-showcases

5. Sauti Za Busara — Stone Town, Zanzibar | 11th-14th February 2021

Taking place in the historical city of Stone Town in Zanzibar, Sauti za Busara is a globally acclaimed festival attracting people from all around the world every year. The event puts local, regional and African music at the heart of promoting economic growth in Zanzibar, organising a yearly conference and showcase, which welcome over 20,000 people over 4 days.

Their conference is dubbed Movers & Shakers, a daily forum for professionals, providing a friendly and informal space to meet, network and exchange ideas. It also provides learning, exchange and employment opportunities in effort of boosting the creative sector on the Island.

In its showcase programme, Sauti za Busara, hosts more than 400 artists from 38 different countries, mainly from East Africa.

The festival is set to come back next year from 11th to the 14th of February 2021.


6. ONGEA — Nairobi — Kenya | TBA — usually scheduled in February

Previously known as Kenya Music Week, ONGEA is a music forum which serves as a gathering place for music professionals to interact and collaborate to find solutions to Industry issues. The ethos of the event is Trade, Learn and Showcase, and offers a platform of exchange and interaction between various stakeholders in the region of East Africa.

The summit programme consists of 50+ exhibition stands, showcase performances in front of an audience of booking agents from East Africa and around the world, as well as a series of industry panels.

ONGEA also organises an open mic competition for a chance to win two full scholarships to the Sauti Academy, the country’s premiere music school. The summit, in collaboration with Artville Music, also offers free demo recording sessions to its participants.


7. The Africa DJ Expo — Accra, Ghana | 17th — 20th March 2021

Much like the name suggests, The Africa DJ expo is the place to be for African DJs and industry professionals looking to uncover new trends, exchange innovative ideas and explore new opportunities. The expo is centered around African art, music and literature from different cultures across the continent. It also put great emphasis on exposing a wide range of modern technologies being used in the music industry across the globe. In its conference section, the expo hosts professionals from a variety of disciplines so participate in presentations, forums and debates, sharing knowledge and discussing industry issues. The programme also includes networking sessions, which put great emphasis on offering tangible opportunities for participants. The Expo will be gracing the streets of Accra on the 17th to 20th of March 2021. http://africadjexpo.com/

8. Africa Rising Music Conference — Johannesburg, South Africa | TBA — First edition scheduled for spring 2021

The newest entry on our list is the Africa Rising Music Conference in Johannesburg. Gearing up to launch its first ever edition in spring of 2021, the conference defines itself as a collaborative space for taking African music from the streets, to the studio, to the world. Inspired by Beyoncé’s Grammy-nominated album The Lion King: The Gift, Stormzy’s Brit Award-winning Heavy is the Head, Africa Express’s EGOLI, as well as African-music club night sweeping the European continent, the organizers identified that there is a growing global trend of creative collaboration with artists from Africa at their heart. With growing streaming numbers for African artists they see real opportunities in the power of African music across the globe. This independent conference is setting out to become a global rendez-vo