As winter winds down and springtime rapidly makes its approach, savvy travelers have their sights set on adventures and excursions worthy of envy-inducing Instagram photos and Snapchat Stories. The warmer weather also brings festival season, and lovers of virtually every genre of music can find themselves a place in the sun where they can get their groove on.
In the U.S. alone, live music events boast an inescapable draw: mainstream, multi-day festivals like SXSW, Coachella, and Bonaroo appeal to a broad range of musical tastes as they feature well-known, established acts and buzzed-about emerging artists in hip-hop, pop, and rock; the venerable New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (aka, Jazz Fest) delivers iconic blues, jazz, soul, and R&B performers, with native New Orleanian artists occupying much of the festival’s spotlight; and the annual Essence Festival brings a variety of triple-A and independent R&B, soul, hip-hop, and gospel acts to the Big Easy. Las Vegas’ Life is Beautiful festival and San Francisco’s Outside Lands events unite locals and tourists each year; Afropunk’s events in Brooklyn and Atlanta continue to draw the unapologetically Black and Afrofuturistic; The Roots’ Picnic rivals any number of Fourth of July weekend parties; and hundreds of smaller festivals pepper the country’s major cities and mid-sized towns all summer long.
For music lovers with an insatiable case of wanderlust, no distance is too great to travel to see their favorite artists perform and to discover artists they may never experience at home. International live music events such as North Sea Jazz Festival out of Rotterdam, Paris’ Rock en Seine, and even the late-winter Dubai Jazz Festival, offer something for anyone with passport in tow. Taico Club in Nagano, Japan, just outside Tokyo, is the place for dance and electronica; and Lollapalooza Brasil offers revelers a chance to throw their hands in the air and wave ‘em like they just don’t care in São Paulo.
Two of the most exciting international music festivals may also be two of the most unexpected. The four-day Byron Bay Bluesfest takes place during Easter week in the beach city of Byron Bay, Australia. The brainchild of music industry veteran and Australia native Peter Noble, Bluesfest features a who’s who of global performers—with an emphasis on indigenous Aboriginal musicians—in the line-up. Now in its 28th year, 2017’s festival includes Mary J. Blige, Corinne Bailey Rae, The Suffers, Trombone Shorty, and Gregory Porter; Snarky Puppy, Mavis Staples, Gallant, and Laura Mvula are also on tap to perform. In addition to the main Bluesfest activities, the event includes the Boomerang Festival, founded by Rhoda Roberts, a member of the Bundjalung nation, to celebrate indigenous music, art, and culture on the same festival grounds.
With Australia being slightly more than a hop, skip, and a jump away from most U.S. cities, many of the artists featured during Byron Bay Bluesfest also take the opportunity to play additional dates in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth, and to tack on dates in New Zealand as well. Music fans trekking to Byron Bay may opt for a similar itinerary and take advantage of visiting as much of Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific as possible while there. Getting to Byron Bay itself is relatively simple, with the more cost-effective option being to fly into Brisbane and take the bus into Byron Bay—roughly a 2-hour drive. Lodging in Byron Bay and close-in surrounding areas ranges from top-of-the-line hotels and resort-style accommodations to budget-friendly motels, hostels, and vacation home rentals.
The 20th annual Gnaoua World Music Festival (Festival d’Essaouira Musiques du Monde), created by Neila Tazi to shine a spotlight on Gnaoua music and African roots and culture, brings artists from across the globe to the small fishing town of Essaouira, Morocco. This port city on the country’s Atlantic coast is a beloved destination for windsurfers and travelers looking for a more relaxing Moroccan experience than typically found in more popular tourist destinations like Marrakesh and Casablanca, but music lovers in the know flock to its breathtakingly beautiful center for this yearly celebration of music from around the world. Falling usually in either mid-May or late June (this year’s Gnaoua World Music Festival takes place June 29-July 1), the festival’s line-up predominantly features artists from various parts of the African continent; the majority of the acts tend to be Moroccan, but musicians from Nigeria, Mali, and Senegal have regularly graced the Gnaoua stage. The festival also offers attendees the opportunity to experience music from Pakistan, Switzerland, Germany, Guadeloupe, Spain, and France, not to mention U.S.-based artists such as Christian Scott and Blitz the Ambassador. In advance of this year’s event, the festival is hosting a special performance at Paris’ renowned Le Batalclan on March 27.
Flights in and out of Essaouira may not be as frequent or as economical as those in and out of larger cities such as Rabat or Marrakesh, but they’re certainly a possibility depending on one’s city of origin from the U.S. (it’s not a bad idea to research travel options out of certain European cities as well, even if traveling from the states). Essaouira’s lodging options vary from traditional riads (which can be as budget-friendly as they are beautiful) to familiar hotel chains.
So what are you waiting for? Pack a bag, grab your passport, and head off to experience global sounds anywhere in the world!