World Music Festivals on Every Continent


No matter where you happen to be in the world, there’s a celebration of music happening somewhere close by at some point during the year. These festivals can be targets of opportunity if you happen to be in the right place at the right time, or you can coordinate your travels with (most of) these festivals as your primary objective. Either way, you can check each continent off your bucket list while you check out some good music.


Rock in Rio

This festival, which started in 1985, is taking place in its original hometown of Rio de Janeiro this year in September. Featuring every kind of music you can think of, and this year’s lineup has some pretty stellar international artists including The Who, Lady Gaga, Tears for Fears and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. If you’re in South America and you’re a music fan, don’t blow it. Go to Rock in Rio.




Isle of Wight Festival

Held on the little island off the south coast of England, the legendary Isle of Wight Festival started in 1968 with seven bands backing up headliner Jefferson Airplane, and about 10,000 in attendance. By 1970, it had grown into a world class festival with the likes of the Doors, Miles Davis and The Who, which recorded a live album there, on the lineup. The Isle didn’t hold another festival till 2002, and every year since, the festival has been one of the world’s major music gatherings ever since. Recent years have featured Arcade Fire, The Black Keys, and Pharrell Williams on the lineup. The next one is in June 2018


The southernmost music festival in the world, IceStock has taken place every year since 1989. The lineup consists of bands made up of people working at McMurdo. This is an exclusive event with one way in: you must work at McMurdo Station on Ross Island and be there on New Year’s Day (summer in the southern hemisphere). It makes the list because, for obvious reasons, it’s the only music festival held on the continent.

Rainforest World Music Festival


This unique event held in the jungle on the island of Borneo is very much a world music festival. You won’t see your favorite pop stars here. Artists from across the spectrum of musical genres converge on a village at the base of Mount Santubong in Sarawak. Local music as well as music from the rest of Asia, Europe, Africa, The U.S.A., the Pacific Islands and Australia is represented at this gathering the jungle. The festival takes place every July.


One of the most famous music festivals (also an industry conference) in the United States, every March in Austin, Texas is SXSW (South by Southwest) when the whole of the music business and loads of popular artists take over the city for the week-long event. Rock, Hip-Hop, Blues, Country and all the other genres are represented. Music aficionados must attend.

Festival au Désert

The first of these festivals was held in 2001 in a remote area of the Sahara Desert in Mali. Due to the hazards of traveling through the Sahara and security considerations, in 2010, the event was relocated to an area outside the ancient desert city of Timbuktu. A world music festival where artists from all over Africa come together, and Tuareg music features heavily, the event has also hosted rock stars from the west including Robert Plant and Bono. Due to political unrest, the festival has been postponed since 2013, and went on tour in 2016, but check the website, that won’t last forever.

Splendour in the Grass

If you happen to be Down Under around the end of July, Byron Bay, NSW hosts the Splendour in the Grass music festival. Since 2001 the festival attracts big name acts from all over. Up to 30,000 music fans attend the 3 day event. Past headliners on the mainstage include Queens of the Stone Age, The Cure, and Jack White.

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