More than rock: the world's most interesting music festivals
Coachella (AAP)

For those of you with itchy feet and keen ears, we've scoured the globe to uncover 10 of today's best yearly music festivals. If you're a fan of live music and festival culture, you'll feel right at home at the following sound-fests. Enjoy!

Plymouth Jazz Festival, Tobago

It's a balmy night beside the Caribbean and thousands of people are gathered on a well-worn cricket pitch; not to watch men in white take wickets, but to dig the cool tunes of the annual Plymouth Jazz Festival. In the four years since its birth, Plymouth has become Tobago's biggest outdoor party and cultural outpouring. Jazz is but a small part of a heady blend that includes all sorts of roots music, including reggae, calypso, soca, funk and blues. It's a melodious stew that attracts music fans from all around the West Indies and (if the number of private jets parked on the tarmac at Crown Point Airport is any indication) an increasing number of high-fliers from overseas.

Buenos Aires Festival de Tango, Argentina

Tango might be a sensual dance form to the rest of the world, but to most Argentines it's more about the music, the rich lyrics and lilting rhythms that float through the streets of Buenos Aires during this 10-day February fest. The music unfolds each night at theatres, parks and even street corners all around the Argentine capital, as the world's greatest living tango musicians strut their stuff. Take advantage of dance lessons (beginner to advanced), art exhibits, fashion and design fairs, and dance competitions, too. For more details, visit the Festival de Tango website.

Oahu Slack Key Guitar Festival, Hawaii

Ki-ho'alu is what Hawaiians call slack key guitar, a definitive and highly distinct island sound produced by finger picking strings that have been slackened or loosened to produce a richer, deeper sound. The festival kicked off in Honolulu in the early '80s and has since spawned mini versions in Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, Oahu. The one-day Oahu event (in August) plays out on the lawn at oceanfront Kapiolani Park between Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head.

Sauti za Busara Swahili Music Festival, Zanzibar

Although originally conceived as a showcase for the Swahili music of East Africa, the Sauti za Busara ("Sounds of Wisdom") Festival has evolved into a stage for artists from all around the continent — Senegalese rap, South African township, Rwandan folk, Malagasy pop, you name it. The February event also includes African theatre, comedy, dance, film and carnival parades in historic Stone Town and Kendwa Beach on the island's north shore. Entrance to all events is free before sunset, but VIP tickets with guaranteed seating are only $20 for the entire fest.

Isle of Wight Festival, England

This was the British Woodstock, a rowdy rock fest that ran for three summers (1968-70) until it was banned by an official act of the British Parliament after nearly a million hippies overran the tranquil island. The event was revived in 2002 with the same cutting-edge sounds as the original. Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Snow Patrol and Lou Reed have topped recent bills. Tickets go on sale in February for the June fest and are best bought online.

Fez Festival of World Sacred Music, Morocco

"Let's all learn to get along" is the underlying theme of the Festival of World Sacred Music, which unfolds each June in and around the medieval city of Fez in northern Morocco. From Gregorian chants and classic gospel to Carnatic vocals from southern India and Sephardic Jewish crooners, the event attracts leading faith-based artists from around the globe. The festival menu runs from sunrise shows at Merinides Quarry to al fresco evening performances in the patio of the Batha Museum. Best bet is a "Festival & Rencontres" pass for €310 ($540) which gives access to all musical events, films, exhibitions and morning colloquia by global doyens of culture, peace and spirituality.

Austin City Limits Music Festival, Texas

With 130 bands kicking night and day on eight different stages, "ACL" is America's single largest annual musical event, a one-time country/folk hoedown that morphed into a smorgasbord of just about any genre you can name. Bob Dylan, Bjork, Ziggy Marley, Nickel Creek and the White Stripes are among recent headliners. VIP tickets are sold online for US$850 ($1025), but you get some bang for your buck including open bar, free gourmet food tastings, air-conditioned bathrooms and a shady VIP grove to snooze away the afternoon. The September shindig spills out of Zilker Park into downtown Austin, with just about every bar along Sixth Street offering live music until the wee hours. Hotel San Jose is a blast from the hard-living Texas past, a '30s motor court updated to the 21st century.

Tamworth Country Music Festival, Australia

The thriving country music scene Down Under comes into full bloom each January in the NSW town of Tamworth. From Nashville notables to up-and-coming Aussie stars, more than 800 artists perform at the sprawling 10-day event. Among highlights are the Live Free concert in Bicentennial Park and the Busker Fair along Peel Street, during which more than 600 street musicians strut their stuff. The Country Music Train provides round-trip transportation from Melbourne as well as air-conditioned sleepers and breakfast in Tamworth for the length of the festival; $2500 per person.

Salzburg Festival, Austria

Mozart rather than mosh pit; the world's premier classical music event is a month-long extravaganza of concerts, drama and opera near the foot of the Alps. Venues range from Baroque churches and palace gardens to an old granary and former salt mine. And truly, what could be cooler than listening to "a little night music" in the place where Mozart was born? Ticket orders (via mail) are accepted as early as January for the summer fest, although individual tickets can be purchased online for events that don't sell out.

Coachella Valley Music Festival, California

Holy Grail of the alt-rock crowd, Coachella is a three-day fest that unfolds in April on the 32-hectare grounds of Empire Polo Club in Indio. The tunes are often complemented by sweltering weather, with the mercury sometimes hitting triple digits as acts like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Arctic Monkeys and Mika hit the stage. And, being so close to Hollywood, you get surprise guest appearances (like Scarlett Johansson singing with The Jesus and Mary Chain).

Be sure to check out our photo gallery of the world's top music festivals by clicking here:

What's your favourite music festival, either national or international, and why?

User comments

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