Africa Travel News

Dance down Darling Street

Arguably South Africa's best festival is the Cape Minstrel Carnival. The month-long event is filled with music and dancing, but the best time to participate is on its first day, where troupes file through the streets of the city in a bright display of songs, sequins and general revelry. 

The festival dates back hundreds of years, when Cape Town slaves were given one day off for the entire year. That day was historically Jan. 2, though these days the carnival kicks off on the first of the month, according to Cape Town Tourism. The festive nature of the event supposedly traces its roots to the improvised performances of an African-American band of musicians, who docked in the Cape and entertained sailors. Today's troupes draw their bright, sequined outfits, parasols and raucous acts from 19th century American minstrelsy, according to Lonely Planet. 

Cape Town Tourism compares the festival to Mardi Gras for its embrace of freedom, but it is also similar in that the celebration is the result of months of practice and preparation. The songs performed, covering a history of music from 200-year-old tunes to pop songs interpreted in a local style, are rehearsed as far as six months in advance.

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