Now in its 14th year, the annual festival has nine stages, satellite bar areas and a variety of local merchandise and trading opportunities, attracting a capacity audience of 30 000 people and bringing the town to a standstill.
The event has also expanded to include Iomma, the Indian Ocean Music Market, an annual record industry trade fair.
In 2007, the owner of Zigzag surf magazine Andy Davis was invited to attend Sakifo. He experienced “heaven on earth”, as he puts it.
Davis met Sakifo festival director Jerome Galabert and immediately began to discuss bringing Sakifo to Durban.
There was a vital need for a festival in Durban, as the Igoda festival circuit was already successfully linking Bushfire in Swaziland, Azgo in Maputo, Africa Day in Joburg and Sakifo.
Igoda, the Zulu word for "knot", is a metaphor for the network of these initiatives.
By providing economies of scale for the festival producers and increased revenue for the artists, the touring circuit supports growth and development; arts mobility and expands the creative economy.
In 2012, Davis and Galabert met Sipho Sithole on Reunion Island. Sithole, a doctor of philosophy, is founding director of Native Rhythms Records, and the producer of the Moshito music market.
Sithole, Galabert and Davis partnered to create Zakifo, the sister festival to Sakifo and, in 2015, it was launched with a small street party outside the Beer Hall and City Hall in the centre of Durban.
Although the festival was not well attended it filled some important gaps in the industry.
Igoda festival circuit founder and director of Swaziland’s Bushfire Jiggs Thorne said: “We were excited to have a Durban-based partner because it really makes sense for the Swaziland, Mozambique, KwaZulu-Natal triangle.”
The inclusion of Zakifo and a Durban leg on the Igoda festival circuit activated the cultural tourism possibilities of the East3route, an intergovernmental art, culture and heritage exchange established in 1999.
Igoda continues to generate tremendous interest in the region. Neighbouring countries, Zimbabwe (with the existing Hifa Festival) and Botswana are looking to participate in the future. And there is a long-term vision to use the template Igoda has provided in southern Africa in East, West and North Africa.
Zakifo, now in its third year, has moved to the Blue Lagoon promenade. Zakifo Festival is programmed in partnership with Sakifo, which due to its long-term reputation, has provided a conduit to big-name artists and sponsors.
Reunion airline Air Austral and the South African Department of Arts and Culture are sponsors, allowing the organisers to present a programme that is fresh and exciting.
A big growth point and drawcard for the festival is the signing of Damian Marley as this year's headline artist.
Marley has a fantastic tour lined up, with performances in Durban, Mauritius, Reunion Island, Kenya and Ethiopia.
There is a natural musical affinity between the maloya sounds of the Mascarene islands and the mbaqanga and maskanda of KwaZulu-Natal. No Reunion artists will be performing this year, however guitar maestro Ray Phiri and songstress Lu Dlamini will provide the KZN flavour.
Tuareg blues rock guitarist Bombino from Niger is the world music highlight. French electro trio Birdy Nam Nam and Capetonian, Yannick Ilunga aka Petite Noir, will provide the new dance moves. They are performing all around southern Africa on the Igoda circuit.
There are a host of other exciting performers particular to the S/Zakifo festivals: Cape Town electronica pioneers Felix La Band and Sibot; Ghanaian electro-soul singer Jojo Abot; Durban new sound electronic duo Easy Freak and English urban punk duo Nova Twins. Native Rhythms Records, as a partner on the festival, will present some of their artists: The Soil, former Drakensberg Boys' Choir singer Jobie Clarke and Sotho rapper Kommanda Obbs.
A focus of the Igoda festival circuit is the development of local talent. The 2017 Bushfire programme is 40% local, bringing in 11 acts from Swaziland to the main stage of the festival. The annual Road to Bushfire feeder programme has created this success. Azgo in Mozambique offers 50% local music. Zakifo has a 20% local participation.
Festival director Gabriella Peppas said: “Zakifo is still a young festival and we are trying to grow. We are hoping to start a school festival, as well as a project called Sound of Zakifo, which will be in the lead-up to the festival and will look at developing KZN talent.”
Details and giveaways: Zakifo, Blue Lagoon, Durban, May 26 to 28; Sakifo, St Pierre, June 2 to 4, Reunion Island. Two free weekend passes are on offer to African Independent readers. To claim your free pass contact [email protected]