My Essence Music Festival Durban Experience

I enjoyed my first time in South Africa at the Inaugural Essence Music Festival

Despite what you may have heard it is THE Essence Music Festival and they have been doing this for 20+ years!

Durban never gets the touristy attention of Americans so it is a great thing they are doing and a great location they chose. I am looking forward to the remaining two years. Here are my favorite and least favorite moments:

Lush Greenlands of Durban 🌳

A photo posted by Zaakirah Nayyar (@illuminousone) on


The whole vibe, according to others, still feeling like any other Essence Festival, the only downside was it could have been run better had it not been organized by the South African PR companies. Everything was truly on African Time and disorganized.

I am grateful for my media experience;  I understood that the first annual events don’t always go well; so I was able to ask around and get those ‘secretive’ deets and share them with the Whatsapp group and not be as bothered by the mishaps as others were.

I had a free Uber ride back to the Airbnb where I was staying due to the free credits after taking my 10th trip, going almost every single day to the Convention Center to try to get some information and attend a workshop. Thanks, Capital One!

I met a young, ambitious photographer and had a mini shoot with him (Thanks for my new headshot!) I connected with him on Instagram before I arrived in South Africa and I’m glad he agreed to meet. This entire experience and just seeing how eager he was, gave me the idea that any country I visit, I should make an effort to connect with providing expertise to at least one young photographer.


I was surrounded by beautiful weather; despite the rain, it was summer season at that time, it was cool, and I was comfortable.


I was surrounded by beautiful, kind, caring people. The Nomadness Tribe members I met with, the locals, even the media people I met, were all very generous, not to mention that I got to meet and take a picture with Editor in Chief, Vanessa De Luca.

Essence Foods was delicious! I especially enjoyed to food truck options!

I enjoyed being with a pop-up organization, Tastemakers, where there was a beach party! They played lots of great hits, and I got a taste of the nightlife there!


They had a lot of amazing vendors! I enjoyed networking with a couple of them; especially these guys who created this unofficial app for Essence. It was perfect!

Steve Harvey gave a lecture telling his life story and toward the end said, "I just want ten people to be great." I raised my two hands like I will be one of those people. I’m claiming it now. Another inspiring aspect of his speech was pointing out the story of his and his wife’s personal photographer. I too aspire to have goals similar to his, where he gets to travel to world and document the life of an artist/entertainer. I am a photographer first and foremost, and I am looking forward to checking that goal off my list.


The best part of all were the performances which were amazing once it got started. It was delayed due to rain. It was my first concert as a guest and not a photographer in three years. I was there for NE-YO (Don’t hate, he’s been in the game for 10+ years; I forgave him for what he did to my girl Monyetta, and she did too) and he showed out! I also enjoyed seeing Burna Boy and other South African artists.

I wish I had more photos to share but a quarter way through my trip; I was not able to recover the rest of the images due to dropping my phone on the tile floor of my Airbnb. Lesson learned: get insurance for your phone. All in all, would I return? Absolutely! The experience itself of being in South Africa was amazing!

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