Africa is the world's most varied continent: a place with 53 countries, 2,000 languages and a geography that veers from glaciers to deserts to nine of the world's 20 fastest-growing cities.
Inside that tropical tapestry, South Africa Nelson Mandela's Rainbow Nation is its most multicolored country.
True, the suburbs of Cape Town are a lesson in how segregated different communities can be. But at its best the city offers a relaxed blend of African ethnicity and culture and nowhere does that harmony look, or sound, better than at the summer concerts in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.
The gardens, spread over 89 acres (36 ha), were established in 1913 on the old farm of southern Africa's chief British colonizer Cecil Rhodes, and are the most beautiful in Africa, mixing indigenous Cape species, such as fynbos, silver trees and 8,500 indigenous flowers with hundreds of thousands of imported species. On late, lazy Sunday afternoons from November to April they form what must be the world's most pastoral concert arena. Backed by the natural amphitheater of the majestic eastern cliffs of Table Mountain, musicians perform under clear skies as a golden sun plays on the forest canopy before dipping over the blue peak. The atmosphere is appropriately elysian. Capetonians, known for savoring a slow pace of life, feast on picnics of prawn salad and cold Karoo lamb, washed down with that year's sauvignon blanc from Constantia's famous vineyards, a 10-minute drive away.
The music's got to be good to compete with all that, and the organizers deliver by offering a mix as eclectic as the country they live in. This season, which runs from Nov. 25 to April 6, kicks off with folksinger Vusi Mahlasela, often described as South Africa's Bob Dylan. There follow 26 concerts from performers as varied as the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, pop chart-toppers Freshlyground and punk rockers Fokofpolisiekar, plus four nights of Christmas carols. Tickets are $6-$7 and go on sale two days before each concert.
Book on (27-21) 799 8782/8602. www.sanbi.org