Who is Moonchild Sanelly, the South African ghetto-punk singer christened by Beyoncé and Damon Albarn?

After a remarkable first album in 2015, as well as collaborating with Damon Albarn and Beyoncé, the South African based in London Moonchild Sanelly returns this June with a new album titled Levels. The opportunity to meet this charismatic artist who invited to a genre: the ghetto-punk of the future.


Who is Moonchild Sanelly, the South African ghetto-punk singer christened by Beyoncé and Damon Albarn?

Her blue hair has become a signature. His communicative laughter and his sun aura too. With an already solid career, which she has spearheaded since 2006, the mischievous singer, fashion designer, poet, body-positive activist and South African dancer Moonchild Sanelly (Sanelisiwe Twisha of her real name), 34, has shaped her own universe. The one who settled in London even invented a musical style: the ghetto-punk of the future, mixing electro, pop, hip-hop and afro-punk. While mixing English with khosa – a language close to Zulu spoken by nearly six million South Africans – Moonchild Sanelly has managed to attract a solid fan base, including American superstar Beyoncé, Die Antwoord, Major Lazer, Gorillaz and Damon Albarn, as she collaborated with.

It is in a hotel bar in Paris’ 9th arrondissement that we meet the artist from Port Elizabeth in South Africa, who published on June 10, another album titled Levels. A dancing album that advocates for women’s liberation, as well as the desire and pride of being who we are. The formidable singer with a strong character documents the various chapters of a toxic relationship and the stage of liberation that follows, combining soft melodies with more aggressive rhythms. Without a detour, the one who confirms “see definitely changed the music industry in South Africa,”Approaches the world from a leadership position and bases its society on the pride of being a woman in the 21st century. Straightforward discussion with an artist with impressive liveliness and confidence.

Number: How was this new album born, Levels ?

Moon child Sanelly : I am very grateful for the confinement because it allowed me to finally express my vulnerability instead of just advancing the concept of power. Even though I understood that there is power in vulnerability. In this opus, I defend proud people, especially women. Now I need people to listen to him.

Your new album is about toxic love. I read that you stayed in this relationship until the album was finished …

I feel like I stayed in this unhealthy relationship because I needed to write about it. I sent a voicemail to my manager saying:I really know I’m in a toxic relationship right now, but I do not want to go through other emotions without ending my album. I feel like I’ve been through so much in this love story that I have to finish this project before it ends.“I did not want to talk about it from the perspective of an external observer. I wanted to live my hard feelings to the last. I left the day after my birthday.

This album is an ode to women’s liberation. Do you feel like a leader?

I’m definitely a leader. Because in the music industry, where I come from, women have only just begun to take ownership of their bodies. Women are sexy, they can dance, move, love … I have definitely changed my industry in South Africa. I changed the way people look at themselves and the way they take their bodies. In this album, I pay tribute to all the women. One of my songs is for powerful women rather than men. Another evokes the strippers … Women should no longer stand in the shadows, but should be celebrated! If you know who you are, own it and put the rest aside.

Who is Moonchild Sanelly, the South African ghetto-punk singer christened by Beyoncé and Damon Albarn?
Who is Moonchild Sanelly, the South African ghetto-punk singer christened by Beyoncé and Damon Albarn?

I read that you wanted people to identify with your music …

When I make music, when I’m in the studio, I know that when it comes to singing in khosa, I always imagine that I perform this title on stage in front of a large audience. You do not want them to feel left out, especially when it’s a new song. I want my lyrics to be understood by everyone and for everyone to be involved in the same struggle as me. Before I made commercial music, I was one of the best artists in the alternative scene, but not the highest paid … So I said from the beginning to myself that one day I would be the only black girl on the main stage with all the fans of my country behind me who share the same ideals.

Why did you create your own style of music, that future-ghetto-funk?

I was bored. Everything was tried, tested, worked … I wanted to have fun. I wanted to find something that comes from poetry, hip hop, jazz. I wanted to create my own universe. So in 2007, I developed future ghetto punk. The first song in this style was first released in 2015 in my first album called Rabulalpha!. people told me “What a mess” because they had never heard it. No one had done it before. I am my own reference.

How your collaboration with Damon Albarn and with Gorillaz began ?

We met in South Africa with the collective Africa Express, Damon Albarn’s cosmopolitan project. The aim of this project is to bring African artists forward with promising features. Knowing I wanted to be a part of it, I told myself it was going to work out. Then I made ten songs in three days to show my universe. I worked really hard and Damon loved it. We collaborated on the field Sizi Freaks. It was great working with him. He loves me, I love him, and I think the mission is complete (laughs).

You also worked with Beyoncé. How did the collaboration come about?

The collaboration went really well. It was my ultimate music dream. I saw this as the beginning of my world domination. So anything is possible. That was in 2019 at Coachella. Beyoncé’s team came to see me and told me about a project with her. I was not even allowed to tell it to my friends. I was so excited to be a part of the project, The Lion King: The Gift, with her. After that I came back to London (where I live partly). They simultaneously recorded the last song on the album with the title Power, and called me to finish it. So I went straight into the studio because it was for Beyoncé (laughs).

Where do you find inspiration?

I am inspired by different artists, where the concept of power is important. For example, I love Tina Turner and her crowd control. I grew up with it and I remember I wanted that control. Now that I’m an artist, I see her as the definition of power. When you are proud of yourself, many things are eliminated. When I go on stage, I tell myself I’m here to change things and help people be proud of themselves.

How do you feel as a woman in this often male-dominated music industry?

It depends on whether you are tough or not! It is very rare that one has not experienced a difficult situation in the music industry. We learn to sayshit”To people who want to take advantage of the situation. Over time, I learned to do that, even though it was not easy at first. I also learned tricks to obtain all the rights to my productions, my songs and to protect myself. I’m the main voice now, but conflicts can arise when money comes in and who did what on a project. As a woman in the music business, you need to know your craft by heart. You can not afford to relax, because otherwise people will eat you.

Levels (2022) by Moonchild Sanelly, available on all platforms.

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