Moonchild Sanelly is not a Phase.

by | Aug 16, 2022 | CSA Celebrates, Culture, Entertainment, Music, Music From Africa, Talent, The Wire, Trends

  • Providence: South Africa
  • Agent Provocateur
  • Liberation for women
  • A collection of South African sonics, for international appeal.
  • The Phases of Moonchild Sanelly

Sanelisiwe Twisha, Moonchild Sanelly’s mother, always knew that Port Elizabeth, now called Gqeberha, could not hold the vast talent of her daughter. Cast as an agent provocateur from early days when she performed racy poetry recitals at university, monikers like “outrageous” and “shocking”, were regular headlines attached to her persona. The artist, fuelled by ambition, would take her narrative of gender equality and expression from the local to a global stage. That it would be served with a healthy dollop of erotic appearance and unbridled sexuality, is both an in joke and a lesson from the intellectual Moonchild Sanelly, who is ever present behind the controversy. Her latest album, “Phases”, arrives with superb timing as the world turns ugly to women. South Africa is not alone with its gruesome gender-based violence; the U.S. supreme court cares nothing for the reproductive rights nor integrity of the nation’s women, and; economically, women around the world have suffered the most as we exit the global pandemic into an uncertain future.

Liberation for women.

“Liberation for women, in the bedroom, in the boardroom, knowing your power… I need to be heard by a lot of people,” says Moonchild of “Phases”. This becomes a riveting manifesto, cast as stories for women who are empowering themselves, as well as the overall grand vision for this project.

The album also pays homage and draws energy from her mother, who passed away shortly after sending her from Port Elizabeth to Durban to study. “She was absolutely different from the ladies of her age,” recalls Moonchild with an affectionate laugh. “The ladies of her time would look at her like they are looking at me now. My mom was a ‘baddie’. Everyone had husbands and she didn’t! You’d never see me in the streets, on a corner with a boy or doing anything consuming my time (unnecessarily): my mom was very conscious, and she put me on stage when I was 6 months old! I made our existence worth it.” Creatively, pop icon Brenda Fassie would be her muse. “Her music was around me and really affected me,” Sanelly explains. “When I was four, we did a music session, and I chose her song. When I meet people that met her in person, they’re always like ‘your similarity is not only a music thing, it’s also your personality, how you don’t give a fuck and you just do you and the world adapts to you’.”

Liberation from patriarchal narratives and systemic bias comes through hard on the album. “I try to represent different types of women, different from the society standard of successful women,” she says. “That’s why I’ve got “Strip Club”: I’m celebrating girls taking their money and having fun! I’ve got a song about a side chick choosing her position, knocking on a married man. She doesn’t want any ownership; she just wants to be on his schedule. I’ve got my “Undumpable”: you’re not gonna dump me after everything I’ve invested in this relationship – that’s my crazy women! We all deserve respect.”

A collection of South African sonics, for international appeal.

The double, 19-track album released under Transgressive Records & Gallo Record Company, cleverly recognises Moonchild’s sonic sensibilities. Her instantly recognizable voice and cadence powers up musical genres like R&B, Pop, Amapiano, Grime, Gqom and House. They are the rocksteady foundations of the various tales she weaves. The production, meanwhile, features rolling drum patterns and rugged electronic rhythms, Amapiano air pads, rich Gqom and even a lush RnB moment. Yet it’s the South Africa flavour on these beats that makes the album so very “now”. As our sound goes global, it is fitting that Moonchild’s voice and identity is part of this dissemination.

The Phases of Moonchild Sanelly

Formidably, Moonchild Sanelly stamped her own touch on Gqom, shaping the sound through collaboration with pillars of the scene such as DJ Tira, DJ Lag, Busiswa and DJ Maphorisa. Her creativity was fecund in the alternative scene by quickly pivoting into more experimental house and rap music on projects like Nüdes and many other features including British GORILLAZ. Featured on Beyoncé’s “Lion King” soundtrack is a particular highlight.

And so “Phases” is the next step in the journey of a talented woman and a unique artist.

C.S.A.’s monthly cultural portal, The WIRE connects the dots of culture. With concise stories, many with video content, take a premium dive into the world of African entertainment & cultural fluidity. It’s one thing to be hip to what’s happening but it is another to know why.

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