Cross-genre artist, Moon­child Sanelly has never been afraid to speak her mind, through her lyri­cism and per­for­mances, bring­ing sex­ual pos­i­tiv­ity and so­cially charged con­ver­sa­tions to the dance floor

Elle (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

Moon­child Sanelly speaks her mind

With her trade­mark blue­moon mop hair and un­apolo­getic stance, Seneziwe Sanelly, oth­er­wise known as Moon­child Sanelly, is one to watch. For years the ec­cen­tric cre­ative was the dar­ling of the al­ter­na­tive mu­sic scene, mak­ing waves in­ter­na­tion­ally with her de­but al­bum, Rab­u­lapha!, which gained her a size­able fol­low­ing in the UK and USA. De­lighted that her home coun­try’s fi­nally claim­ing her as one of its own, she aims to in­spire women and chil­dren to ex­press them­selves and live out loud by cre­at­ing mu­sic with a unique voice and per­spec­tive. ‘I’d like to see more women and chil­dren be­ing them­selves; I want to see more chil­dren not tol­er­at­ing any non­sense or re­peat­ing un­nec­es­sary cy­cles. I want women to own their power and be

able to say “no” to any sit­u­a­tions where they have to compromise them­selves,’ she says. The singer sealed 2017 with South Africa’s smash sum­mer hit, Mid­night Star­ring, pro­duced by lo­cal DJ Mapho­risa and DJ Tira and fea­tur­ing Distruc­tion Boiz and Bu­siswa. Since then, her ca­reer’s soared to new heights, see­ing her share stu­dio time with Bri­tish vir­tual band Go­ril­laz and per­form as the open­ing act for Die Ant­wo­ord on their Euro­pean tour this year.

Where did you grow up and what ig­nited your love for mu­sic?

I grew up in Port El­iz­a­beth, raised by my aunt and my mother. I was al­ways sur­rounded by mu­sic and each fam­ily mem­ber ex­posed me to dif­fer­ent gen­res. My mom was a jazz singer and jazz club-owner. I also re­mem­ber watch­ing TV shows like Gospel Gold at my grand­mother’s house and her lead­ing vo­cals at church. My brother in­flu­enced my love for mu­sic too: he’s pro­ducer and had many mu­si­cians com­ing in and out of our home, where they’d record our own hip-hip songs.

What chal­lenges have you faced in the mu­sic in­dus­try?

Even though I left home at 19 to study in Dur­ban, I was de­ter­mined to es­tab­lish a ca­reer in mu­sic. I was fear­less in forc­ing my way into this in­dus­try be­cause I knew I had a pur­pose. I ex­pe­ri­enced many dif­fi­cul­ties, as a girl from a re­mote town in the East­ern Cape, but I didn’t let that dis­cour­age me. When I ar­rived in Jo­han­nes­burg, I was of­ten re­jected for be­ing a to­tal mis­fit; ev­ery­body was do­ing the same thing, form­ing groups and cliques. I’ve never been that per­son – I wanted to be known for my own sound and style. What’s al­ways worked for me is my drive, my per­sis­tence and re­fus­ing to hear the word ‘no’.

Your mu­sic’s evolved since you re­leased your first EP, Rab­u­lapha! Tell us more about your sound evo­lu­tion, es­pe­cially cross­ing over to gqom.

I felt that was the most com­fort­able way I could speak to South African au­di­ences, es­pe­cially know­ing that my mu­sic’s pri­mar­ily fol­lowed by al­ter­na­tive black peo­ple, as well as whites. That’s why I sang in isiXhosa. My goal wasn’t only to blow up over­seas, but also to be known and re­spected in my own coun­try. I found that the most ac­ces­si­ble way of do­ing that was through col­lab­o­ra­tions with my fel­low African artists.

What’s your cre­ative process?

It de­pends. It took me 15 min­utes to write a verse for DJ Mapho­risa’s Mid­night Star­ring. I nor­mally get the beats from the pro­ducer and write im­me­di­ately. It’s easy for me be­cause I write ev­ery day, even when I’m not in stu­dio. I think the best way to mas­ter writ­ing is by do­ing it con­stantly.

Who are your in­flu­ences?

I live in my own world. How­ever, peo­ple have al­ways likened me to Grace Jones. I love her con­tro­ver­sial per­for­mances, al­ways bend­ing the rules and play­ing with the idea of gen­der, well be­fore the likes of Madonna or Lady Gaga came onto the mu­sic scene. I love that com­par­i­son be­cause that’s how I’d like to be seen; I con­sider my­self to be a fear­less, bold per­son. But es­sen­tially, I’m my own in­spi­ra­tion and I live in my own cre­ative box.

With which artists, both lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional, do you still want to col­lab­o­rate?

Def­i­nitely Bey­oncé – I love that woman! She’s driven, rein­vents her style and has the abil­ity to shake a crowd. Cardi B is also un­apolo­getic, hon­est and true to her own story: a to­tal in­spi­ra­tion. And I’m a huge Paloma Faith fan, whose writ­ing style is im­pec­ca­ble, I used to lis­tened to her mu­sic all the time when I was new in Jo­han­nes­burg. Oh, and Tina Turner – she’s fab­u­lous, en­er­getic and age­less. Have you seen her legs!?

Is the South African mu­sic scene an em­pow­er­ing and safe space for fe­male artists?

I think it’s be­com­ing more re­cep­tive and ac­com­mo­dat­ing of us. We still have a lot to do, but we’re get­ting there. My pet peeve is un­nec­es­sary com­par­isons be­tween us fe­males to cater to men’s egos. In my opin­ion, the lo­cal mu­sic in­dus­try suf­fers from men­tal scarcity, but hon­estly, there’s space for ev­ery­one – the pie is huge. Just be your­self. I don’t have time to feed peo­ple’s egos: I just want to work hard, make good mu­sic with con­fi­dent women and have fun.

You’re an ad­vo­cate for body pos­i­tiv­ity, as is ev­i­dent in your style, your per­for­mances and your lyrics. Why is it im­por­tant to you to com­mu­ni­cate this to au­di­ences?

It comes from be­ing aware of my own sex­u­al­ity and own­ing it. As soon as I em­braced it, it tran­scended from my lyrics to my style and per­for­mances. Also, this is the body I was given and I don’t feel I should hide or be ashamed of it. I ad­vo­cate for women be­ing free, happy and en­joy­ing mul­ti­ple or­gasms, be­cause we de­serve it. It’s nat­u­ral.

You’re per­form­ing at this year’s Afrop­unk Fes­ti­val in Jo­han­nes­burg. What can we ex­pect from your set?

Pre­pare for an en­er­getic per­for­mance filled with body con­fi­dence and sex­ual lib­er­a­tion. The Afrop­unk Fes­ti­val runs from 30 De­cem­ber 2018-1 Jan­uary 2019.

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