In anticipation of the release of Johannesburg based Moonchild Sanelly’s Nudes EP, we spoke with the artist about her life story and her empowering new music. Sanelly was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa to a musical family. Her mother is a jazz singer and her brother became a hip hop producer. She started her career in Durban where her performance poetry and music started getting noticed, but things really took off after she relocated to the city of gold.
Sanelly has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the industry. She has worked with Diplo, The Gorillaz, and was featured in Beyoncé's Lion King compilation. In 2018, she went on tour with South African hip hop group Die Antwoord.
Her music is the amalgam of several South African electronic genres as well as hip hop, pop, punk, and funk; the result is a style entirely her own. Sanelly thrives on standing out from her blue hair to the taboo content she covers from female sexual pleasure to corrupt priests.
Her new Nudes EP dropping today is as unapologetic and idiosyncratic as the artist herself. After months of lockdown, we could all use something to dance about and you can simply click here to listen to Sanelly's full EP.
Check out The Folklore’s conversation with Moonchild Sanelly about her music and EP below.
You’ve stated that your music is a mixture of several different genres, what are these genres and how do they come together in your music?
I call my music future ghetto funk inspired by an original South African sound called Kwaito, which is jazz and hip hop strung together by synths that make it pop with electronic sounds. South African genres are the future and influence everyone. Gqom and AmaPiano are taking over the world.
How has your South African background influenced your music?
South Africans are musical pioneers and electronic genres are invented here. Kwaito, Gqom, amapiano, the inventive energy of South Africa is central to my sound.
How would you describe your latest EP?
The Nudes extended EP is filled with empowering anthems. From dancing your ass off to grooving to drying your sweat off, there are no sit down songs. Too many ants in my pants for sit down songs.
How does female empowerment fit into your work?
Female empowerment is who I am in my soul, everything else has to fit into that mission. I have become the artist I wished I heard when I was young to remind me that my voice matters. I'm beautiful and I'm my wildest dream unfolding. I want my daughters to know that impossible doesn’t exist. Them seeing me live every bit of my dream means if I die today, nobody can convince them that their dreams aren’t valid."
You’ve collaborated with artists like Beyoncé and Diplo, what's it like working with big names in the industry?
I promise you it’s the most humbling and motivating thing in the world. Imagine growing up in Port Elizabeth watching these global artists on a Fuzzy TV, dreaming, and then it happens. It’s like I can make magic happen, I can conquer anything. Dreams come true when you’re wide awake. Then, it's like, if that's true, there's so much more to do. So let's go.
Your song “Bashiri” was about holding religious priests accountable for their misdeeds. What inspired this piece?
So this song is really about reminding women of their strength. Instead of praying for your cheating husband who disappears to shag the world and come back to you with an STI, if you don't actually want that bitch back, get a therapist. Don't line the pockets of a human pretending to be God when the power is in your hands. Stop asking for someone to fix things that you can fix yourself. The moral of the story is, the power is in your hands, believe that.
You recently signed to Transgressive Records, what are your hopes for your music now that you're signed to a label?
I’m super excited to have a label that loves me as an artist and supports me on my missions. Transgressive (and Gallo, the partner in South Africa) see the mission and we're going to do the most together. I’m so excited, the plans for this year alone are epic. We're going for the world.
Words by Natalie Jarrett