The South African star blazes across Egoli, the latest album from Africa Express
Twenty seven musical acts, seven days of co-creation and one effervescent, genre-defying album – Africa Express’s latest slab of experimental sound lands this week. Egoli was recorded in Joburg last year and brings together the project’s founder, Damon Albarn and other visiting artists such as Blue May, Georgia, Gruff Rhys, Mr Jukes, Poté and Ghetts with some of South Africa’s most exciting names. Muzi, FAKA, Blk Jks, Dominowe, DJ Spoko, Radio 123 and Infamous Boiz are among the homegrown contributors while weaving her maverick magic into five of the 18 tracks is the inimitable Moonchild Sanelly. These include the love song ‘Where Will This Lead Us To’, the minimal club tune ‘No Games’ and the raw gqom cut ‘Sizi Freaks’, which turns the air as blue as her signature braids.
Founded in 2006, Africa Express has seen artists from across continents and generations unite to create one-of-a-kind happenings and records that defy all borders. From legends like Baaba Maal, John Paul Jones and Paul Weller though to next generation artists like many of those on Egoli, the ambitious project always delivers something special. In the case of Moonchild, her futuristic ghetto funk attitude and Xhosa rap flow gives this fifth Africa Express album bite.
Born Sanelisiwe Twisha in Port Elizabeth, Moonchild studied fashion in Durban before making her assault on the Joburg music scene. Her 2016 debut album Rabulapha! was award-winning and her light has shone brightly on collaborations with Maphorisa, Spoek Mathambo and DJ Maphorisa. In recent months she’s shared the stage with Wizkid at the Global Citizen festival and with Diplo at Coachella and conquered Lagos with her show at Gidifest. No wonder Albarn calls her “a global superstar waiting to happen”. Nataal meets her in London to find out what mischief this outspoken musician, designer, feminist and sex-positive performer is up to next.
How’s London treating you?
It’s my first time and I’m loving it. I opened for Die Antwoord at Brixton Academy, did Boiler Room and a couple of other shows. I’m a freedom demon – it just comes out – so the audiences have been dancing.
What can you tell us about the Africa Express recording experience?
I was crazy about all the names involved so I was ready to go. It was at this place with lots of huts and you could just hop between the huts. It was like being a kid in a candy store. I made a song in the first 10 minutes of arriving and another one within an hour. I did ten songs in three days. Damon was very easy to work with, very chilled. [Adopts English accent] We drank a lot of tea!
That’s a prolific amount of music.
It was lit. The beautiful thing about Africa Express is that you can explore so many different genres; we were all just making cosmic music. At the end of the week we had a listening session and then everyone who wanted to, got tattoos to symbolise the huts and the moon and water.
What new music are you working on?
I’ve started writing with different artists in Xhosa. A lot of South Africans don’t realise there is power in their own accents and languages. But the reason the Nigerian artists are popping is because they sing in their own accents. That’s their magic, and we have our magic. When I was in Lagos I did five collaborations – Gospel, DJ Neptune, Mr Eazi, Wizkid and GuiltyBeatz. I’ve done something with Jidenna, too.
What’s the latest on your ever-popular Moonchild Cultwear fashion line?
My collection last year sold out and then the shops copied it. So this time I’ve added drama to it. There is PVC jackets with fur trimmings, some awesome sexy ruffled tracksuits and these dresses that are like Britney Spears as an airline hostess in her ‘Toxic’ video. We’re also going to be dropping something that’s non-apparel soon. It’s going to bedazzle.
What feedback do you receive from your customers?
They say they love the body confidence that the clothes gives them. And they love the personal touch when I have time to make something for them. I once got a boyfriend from measuring him up for some pants.
Did he get excited?
No, not on the spot, but I did! I had a crush on him and asked him to be my video boyfriend, even though there was no video. It was just my mate with a camera. It was so cool.
You call yourself the president of the female orgasm. Please elucidate.
It means being in control in the bedroom, it means knowing that you matter. When you open your legs you must open your mouth otherwise you will never know what the female orgasm is. You have to be strong. I’ve worked hard to get to this position and if it wasn’t for my music I wouldn’t be allowed to talk. The music allows me to speak my voice. It’s a beautiful thing and I am not apologetic.
So it’s important for you to be a liberal role model in South Africa.
People are getting more educated about sexual freedom. I’m accused of promoting promiscuity but I don’t care. Having a voice is being able to say ‘wear a condom’, to say ‘stop’. The reason I take my Aids tests live on Instagram is to show that whatever choices you make, responsibility is key. Whatever you choose to do with your vagina, it’s yours so own it.
I read that you want to open a sex club. Is that true?
Yes I am going to open a sex club. Right now I have a residency at a club in Joburg once a month. When I go to these places, all I see is old white couples rekindling, or a white husband with a black wife who doesn’t have a voice. I want to normalise it for young black people. In a regular night club your ass will get slapped. In sex clubs, you can walk around and feel safe naked. No one touches you, and you are free and liberated.
What else is in your future?
Global domination. I’m going to drive to The Grammys in my private jet. I’m going to make African children rewrite what they dream of being because they know everything is possible.
Egoli is out 12 July 2019 on Africa Express Records