Exclusives Interviews 15 June 2022
Author: Molly Claire

GRM Exclusive: Moonchild Sanelly Talks New Album ‘Phases’, Working With Ghetts & More

15 June 2022

“The liberation and that freedom, when they look at me, it’s not just sexual, it’s the freedom to be, period.”

If you’re not already acquainted let me introduce you to the fashion designer, musician, and future ghetto funk artist Moonchild Sanelly, a woman you’ll never forget. She is power, sensuality and a voice for all women, ‘The President of the female orgasm’ is on her way to global influence.

So, let’s jump straight into it! Big congrats on your debut album Phases, this must all feel so surreal to finally release such a personal project. How did the creation of this album all begin and what’s the inspiration behind the album? 

“Well, I literally just started this at the beginning of lockdown. I was like, I’ve been writing, and I called a friend of mine and called my team, then bought a studio set up, because we couldn’t be outside, so we set up and we started working. A producer called Lunatic, I started working with him. I didn’t necessarily have a direction I was going with, I was just going. I knew that I needed to create. And then I think then after some time, the label started sending me stuff that was submitted for the project. And it was just like a lot of different things from different producers. There really was no formula, I think then the difficult part came when we had to choose songs because my target was doing 50 songs and then choosing from the 50. The label was like, we’ve got so much good music already. If you get to 50, it’s going to be ridiculous. I think we made about 34 to 36 songs, and that was just hard leaving some songs behind, but it was just like, okay, fine, not entirely going to be wasted.

“My friend Jaya, he curated the flow when we were just here chilling, then that’s literally the flow that we have now. There was literally no plan, because I think I was afforded more time with lockdown. I had time to express and go through my feelings, like all types and every side of them. I enjoyed the creative space I went into and under the conditions I was in, because there was still creativity, whatever it is, there’s still like an expression that comes from something. When it comes to me, there’s actually no condition that can stop me from being creative, so I just love the fact that I allowed time to just let me go through it all and be a little vulnerable as well.”

Growing up in Port Elizabeth did you have any idols? A favourite band or musician? Or even just an influence that set you in this direction?

“So, I grew up at my grandmother’s house and my mum’s house. At my grandmother’s house gospel music was always playing, and my mum’s house Jazz music in heavy rotation, on top of that my brother was a hip-hop producer. I was always surrounded by music, you know what I mean. I remember actually now when I was four years old, I was a pageant baby, and at the talent part of the competition I sang a song by Brenda Fassie, it was like, oh shit I was like four, oh my God, I obviously connected to that song. I’m like please don’t check me, I’m fine, like I’m perfect in my difference.

“I remember another one the name of the song was “memeza” I was singing it, it was a slower one by her and so she was definitely a huge part of my life. I mean, for that song to mean something to me at that age, I was obviously exposed to her music. Every single December, they played her everywhere in Port Elizabeth. She was definitely there, but I’m just thinking of moments in my house where I was exposed to the other tunes, but everything was a hit, so I was exposed to everything!”

What impact did Brenda Fassie have on you personally?

“She was that girl a lot of people say I remind them of her. She definitely brought me up, because I don’t intentionally try to be like Brenda, I’m literally Moonchild Fucking Sanelly, but there’s something they connect with and I’m just like that makes sense, I was definitely brought up by her. She definitely went in my head of just being okay with being yourself and being a bad bitch, period. Someone last week actually said to me, do you know why you remind me of Brenda? It’s not even the music or whatever, It’s the fact that around everything else that’s happening and, in that time, when Brenda was going through the backlash, going through all that shit, meanwhile she was changing the narrative and when she’s gone, they celebrate her harder than they did when she was alive.

“So that’s that other element that they speak about because it’s that thing of like being yourself and trusting and fucking shit up as yourself as well and just not being sorry about anything that’s going to do with who you are.”

How would you portray this so called journey into the music industry, and who at home helped shape you to be the woman you are today?

“No, it wasn’t a journey. I grew up different. I feel like when you’re different, like a black sheep, It’s something that’s in you, you’re different in primary school, high school, you’re different, but you’re different at the old age home, because it’s just in you. How you choose to express that is totally up to you. I was in a Muslim school, I think, like, subliminal influence because I’m with people that are covering their arms and all that jazz. So now I’m coming home as a kid and my mum would be like here’s a vest, here are shorts, own that body. You are not Muslim, I took you to that school because I cannot afford a private school. So you need to get your English ass out.

“So that’s why I was always allowed to be expressive. I was put on stage modelling, I did ballroom and Latin dancing, started competing nationally when I was still in primary school. So I was already exposed and thought bigger at such a young age. My mum made sure that I wasn’t going to be shy. She definitely influenced what I was exposed to, influence how I thought, which was not influenced by my environment. Even she said, Durban, you’re not going to do varsity here, like, you need to do real shit. I was allowed to do fashion, so expression has been something I’ve always been allowed to do. I’ve always been like when people say, oh my God, it’s so courageous. I’m like, it’s not really courageous to be myself.”

What was it like working with Ghetts? How did that come about?

“I literally met him in South Africa in 2018 at the Africa Express project. When we met each other we clicked straight away, because I write super-fast and he doesn’t even write, he freestyles super-fast, he just was sick. He was in awe of my process of how quick it was, and how I could just write anything and everything and same thing for him, I was like, what the hell!  And it was so nice because one of my most annoying things, like one of my pet peeves in studio, are just like people being slow. It shouldn’t take too long, It’s just like we could be on song number seven. Ghetts and I  literally get to song number seven so quick.

“Our first Carnival, when I came to the UK, I remember I think we did it in 2019. I was doing a couple of shows, and then I called him after one of the shows, and I was like, where you at, he said studio, so I went to the studio. Then he played “Mozambique” and after about 30 seconds I was like, I think I got something. I said, tell me what the song is about, then he explained it because sometimes you can’t hear exactly what he’s saying because when he sings he’s got quite a thick accent. Then he broke it down and I was like, I got something. Then we recorded it and almost a million people were doing the “Mozambique” challenge to my part of the song, I was like, Whoa! We were lit before we obviously shot the video when the song came out, even before his album.”

What’s one of the most memorable crowd experiences you’ve had?

“I can think of situations that stand out for instance in Russia, in the Scandinavian countries, being on stage in a country like Sweden is something new for black people, and they’re still fighting for it and you’re in a place where certain people need permission to be. Then you’re in that space, in the Stadium for people that are oppressed, who are looking at you as freedom. It’s the trippiest thing ever. It’s just like the opposite of where you come from. I was the epitome of freedom within that space it’s just crazy. It’s just crazy. And it’s so powerful. It happens in more than one country. It’s just beautiful. I mean, realising that music is a language of its own was Barcelona probably like 2015, first time playing Prima Vera. it’s just crazy how you just touch people. The liberation and that freedom. When they look at me, it’s not even just sexual. It’s just the freedom to be, period.”

What other UK Artist would you most like to collaborate with?

“Probably Skepta right, it would just make sense. I love a lot of people, so I want all of them one by one.”

What do you love about the music scene in the UK?  What pulls you towards the UK?

“I think even before I even went there, it was fashion initially because I went to fashion school. Then from London, I want to move to New York, then possibly Japan. So this is just like something I’ve learned to do and it’s so funny how I’ve attracted people from that side and now having been there, it’s just like, oh, my God, I definitely belong, because this is a space where my creativity is not questioned because it’s so edgy and It’s celebrated.

“That’s what I also started experiencing in the world and especially in the UK. Like, my creativity is celebrated more than a shock to people and as a black South African Gal, I feel like everywhere in the world I feel like I’m definitely for the world.”