“My mom has special powers, she sees stuff before it happens. So she’s an inyanga [healer in Xhosa]. Inyanga also means the moon, so instead of being a child of a healer I choose the moon. It’s about being the child of someone with a special gift,” explains Moonchild Sanelly when asked about her stage name. Born in the Eastern Cape, she was surrounded by jazz thanks to her mother who was a jazz singer and owned a jazz tavern. Weekends were spent at her grandmother’s home where her cousins who were Kwaito dancers would practice. Along with hip hop, these were the sounds she was exposed to as a child.
Moonchild Sanelly always had a desire to be on stage. Singing and dancing from a young age it was in high school that she formed a group with a few of her friends and started performing Spice Girls covers at school assemblies. “I was a stage kid. I don’t remember thinking about becoming a singer one day. It was just one of those things, I’m going to be on stage, period.”
Moving to Durban in 2005 to study fashion, her first performances were as a poet in 2006. While she can’t remember being introduced as anything else other than Moonchild, officially Moonchild the artist was born in 2007. Instead of trying to fit into the typical rhyme scheme or poetry mold she would let the characters she became on stage guide her performances. This led her to getting a regular slot on King Siso’s show on Kakasi FM. Already as a poet she was already subconsciously engaging with acts of female empowerment. “There was always some form of empowerment, without even me knowing I was empowering. I was just standing up for women. It was just me being myself.“
Moonchild Sanelly describes her bold style as ghetto funk, a combination of music, fashion and dance. Her performances are energetic and sexy, with Moonchild Sanelly never standing still. Explaining her performances Moonchild says that, “this is how you lose your mind. This is when you lose your morals. This is when you are just free. And then you bring out the girl you always are.” Her lyrics are in a mixture of Xhosa and English and are a reflection of her authentic voice. “It’s literally the way I speak so I’m super expressive that way.“
The past year has seen her collaborate with a variety of artists which she views as an opportunity to expose people to her music that would otherwise have not been exposed to her work. “I don’t want to change my sound. I want to be myself. But then there are people that will never be exposed to that.” The approach seems to be paying off as more people are starting to take note of her talents. “It’s working out nicely because now people hear one verse in a feature and they go back to the actual album. They know my music because the verse in the feature is already different.“
Her long list of collaborations include three tracks on DJ Maphorisa’s upcoming compilation, including a track with Shimza and DJ Maphorisa as well as one with Rude Boyz. Meanwhile her current single ‘F- Boyz’ is getting the grime treatment and will be released in the UK. She’s also got a track with Japan-based Weird Together alongside Kwesta coming out, while her track with Original Swimming Party, ‘Biggest Curse’, is getting an international release. Finally her track ‘Yhu’ with The Kiffness is currently on radio rotation. “There’s a lot of music,” says Moonchild excitedly.
With so much music in the works an album is not a priority for Moonchild at the moment. “I feel like the features I’ve got are an album on their own. Before I even drop anything. I’ve no pressure to drop an album for next year. I’m definitely doing EPs.” Next year also sees Moonchild going on tour. While several destinations are on the cards, London is confirmed. With her voice reaching so many markets it’s only matter of time before Moonchild Sanelly becomes a household name.
Photography & styling by Jamal Nxedlana
Hair & makeup by Orli Oh
Styling assistant – Lebogang Ramfate