The evolution of Moonchild Sanelly

Moonchild Sanelly. Photo: Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images

Moonchild Sanelly. Photo: Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images


With talent, a patented hairstyle and hips that definitely don’t lie, the blue-haired bombshell Sanelisiwe Twisha, known professionally as Moonchild Sanelly, has become a force within the music industry. Born on November 20 1987, Moonchild Sanelly has solidified herself as a central part of a musical history that will be talked about for decades to come.Raised in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape in an artistic family with a mother who was a jazz singer, a brother who is a hip-hop producer and cousins who were kwaito dancers, meant that the musician was exposed to the art all her life.

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After getting her artistic start on the streets of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, among poets and artists, she soon moved to Gauteng to pursue her dreams full-time in Johannesburg.

After grinding for almost a decade, her claim to fame came when she featured on the song Makhe by DJ Shimza. This was when the world got a taste of Moonchild Sanelly’s self-made genre she dubbed future ghetto punk.

With lyrics you can’t help but sing along to, her musical career has become a true testament of authenticity. But how has Moonchild Sanelly’s musical journey evolved over the years?

In March 2015, she released her debut album Rabulapha!

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Listening to it now makes you understand how practice makes perfect.

With a gritty and unpolished sound, this is where we began to see her musical talent. Jamming the album is guaranteed to stir up a mixture of emotions, listening to a raw talent, with jazz pipes for days, and an electro/edgy pop sound, made the album a beautifully perplexing listen. She even employed reggae inspirations for her song Don’t Believe the Hype.

Rabulapha! was the kind of experimental album that made it difficult to understand Moonchild Sanelly’s sonic goal.

One thing was clear, she had some brave ideas which would give birth to a myriad of musicians whose creativity took them to places we hadn’t yet heard in the South African music. And still there’s no one quite like Moonchild Sanelly.

After her breakthrough hit, she became quite the feature artist, with songs that played across radio stations for months on end. Her Midnight Starring, featuring heavyweights DJ Maphorisa and Bazoyenza hitmaker Busiswa, went on to be nominated for the Mzansi Kwaito and House Music Awards in 2018 for best collaboration. iWalk Ye Phara went on to garner massive success in the gqom genre the same year.

Every feature made Moonchild bigger. And in 2020, she would bag two of her biggest features to date, one with the megastar Beyoncé Knowles in the song My Power for the monumental musical film by the American superstar called Black is King. Another feature with the enigmatic group the Gorillaz in the song With Love To An Ex elevated her even further.

We really got to see her shine with her EP. In 2019 she released Nudes, an eight-track EP that paid homage to all the bad b*tches dealing with subpar men. The project featured hits such as Bashiri, F-Boyz, Weh Mameh and Thunda Thighs.

Nudes created a deeper understanding of what she was trying to do with her music. Reminiscent of British musician M.I.A (Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam), Moonchild became a hybrid voice for African identity, heritage and international musical trends.

Her latest album Phases, which dropped this month, shows a kind of growth I didn’t know could be possible for Moonchild. It seems like she’s even loosening the reins on her signature blue hair, with the cover of the album showing her hair in different colours.

It is clear the album was inspired by the many parts of the world and musicians she has interacted with over the last few years.

Demon is reminiscent of the grungy sound of the Gorillaz, and I could only imagine Undumpable with a feature from none other than M.I.A, while Money Tree takes us all the way back to Moonchild during her Rabulapha! days.

Listening to Moonchild Sanelly today is truly liberating, inspiring and speaks volumes of our untapped home grown talent. With the world finally at her disposal, you can’t help but feel excited for the kind of art that Moonchild will allow herself to experience and explore.