Yannick Ilunga aka Petite Noir is riding his Noirwave movement to new heights in a series of electrifying and visually-stimulating shows.

He took to the stage for his debut live performance in South Africa at Cape Town Electronic Music Festival this weekend. We caught up backstage after his performance.

‘I chose every single member because I felt that they contributed to not only the band but also the music.’

‘It is so easy to just get a band that has no character and that can just play everything straight and sound exactly like the record. Each member has a specific style and I really admire that about them. It adds more character to the music and gives it a more home feel.’

After a week of workshops across the city, admirers came in their numbers to witness the all-star cast of local musicians performing with Petite Noir on the second night of the festival.

On a backlit stage, copper-carbonate green projections brought a sense of intimacy and focus to the music alongside groundbreaking video footage from Ilunga’s latest offering, La Vie Est Belle / Life is Beautiful.

The album covers everything: feelings of love, tenacity, discontent and finding a home within ourselves. Bar a few technical difficulties, the crowd was ready to make themselves known and the album’s first release Down reverberated through the crowd.

Bringing up the formation was Ilunga himself, styled by local menswear connoisseur Jenevieve Lyons. To his left, The City’s Bonj Mpanza delivered elegant backing vocals and Meggan Diedericks effortlessly handled a moody bass guitar.

Then to the right, multi-instrumentalist Thor Rixon with his quirky mystique on brass; POSTPOST frontman and drummer extraordinaire Tshepang Ramoba; and golden-haired Andre Geldenhuys of Spoek Mathambo’s Fantasma project. Need I say more?

‘I added some new songs from the album that I had never played before.’

‘It felt really great to be a part of the festival and to work with the team that I did. This show was a stepping stone to even greater shows. I arrived in South Africa and planned the entire set and added some new songs from the album that I had never played before. That allowed me to be able to see what screws I can tighten for the next shows… with my band here and my band abroad.’

For a place that’s undergoing major shifts in identities – politically, culturally and socially – Cape Town (and really Africa at large) is in the midst of a massive creative renaissance. Ilunga has Angolan and Congolese parents. And he has begun to explore the massive talent pool of African artists waiting to be discovered.

The people and times are indeed changing.

The people and times are indeed changing. He mentioned he had plans to create music videos and productions for those looking to enter the fold and share their stories through music.

‘I’ve produced for some people already but nothing’s officially out yet. I hope to spread and progress music. It is really hard nowadays to find something progressive because a lot of it doesn’t get to the mainstream. When I get the opportunity I jump to it and share my talent with like-minded people.’

‘People are starting to discover their identity and it’s starting to spread all over Africa.’

‘Hopefully [this change] is for the better. And I think that it is for the better. People’s mindsets are being transformed. Creativity thrives in such times and these are probably the times when the best work will be produced and set the standard for the rest of the world. This is the time the cocoon turns in the butterfly. People are starting to discover their identity and it’s starting to spread all over Africa… it’s beautiful to watch.’