#GETTOKNOW – Petite Noir

Posted on 7 May 2019

Get stuck into the next instalment of the #GETTOKNOW series which invites you to learn a little more about the lesser known bands playing at the festival this year. Follow the series through our social media and newsletter for insights into some of the best music you haven’t heard yet.

Next up in the series is an investigation into the up and coming Cape Town star, Petite Noir by our music journalist Matt Hacke. Enjoy!


Petite Noir was not on hiatus.

His first album, La vie est belle, was a culmination of online hype. Released in 2015, the sound was very much de rigueur, striking a balance between 808s and Heartbreaks era Kanye West and soulful electronica in the mold of James Blake.

A series of high-profile support gigs followed, but Noir – aka Yannick Ilunga – didn’t release any new music in 2016 or 2017. Instead, he used this time to flesh-out his artistic philosophy. Whilst his debut album took lead from a variety of sub-genres, his new music reaches far further.  Moreover, this sophomore sound is inseparable from a compelling visual and political aesthetic.

Ilunga calls it ‘Noirwave.’ Speaking to Vice in early 2018, he described it as “visuals, language, and a mindset … rooted in the past, present, and future. It is a state of mind.” Key to the movement is the experience of living in the African diaspora. It is a mode for second and third generation, African artists, to create work at the intersection of African heritage and European influences. For Petite Noir, Noirwave is political too. In conversation with Vice, Ilunga lists Kwame Nkeurah and Martin Luther King as key influences on his vision, alongside more generic individuals such as Kanye and Kid Cudi.



You really need to see and hear Noirwave in action. Petite Noir’s newest release, La Maison Noir, an EP which doubles up as an 18-minute short film and visual piece, is probably the best place to get to grips with it. The plaintive synths and funky rhythms from his early work are dialed down, replaced by relentless percussion, incantational vocals, and atmospheric yelps. It’s hard not to be reminded of the afro-futurist movement, but La Maison Noir makes no nods to sci-fi. Rather, it feels emphatically grounded; a natural intertwining of cutting-edge music of the diaspora with pan-African aesthetics and tradition.



At Womad, Ilunga will showcase his thrilling and powerful new work, in one of his only gigs scheduled in the UK this year. Having returned with a fully-formed vision, Petite Noir is an actor who has big ideas. Witness his ascent to stardom at WOMAD this year.

words by Matt Hacke

Check out the full line-up here.