THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT: THE MOONSHINE CASE
A story on the Moonshine Collective by Marie-Ange Zibi
The year is 2015
It’s a hot summer night in Montreal
One of those nights where everything seems right
The moon is full and the streets are empty
You can feel the breeze touching your skin, kissing your hair
You’re strolling around, stumbling upon familiar faces
It’s like a ritual, and you all know the dance
It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from
Because tonight is the night
Tonight is your night
You are all free
What if we were able to stop time?
For a few minutes? Hours?
To be here, still, present
What if we were all part of the same tribe?
Our very own tribe
You cannot fake a feeling or mimic a vibe
We’re all equals on the dancefloor
Get it or not, it’s a movement
Welcome to the New World
A World where club kids set the rules
Looking back, those are my most cherished memories of what it means to be a twenty-something girl from the African diaspora living in Montreal, paving my way through life. Embracing the unknown, plunging into the abysses of the night(club), arms fully opened and fearless. Those infinite, sleepless, adventurous nights out, shaped me in a way that I’m just now fully grasping. The only thing that mattered was the music and its endless possibilities, but also the community, the friendships, the familiarity and the singularity of the moment. It’s all about the magic, baby.
And this is where it all begins.
MOONSHINE, THE ARTISTIC COLLECTIVE
We all know the story; it started in a kitchen — what doesn’t really? — somewhere near the Old Port, Montreal’s oldest neighborhood. They were just a bunch of childhood friends playing their favorite coupé-décalé tracks, drinking, smoking, dancing until the break of dawn, nothing more. They were doing so because they couldn’t find that anywhere else; a space that would allow them to be themselves, a space that would play the music they knew by heart. You cannot fake a feeling or mimic a vibe. Remember? So they created their own. The kitchen floor, recycled into a dancefloor for those occasions, would welcome the best dance moves, the best jeu de jambes.
Fast forward six years later, the same group of friends are now a well-known, well-established artist collective called Moonshine. They’re reshaping the diasporic club scene, building bridges between different communities, sounds, genres and regions of the world. To go to a Moonshine rave is to meet people coming from all walks of life. I remember vividly how I felt the very first time I stepped into one of their events, back in 2015. I would recognize the sounds from my childhood in Central Africa and feel the same energy and spirit. That feeling is still unmatched, to this day.
MOONSHINE, THE GLOBAL MOVEMENT
More than just a collective or a rave, Moonshine has evolved throughout the years. It is also now a record label and a well-rounded crew of visionaries. With their newly released mixtape SMS For Location, Vol. 4., they’re cementing their legacy in today’s global music scene. They started in 2014 and have since exported their sound and recipe to four continents so far. This new opus was completed in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where two of Moonshine’s founding members, singer-songwriter Pierre Kwenders and his manager (and childhood friend) Hervé “Coltan” Kalongo, are originally from.
SMS for Location, Vol. 4 features the talents of over 20 artists respectively from Montreal, Kinshasa, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Paris, London and more. One of the mixtape’s hottest tracks is “Tibo Tisipa'' by Congolese artist MC RedBull. Reached on the phone, he explains his creative process: “I’m inspired by everything, my daily life, people on the streets, everything. Tibo Tisipa is a reference to people spending money carelessly at the club. Les faroteurs. I wrote the song with my wife who was pregnant at the time.” Born and raised in Kinshasa, MC RedBull is slowly but surely establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with in DRC’s musical landscape. He recently joined the Moonshine roster and is gearing up to release more songs this year. “It’s really special for me to be part of a collective like Moonshine. I grew up with some of the guys, so it happened very organically. I want to be able to push my music further, be an ambassador of Moonshine here in Kinshasa.”
MOONSHINE, THE EXTENDED FAMILY
To understand the mindset of a collective like Moonshine, you ought to hear the perspective of another key member of the family, resident DJ San Farafina hailing from Montreal. She travelled to Kinshasa for the mixtape release.
Marie-Ange: How’s the trip going so far? What’s your overall impression of Kinshasa?
San Farafina: My overall impression of Kinshasa as someone who was born in Canada is that it is so colorful and dynamic. Obviously, priorities are different here, the ambiance is different, it’s very lively and people are incredibly social. For example, there’s always some kind of traffic, but in that traffic you will find people communicating with each other as if they’ve always known each other. It’s so interesting.
Musically, the young people are interested in different genres, especially the ones coming from other parts of Africa.
Marie-Ange: I’m curious, how did people in Kinshasa react to Moonshine, the crew, the music?
San Farafina: We had an event at Mbuela Lodge, a type of resort, where you can do all types of activities (spa, swimming, dancing). A lot of young, local people go there. At a certain point during my set, I played some new Perreo music and people were actually dancing to it! (laughs)
Marie-Ange: They were feeling it!
San Farafina: Yes, the young people in the crowd were jamming to that, I was really shocked! I thought that people would not necessarily be open to these different styles of music, but actually they are. That was really cool.
Marie-Ange: From what you’ve seen so far, what are the things that artists, musicians do in DRC that you think people in Canada or in the U.S could draw inspiration from?
San Farafina: They create songs really quickly here. We were in the studio and they did a song in less than three hours... And that song is actually fire. It’s a collaboration between Uproot Andy, MC RedBull and this up-and-coming artist called MC Azas. The way they approach songwriting is very similar to the way rappers used to do it, like freestyling. That’s the culture here, with the MCs. It’s part of their creative tools.
Marie-Ange: Is there any particular artist who stood out from the rest?
San Farafina: I haven’t met him, but I really like Pson, a Congolese artist from the city of Lubumbashi. His music is so good. He has a new single called “Yu” and that’s a hot track at the moment. I really like the sound that’s coming out of DRC right now.
Marie-Ange: Moonshine is building a bridge between the diaspora and people living on the continent. From your perspective, what makes it so special in that landscape?
San Farafina: From what I know, we're the only ones doing that right now. I think that in itself is special. The integrity behind the intention is special as well. Just the fact that we’ve been partying to MC RedBull and DJ P2N’s music at Moonshine parties for example… To then come here and physically work and build connections with those people, it shows respect. It also creates an extended family, community here in DRC. I think that’s the most special thing about what’s happening right now.
Marie-Ange: How are these different experiences shaping Moonshine’s vision?
San Farafina: Pierre and Hervé in particular have had a dream of working directly with artists here. But it’s not easy to book artists from the continent because of visa issues, or else Moonshine would have already booked them a long time ago. We always wanted to involve artists here in a more significant way. The vision started when we started playing more of the new songs that are rising out of the different countries in Africa.
Marie-Ange: I was biking and listening to the mixtape earlier last weekend and something that struck me was how global it all sounds. You hear songs from African MCs but also from artists based in Montreal, New York and more. There seems to be a clear vision behind it and it definitely draws inspiration from all these different places. Was that intended?
San Farafina: It mirrors the events, really. At Moonshine parties, you will see all kinds of DJs from everywhere and hear all kinds of sounds from everywhere. We’ve had a lot of really good people in the past like Papi Juice (New York) or Foreigner (L.A). It makes you feel a sense of global community.
This is a term we’ve been talking about within ourselves, this idea of having a global community with similar values and similar take — just a respect for the craft basically.
Marie-Ange: What was your favorite moment from this trip so far?
San Farafina: It was the intimate release party that we had. We were in Maluku, it was just a bunch of young people, overlooking the Fleuve Congo, looking at the mountains, being in the middle of nature with around 30 people. It was me, Uproot Andy, Pierre kwenders DJ’ing into the night. It’s been over a year since we had a real Moonshine event so it was really nice to have that. Sometimes Moonshine can feel really intimate, even if it’s a big party. It doesn’t feel cold at all, you feel very connected to everything around you. That’s how I felt at Maluku.
Another highlight for me was also just watching the artists collaborating on songs. Seeing Uproot Andy, MC Redbull, Pierre Kwenders and MC Azas working on songs together and seeing how it happens so quickly and organically. It was definitely special.
North America + Europe 2021 dates
21/08/2021 - Invited Nowhere, New York, USA
22/08/2021 - Mural Festival, Montreal, Canada
04/09/2021 - Art Rock festival, St Brieuc, France
05/09/2021 - La Piscine, Laval, France
10/09/2021 - Baou, Marseille, France
11/09/2021 - Paris, France
17/09/2021 - Le Sucre, Lyon, France
18/09/2021- Hop Pop Pop festival, Orléans, France
24/09/2021 - Les Noces Felines festival, Reims, France