There’s a new African aesthetic on the scene; a bold, unrestrained movement within music consisting of blended sounds and fused genres, showing little loyalty to one particular style of production and execution. Its foundation is a sense of visceral freedom and devotion to individuality; a movement now being driven by Yannick Ilunga, also known as Petite Noir, and delivered through his debut album, La Vie Est Belle / Life is Beautiful.
La Vie Est Belle / Life is Beautiful is an internalization of Ilunga’s journey in life. The half Congolese and half Angolan musician was born in Belgium, and as a young child lived in Congo only having to flee with his parents to South Africa as the social climate in Congo deteriorated. Ilunga’s musical style embraces his heritage, but at the core pushes for more. Entrancing, dark African beats and resilient percussion provide the pulse of the album as they’re blended with 80’s style synth, anthemic rock, Ilunga’s distinctly hypnotizing voice and impressive song writing. Each track stands alone as a distinctive narrative of his life. There’s the infectious Down, laced with vibrant horns, African inspired rhythm and dance evoking synths where Ilunga defiantly sings of finding positivity in dark times. The title track, La Vie Est Belle / Life is Beautiful pushes the unique sound of Petite Noir even further, as French rapper Baloji turns an intimate down-tempo groove into a fierce multi-lingual track that serves as a testament that life actually is beautiful. The album closes out on top with the cathartic Chess, which serves as a mesmeric and metaphoric anthem of the complications in love – with stunning rhythmic emotionality. The depth of Ilunga’s vocal range transfixes over a consistent electronic backdrop as he alternates between a hazy falsetto and his signature baritone; representing both sides of a tragic love story that parallels the complexities of the strategic game of skill that lends its name to the track.
Manifesting eclecticism and pure versatility through the crafted production and songwriting that shines throughout the debut, Petite Noir is breaking barriers and peerlessly defining a pop culture movement that is only gaining traction and not losing momentum anytime soon. Brace yourselves – this is Noirwave.