"Yannick Ilunga feels like pop music's future—borderless but deeply rooted, challenging but pleasurable." ~ Pitchfork
The project of South African singer/songwriter/producer Yannick Ilunga, Petite Noir’s combination of African musical traditions and post-punk is the prime example of Noirwave, the style and cultural movement created by Ilunga and his creative partner, RhaRha Nembhard. Ilunga refined Noirwave’s celebration of Africa’s past and future with each Petite Noir release, from 2015’s pioneering ‘La Vie Est Belle’ to 2018’s vibrant ‘La Maison Noir/The Black House’.
Born in Brussels, Ilunga moved with his Angolan mother and Congolese father to Cape Town when he was six, and grew up singing and playing guitar in church. After spending some time in the metalcore band Fallen Within, Ilunga’s ideas of what music could be were changed after hearing Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak, and he began experimenting with Ableton while writing his own songs. When he was still in his teens, he met and began playing guitar for township tech pioneer Spoek Mathambo. In 2009, Ilunga formed the chillwave duo Popskarr with Terrence Pearce, whom he met through Mathambo. Over the course of three years, Popskarr released a handful of singles, including 2009’s “The Light” (which also featured Mathambo) and 2012’s “Fighter.”
During this time, Ilunga continued to work on his own music, combining electronics, guitar, and his wide-ranging vocals into what would become Petite Noir. With his creative director and romantic partner, RhaRha Nembhard, he created the Noirwave musical style and cultural movement. The project’s first single, “Till We Ghosts,” arrived in 2012 and soon earned acclaim; Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) appeared on a remix of the song. That year also saw the release of the single “Disappear.” The following year, Petite Noir issued the single “Noirse” and opened for Solange on her 2013 tour.
The King of AnxietyIlunga signed to the Domino imprint Double Six and released the track “Chess” late in 2014, shortly before his debut EP, The King of Anxiety, arrived in March 2015. Taking its name from an acclaimed Congolese film, Petite Noir’s full-length debut, La Vie Est Belle, was recorded with Boxed In’s Oli Bayston and Ibibio Sound Machine’s Leon Brichard. It was released in September 2015. Ilunga also made a name for himself as a collaborator: he appeared on the Shoes‘ 2015 single “Lost in London,” Danny Brown‘s 2016 album Atrocity Exhibition, and Cid Rim‘s 2017 single “SWNERVE.” In 2018, Petite Noir returned with the mini-album La Maison Noir/The Black House, which featured contributions from Brown, Nembhard, and Saul Williams as well as some of Ilunga’s most upbeat and dynamic songwriting.
AGENT: Darren James-Thomas