Unboxed Vol #39: Moonshine Is On a Mission to Celebrate the Music of the Afro-Diaspora

Launched in 2014, the collective recently released their latest mixtape, “Moonshine &Fédération Internationale du Bruit.”

When you can’t find a seat at a table, you must build your own. Moonshine exemplifies this ideal as musician Pierre Kwenders and designer Hervé Kalongo, two Congolese-Canadians who began curating a monthly party to bring their love of African dance music to their adopted home, Montreal. Since its inception, the underground party has become a global movement, continually increasing visibility and notoriety. Moonshine is now a multi-disciplinary artist collective with music, merch, and film.

From its bold vision and international rhythms, the collective has all bases covered and is one the premier standard bearers of African and Afro-Diasporic club culture.

Recently, Moonshine released their highly-anticipated mixtape “Fédération Internationale du Bruit.”

Kwenders, Kalongo, and group member San Farafina spoke with  about Moonshine's meteoric rise and how they created an international movement.

“The origins of Moonshine started in me and Hervé ‘s kitchen where we used to throw parties. We were born and raised in Congo and moved here when we were teenagers. It was just a way for us to still be connected with a country and our own music,”  Kwenders recalled. “It’s the music that we used to dance to over there and the music that we couldn't access here in Montreal when we're going out. So we started to do these gatherings around our kitchen and that's how Moonshine came about.”

“At the time, there was a lot of discrimination as well as self-discrimination. Sometimes, we would go places that played hip hop, and we couldn’t get in, so that was weird and backward,”  Kalongo added. So us doing Moonshine was kind of like a revolt against that. So we started doing these parties in warehouses, secret locations, where you had to text my phone number back then to access the party. So that was super fun.”

“We were scared for a minute there that it was just a trend. But now it's like, there's a real demand for global sound everywhere,” San Farafina said. “It’s not just like Dancehall. It just feels like the world has opened up musically.”

“We didn't have a party every week. It was always monthly so after every event, we had time to reflect on what went right or wrong and plan,” Kwenders said. “So we were always improving each event. When the pandemic arrived, we already built a following outside of Canada.”

Because of Kwenders and Kalongo’s bold vision to uphold and spotlight the cultural ingenuity of the Diaspora, their success opened the floodgates for expression not just in Canada but across the globe. Interestingly, their success coincides with the unparalleled popularity of Afrobeat and other African-centered music currently shaping the pop music landscape.

“I think it was about time. When we started Moonshine, there were only like, maybe one or two other entities like that. Now there's like 16 and it's everywhere. I'm just happy, you know, to have some lights on Africa and the continent. People also just more curious I'd say, you know, because of Afrobeat,” Kwenders explained.

“It's wonderful because of the internet with TikTok, where people will be dancing to songs from another continent, that kind of have a little bit also to create this new space that African music has, but it's been there, and it was about time,” Kalongo said. I think it's not going to stop now.

Moonshine’s latest mixtape, “Fédération Internationale du Bruit,” which means “International Federation of Noise,” pays homage to their African musical heritage and influences from across the Diaspora, including jersey club and batida.  Along with Farafina, the mixtape features the collective's residents Vanyfox and Andy S, Uproot Andy, Banga, Sango, Branko, Negoo, Amaal Nuux, Mwamba, and Aluna. The eight-track project was a labor of love for the group, and they left no stone unturned. Their first collaboration on the Noir Fever label was in partnership with Empire.

As far as the creative process of the project, we met so many creative people working in this culture over the last 10 years like Adam Cooper bka Foreigner. He's based in LA actually and throws a lot of soca and Caribbean parties,” Farafina said. “He's an amazing DJ and multimedia editor. He put us in touch with Noir Fever, and from there we go, just based on all of the relationships we've built over the years, we put a bunch of people together to create music.”

“This project took the longest to put all the pieces together. In retrospect, It was a song that started in 2021,” Kalongo said. “There was one verse and then another verse and then you're still missing something. Then Aluna came and she had her thing. Then the song was amazing. I think it was a four-year process.”

In addition to rich and textured music, the project's stunning visual captures the essence of the collective’s ethos of unity and togetherness.

“The visual part was super important to us, so we wanted to have visuals that match everything,” Kalongo added. So Adam blessed us with this amazing conversation recap and documentary video. There's also just the motion designers doing a bunch of the visual stuff that really wanted to match the vibe of the project. So yeah, I’m super excited about this.”

With the collective’s success, Moonshine still has the same excitement about its artistry as it did when it first began in 2014. As Moonshine continues to expand its reach, they have never forgotten its original purpose, which was to celebrate the music of their homeland.

“We wanted to create a space where we could make music and showcase music to people who did have access to the kind of audience that we have, I think that's always that way,” Kwenders said.It didn't start yesterday.”

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