Identify: Moonga K. Is Defying Society’s Norms

"I am not opposed to exploring gender fluidity and nor am I afraid."

MOONGA K. refuses to put himself in a box. Whether it’s his eclectic music or his vibrant sartorial choices, the singer is constantly redefining himself and pushing the boundaries of his artistry to gain new levels of recognition. Everything listeners see and hear is not by chance. MOONGA K. is assertive and intentional with his art, he knows exactly what he wants to do and is unapologetic in carrying his vision out.

With hits off his new EP like “black, free & beautiful”, listeners are instantly drawn into his world where he is unafraid to directly point fingers at Western colonisers. “I wrote that song from a place of anger and rage. I did not intend for it to be a funky song but it came out that way, beautifully. It’s something I’m excited for people who look like me to connect with,” MOONGA K. reveals over our phone conversation, weeks after the project’s release.


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It’s during the midst of a busy day that I speak with the singer who just released his sophomore EP ‘Candid.’ Donning a vintage shirt and beret, and peering at me from the other end of the screen, the first thing I notice is the album art for Frank Ocean’s ‘Blonde’ framed and carefully placed on the wall. He later reveals to me that the singer served as a catalyst for his own journey into songwriting. “I was inspired to write songs the way he wrote music like American Wedding from the mixtape, ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’” says MOONGA K.

MOONGA K. also accords the title of ‘[faux] birth parents’ to Janelle Monae and Moses Sumney, both of who were prime examples of the kind of artist he wanted to be. The inspiration of his stylistic forefathers is palpable in his music which he describes as alternative soul, an amalgamation of jazz, rock, pop, funk and everything in between. His varied tastes in music partly come from his real parents as his father was a part-time reggae musician and his mother fanatically played Gospel music in their home.

Born in Zambia, brought up in Botswana, and now settled in South Africa, this confluence of cultures has contributed significantly to concocting the artist we see today. These different places allowed him to think more critically about the music he shared with the world. While growing up in a small country with very limited and patriarchal views on gender, it was difficult for the young artist to exist in such an environment. “I was a very sensitive and emotional kid, I was also dealing with depression and trying to find my place in society because I knew I wasn’t a very violent or aggressive boy, unlike those around me. I was bullied for not fitting into that realm and so my view on masculinity was very painful,” says MOONGA K.

Moving to South Africa expanded MOONGA K.’s worldview and it was here that he learnt to be more comfortable in his body and how to deal with his feelings in a healthy manner. He did not have access to these spaces while growing up so he took it upon himself to create them wherever he goes. “I identify as a basic cisgender male and that may be attributed to my social conditioning. I am not opposed to exploring gender fluidity and nor am I afraid,” he shares on the phone. MOONGA K. believes that gender is a colonised construct enforced on our ancestors.

With his melodies, he takes us to a place entirely of his own making. On ‘CANDID,’ he pushes that further by delivering raw and honest stories about his evolution as a person and an artist. “The reason I called it CANDID is because I just got to a point in my life where I want to be completely honest and speak the truth,” he admits. It’s clear that this EP was used as a vessel to heal and grow through confession and lyricism.

Admittedly he tells me that “honeybee” was the probably hardest track to develop because it is still very difficult for him to talk about unrequited love due to the shame he felt at the time. “I never really thought I’d write love songs, I always thought that writing love songs was giving power to the person you loved or fooled around with. It is a very explicit song about me saying that I can give them the love that they deserve,” says MOONGA K.

As a third-culture kid, identity is still something the artist is learning to navigate through. “What country can I claim? I can’t say I belong to just one because each place contributes to the person I am.” He and Sampa the Great shared similar experiences and while having conversations around their shared struggle, both artists were able to translate their feelings into a song titled “REBEL TIME.”

“To me, being a third-culture kid immediately screamed out being a rebel because being a part of the status quo or being monolithic never resonated with me. I have always felt like I was more than one thing or everything, all at once.”


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MOONGA K. holds a bachelor’s and post-graduate degree in Sociology and he engages in conversations on intersectional issues on a daily basis in his personal life, however, he had never tackled it in his music before ‘CANDID.’ “It felt gimmicky and performative and I have always been against performative allyship and faux activism. A lot of people do the reshares or retweets online and I don’t believe in being a hypocrite or being disingenuous.” During the lockdown things began to change, he spent a lot of time on news threads, and being the empath he is, he felt consumed by the media at the time. The result of this inquest was the standout number, “black, free & beautiful” which was inspired by an episode of Lovecraft Country that detailed the Tulsa Massacre in the US.

With his music, the singer hopes that people feel seen and that their experiences are being mirrored, creating and championing the type of music he did not see while growing up. Undoubtedly, his defying of the norms in both music and fashion has come to mean that MOONGA K. now represents the type of musical figure he once wished to see as a young boy. As he advances towards the powerhouse he is capable of becoming, MOONGA K. continues to typify a wanted evolution in the sonic landscape across Africa, pushing beyond the boundaries of music from these parts and crafting nuanced and poignant stories about universal themes for young people just like him.

While his music takes over DJ sets and playlists from Johannesburg to Brooklyn City, MOONGA K. still belives he is still a while off from the artist and person he wishes to be. As we round up our call, the singer shares “I’m still very far from achieving my goals. I wanna tour, travel and write songs for other artists and myself and perform in every country in the world and still do that in my 70s and 80s. I don’t want to stop music, I remember how painful the two years that I did felt like self-inflicting misery.”

Stream ‘CANDID’ below.

Featured image credits/NATIVE