Through Rabulapha!, Moonchild gives her views a voice. The singer-songwriter spoke to Helen Herimbi about feminism, fat and Future Ghetto Funk.

Sanelisiwe Twisha is the kind of artist who only comes around once in a blue moon. The former child model, who grew up in Port Elizabeth and studied fashion in Durban before moving to Joburg, has made a national name for herself with the chart-topping hit single, Rabubi.

Simply known as Moonchild, she is the niece of veteran jazz pianist, Theo Bophela, and worked with BLK JKS drummer and producer, Tshepang Ramoba, on her debut album, Rabulapha!

She says: “Tshepang got where I was trying to go with my music; anywhere not safe, anywhere that didn’t exist at the time.”

Moonchild delivers a sonicscape that is so against the current that descriptions range from alt-pop to kwailectro to simply genre-bending. However, she’s happy to label it future ghetto funk.

“I guess the ‘future’ is because I came in with this electronic vibe that wasn’t what anyone was doing in the current space,” she starts. “The ‘ghetto’ is from the kwaito element (in my music). My biggest influences are kwaito, hip hop and jazz. I grew up with those three around everyday because my mother sang and my brother had a hip hop studio and there were kwaito dancers at my gran’s house.

“The ‘funk’ is the side of me that has always explored,” she continues. “I’m really honest in my music. It’s where I’m not scared of anyone or anything. People have come up with so many things to describe me, but future ghetto funk is what really spoke to me.”

Rabulapha! was released through Just Music in March. A Xhosa word meaning “sip this,” the title is “about taking a sip of how I am addressing social ills”. This is especially evident in her Twitter interactions with friend, Toya Delazy, and Go Starring, an upbeat ditty that describes a James Bond-type alcoholic who can’t apprehend offenders.

The good guy “is supposed to be protecting us,” Moonchild explains, “but like the South African Police Service that always want bribes, we are protecting ourselves from him.”

Moonchild’s lyrics often come across from an observer’s point of view, but in some instances, she turns the lens on herself.

On songs like Isdudla, she uses her experience with bulimia in high school as a cautionary tale to “five year olds who complain about having big thighs” and the society that condemns women who don’t look like runway models.

“Growing up with my step-sisters, there was always something about weight in the house,” she shares, “and they knew I was bulimic. People think it’s not a big issue because it’s seen as a white person’s disease.”

On Ndota Ndbambe and MaKiss and Pop, she tackles how she wants to be treated head-on. And jams like Dance Like A Girl and Cut The Cake reveal a woman who has agency over her body and being. So I ask if her work is feminist.

“I love boys,” she giggles, “but I also love woman power. I do get called a feminist a lot, even in my poetry days because I’m never going to put down women. You won’t find a love song where I’m crying on Rabulapha! because I can do that in real life. I’m about empowerment.”

She’s also about fashion. Fiercely so. Moonchild started a “provocative” clothing label called Moonchild Cultwear and counts the likes of Delazy among her clients.

She is often labelled a blue-haired bombshell, but as she points out, her woollen braids are actually teal. Called a moonmop – ideal for fans she calls moonbeams – Moonchild quickly copyrighted the hairdo because “I don’t want people in power jacking it and calling it a trend or trying to make money off it.”