Le Vie est Belle – Review

Words: Brooklyn J. Pakathi

Petite Noir, the moniker Yannick Ilunga records under, is a proudly pan-african artist, who wants to move the world away from its obsession with reducing Africa to a curios market. And that’s why his album, “La Vie est Belle/Life is Beautiful” is such an important addition to the international musical landscape.

His debut EP, King of Anxiety was celebrated and acclaimed worldwide by important taste makers. Recorded in London, the EP felt like a collection of astute interpretations of a broad range of influences. It felt like someone trying to find his “voice” by experimenting with his favourite sounds; a collection of tribute songs to his musical heritage. “I think it came out the way it did… because it was more producer influenced than my influence”. He still feels though that that the EP and album compliment each other. “The one wouldn’t be as strong without the other.”

Something that ties them together is the remarkable track Chess. It is a standout favourite on the EP, and returns as a bonus track on the album. The video can be found here.

Petite Noir - Life is Beautiful




His first full-length album La Vie Est Belle/Life is Beautiful is a better reflection of his influences, and hints at the journey his life has seen thus far. Considering himself a global citizen based in Cape Town, he was born to a Congolese father and an Angolan mother, in Brussels. He does however, proudly consider himself an African. And this introduces the genre/lifestyle/movement he and his partner RhaRha are responsible for.


In order to understand the album’s sonic manifestation, it’s valuable to know what Ilunga’s self-invented genre or perspective, Noirwave, encapsulates. In Ilunga’s words: “Noirwave is about being yourself and combining all of your influences.” In this sense, Ilunga’s personally influenced by being born in Europe, his African ethnicity and a loving disloyalty to musical genres being affected by everything from metal and screamo to jazz and kizomba music.

From this, stems La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful, an 11-track album, ranging in electronic, dance, rap and rock influences taking you on a journey from 80’s synthpop to French rap in 2015.

The album opens with a dramatic, earnest instrumental combining drums, spoken word and birdsong, paving the way for Best, an anti love song with an ironic title, indie-sound and blaring trumpets, setting the tone for what’s to come – an ode to life – the good, the bad and the in between.

Freedom, next up, haunts in sound yet liberates in lyrical content with a raw honesty reminiscent of a journal entry – for your eyes only. This is followed by Seventeen (Stay) which combines a variety of musical influences and takes you on an emotional roller-coaster with Ilunga’s piercing vocals commanding with intensity.

Just Breathe, gives homage to old school influences and reminds of a comforting motto everyone ought to adapt in life.

La Vie Est Belle, the name of the album, and rightly so, is a gorgeous track, which takes one on an internal road-trip. Its music video, which you can watch here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNF8cq987fI&feature=share), visualised this road-trip and manifests as something otherworldly, echoing a life lived in a parallel universe where one meets the self.

This is followed by MDR, Colour and Down which are all unique in their own rights.

Inside starts off with an intro that immediately makes one sit up and listen and sets the tone for the finale, Chess an emotional and intense ending to a complex album.


La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful is a must-have for all music connoisseurs with exotic blends and nuances for every taste. Download it, here, to expand your world and become entrenched in what it means to be Noirwave.


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