Petite Noir Head Shot with sunglasses

Yannick Diekeno Ilunga (born 24 August 1990), known professionally as Petite Noir, is a South African-raised, Belgian-born, Congolese musician, singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer. His debut extended play, The King of Anxiety, was released in January 2015. His debut studio album La vie est belle / Life Is Beautiful was released in September of the same year via Domino Records’ Double Six Imprint. The April 14 NPR Friday New music show brought Petite Noir front and center for us, with the new single Blurry making the cut.  Sometimes we introduce new artists to our readers while we also get to know them better.  We are in the early stage of our Petite Noir romance audio tour.  This artist is known to some of you but may be new to many in the United States.  Join us as we get to know Yannick Ilunga, AKA Petite Noir.



The next stage in the evolution of the noir wave is here, this time in the form of Petite Noir’s latest project: La Maison Noir, the gift, and the Curse. In collaboration with Red Bull Music and The Noirwave, the introspective visual album journeys through the formative stages of artist Yannick Illunga’s life concerning the four elements of fire, earth, water, and air. Evoking themes of resistance, migration, and women’s rights, the four-part visual EP is peppered with imagery about the four sections of the Congolese cosmogram (Kala, Tukula, Luvemba, and Masoni), each of which serve to illustrate various aspects of life. 


Apr 5, 2023

Congolese musician Petite Noir has announced his second full-length studio album, MotherFather, with a video for the new single “Blurry,” featuring Zambian vocalist Sampa the Great. The new album is due out on April 14 via Roya. Check out the full tracklist and the video for “Blurry,” directed by Hector Aponysus, below.

Of the new single, Petite Noir said in a statement: “‘Blurry’ is a song about growth in love. Being ready to take that next step, whether it means being together or apart. Sometimes the best thing you can do is move forward with your life solo. Choosing you above all.”

Sampa the Great added: “I felt so honored to be able to work with Petite Noir. I’ve looked up to him and his music for a while and his courage truly inspires me in paving the way for alternative musicians in Africa who feel like they don’t fit into one genre or style.”

MotherFather follows 2015’s La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful and 2018’s La Maison Noir / The Black House. The record includes two songs that Petite Noir shared last year, “Numbers” and “Simple Things” (featuring jazz trumpeter Theo Croker).

By Matthew Ismael Ruiz

Pitchfork , Amplify



‘La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful’ represents the first full expression of what Yannick Ilunga calls ‘Noirwave’, which is more of a concept than a specific sound. Inspired by innovators like Mos Def and legends Fela Kuti and Tabu Ley, Noirwave encompasses a ‘new African aesthetic’. Directed by Max Mogale Creatively Directed by Rharha Nembhard. Shot in Lubumbashi DRC, (Congo)

Review: Petite Noir, ‘La Vie Est Belle/Life Is Beautiful

Cover art for Petite Noir’s La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful.

Courtesy of the artist

Yannick Ilunga, the South African musician who records Petite Noir, was born to a Congolese father and an Angolan mother; as a young child, he was relocated to Cape Town by his parents when the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo deteriorated. But listen to “Freedom” from Ilunga’s vigorous debut, La Vie Est Belle, and African music doesn’t come to mind. As the horns and drums grow in volume and gather steam, Ilunga’s assured voice starts to soar at the shout of “Freedom!” He sounds for all the world like a hybrid of Tears For Fears’ Roland Orzabal and Duran Duran‘s Simon Le Bon.

“Freedom comes when you least expect it,” Petite Noir sings, and he exhibits an exhilarating sense of such autonomy on La Vie Est Belle. Already championed by the likes of Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) and Solange Knowles (who featured him on her Saint Heron compilation), and following in the footsteps of fellow Cape Town artist Spoek Mathambo, Ilunga is that bright new star from South Africa that no longer needs to be sonically tethered to his roots to gather notice in rock and electronic-music circles. With its heady blend of ’80s new wave and anthemic ’00s rock, Petite Noir’s debut thrills.

Andrew Beta

NPR Contributor

Petite Noir – Red Bull Interview

Oct 20, 2013