An interview with Pierre Kwenders and Hervé Kalongo from Moonshine



A mainstay in the local underground rave scene, Moonshine’s one-a-month all-nighters have been rapidly gaining in popularity since it's inception back in 2014. Founders Pierre Kwenders, Hervé Kalongo and San Farafina now find themselves hosting events in London, Paris, Chile, Portugal just to name a few. Having just recently announced their latest upcoming mixtape SMS FOR LOCATION VOL. 4, Off the Hook had the pleasure to sit down with the founders to discuss their inspirations for the new mixtape, how to came to work alongside so many international artists and what’s next for them. 


OTH: How it's going you guys? How's it going over in Kinshasa? What's the time difference right now? 

Pierre Kwenders: It's 5 hours, it's 3 PM right now!

OTH: Ahh, that explains the beer! Most of us in Montreal are just finishing up our coffees right now haha. - Thank you for joining us today! For the few listeners who don't know what Moonshine is, would you mind explaining what Moonshine is? 

Hervé Kalongo: I'll let you take the lead on this one Pierre. 

PK: I mean, I don't have a very elaborate definition of what Moonshine is but to me, Moonshine is mostly a family. Everyone knows it's a collective of artists such as DJs, visual artists, graphics but the core of it is more like a family. A family where friends, brothers, and sisters get together and share their talent together in order — pour faire passer un message tu vois? Et pour nous, notre message c'est surtout de faire rayonner l'Afrique et les influences de la musique Africaine sur tout ce qui est la "Pop Culture" d'aujourd'hui et d'avant aussi. 

HK: Moonshine a commencé il y a environ 7 ans. L'idée a la base était venu de toutes les soirées qu'on faisait dans un de mes lofts quand j'habitais dans le vieux port. Tout les samedis, après la pleins lune on se rencontrait pour faire des soirees, écouter de la musique que nous on aimait de la musique afro, de la house. Tranquilment la soiree a pris forme et on a fait une premiere soirée officielle cette meme année la. C'est ça juste ce retrouver entre nous et on a continuer de le faire durant les 7 dernières années quoi.


OTH: I guess 7 years ago, there weren't that many events putting a spotlight on African culture and Afro-house? 

HK: Exactly, there weren't any. 

Which basically was the reason why we wanted to have this space where we would feel comfortable. As you know, Herve and I were born in Congo. I was born in Kinshasa and Herve in Mbuji-Mayi. Coming to Canada, sometimes you feel like you fit in, sometimes you don't feel like you fit in. So you need to create your own space where you can feel comfortable and hear sounds that normally you wouldn't hear anywhere else. C'est parti un peu de la pour avoir cette plateforme la pour que nous meme on se sente a l'aise and everyone else that feels like us or who want to know who we are or where we come from. Tout le monde etait le bievenue quoi. 

At the core, we wanted it to feel like we're just inviting friends over in our space if you're friends of our friends then you might have heard of us. If not, We might know each other somewhere, somehow. It's all nice the inclusivity words but I don't think it was planned that way. We had a space for us to see each other and it just went from there. That's what created the vibe and the mood. 

OTH: And I mean, you guys created a HUGE vibe/mood because Moonshine has been doing shows not just here in Montreal but also in Italy, France, Portugal, Spain and now back home in Congo. How did you start planning such a worldwide movement? 

Herve: Outside of empowering people around us, Moonshine is just like a team. Everyone kind of has their own position; Pierre being a DJ and a creative, Felix and Steven who are a bit more behind the scenes, coordinating things. There's room for everyone, you know? There's always been a need to do something bigger than us. Every one just took a position and do their best at it. 

Pierre: We've lived through the years, with all the DJs that we've met and invited to play at Moonshine, we've kind of wanted to go where they are. To bring the vibe that we have, that we created to their own hometowns and see how that feels. Faire grandir cette famille qu'on avait commencé à Montréal and coming back to Congo, c'est un peu comme la cérise sur le gateau tu vois? Not to say that we've "made it", we're still building something here. We had to do it. Like you said, we went to Chile, L.A, France, Brezil, but coming back home, always feels very important to showcase what we've been doing and what we want to do here. 


OTH: As they say, "Home is where the heart is." right? 



OTH: With the release of SMS FOR LOCATION VOL.4, you guys have an impressive list of collaborators. You have local talent like Nate Husser, Kri$ the Spirit, Toronto's Uproot Andy but you also have international people like DJ Sango, Georgia Anne Muldrow and Sarah Kalume! Could you speak a bit more on how Moonshine came to regroup such a roster of worldwide talent for your latest mixtape? 

Herve: We had some time because of COVID you know? That just translated into artists staying at home and us reaching out being like: "Hey, we're kind of bored. Let's do this project." so we reached out to a few friends and people that we've always been fans of. We were able to do 19 tracks which is almost triple the normal album. 

OTH: That's huge! 

Herve: Yeah! We just had SO much music! That also all happened around the end of last year, when nothing was happening in Canada. We just decided to do this project with the African Utopia. So it was pretty much mandatory for us to come back to Congo to try and explore the artistic scene here as well. Everything just turned out to be so great, to have so many collaborators, being part of the same scene, most of them we were already friends us. It just felt like everyone was pushing in the same direction.  We were super grateful to have everyone involved. From people in Mexico city like Zoot Zoot, Diecaps from Brazil.We've just been super grateful to have all these super producers in the project. 


Pierre: It's also beautiful to have all these artists like Sango and Georgia Anne Muldrow who are well known people, worldwide. They have stature and notoriety like you wouldn't imagine and to have them in the same mixtape as MC Redbull or Sarah Kalume or DJ Pdeznn. It puts everybody in the same pedestal which is what  Moonshine is about. At Moonshine, we play all sorts of music regardless of who you are or where you're from. As long as the music is good, we think you deserve that platform. It was very important for us to have these young artists from Congo especially, being put on the same mixtape as these big stars that we all know about. It gives them a little push and also creates a bridge between here (Congo) and the rest of the world. 


OTH: I guess collaborating with them allows you to also see the scenes that they are part of as well. How do you see those kind of experiencing in the different music scenes, coming back to Montreal? 


Pierre: Of course! That's the main reason Moonshine started! To showcase the music from Congo, from Africa and all the music that is influenced from African culture. It would be selfish to do everything that we're doing, filiming evberything that we're filming, work with  all the artist we've been working with him here and not come back and show it to Montreal, Canada and the rest of the world. We want to be that bridge between North America and Africa, or Montreal and Kinshasa.


OTH: How do you see the Moonshine, once a month, all-nighters coming back post-pandemic?

H.K: That's a really good question, we've kind of been thinking about it but also not really. We're just going with the flow right now, we don't want to force it. I think there are bigger issues that are happening right now but we're ready to put out a great party again. Reach out to some to some of those friends that we had on the mixtape and do something. Hopefully, in the next year we hope. 

In the meantime, that's why we put so much energy in the music, in the documentary that is coming out as well. Making sure to keep pushing  the story of Moonshine, the collaboration, the youth, the music. If the party comes back one day in an undisclosed location, we'll be the first ones happy to throw it. 

P.K: And we'll be ready for it!

H.K: We'll throw like a 15 hour marathon type of thing! 

OTH: Yeah, might as well stream the whole thing too! 

H.K: 24 hour moonshine things haha 

OTH: DJ, after DJ, after DJ. 

P.K: Yeah exactly DJ after DJ hahaha! 


OTH: Something I've noticed too is that you guys have slowly started putting out your own merch lines as well. How has that evolved over the years? When did you decide to make your own merch lines and where did the inspiration for it come about? 

H.K: To be honest, we had never planned to really sell Moonshine merch haha. We were just doing shirts and giving them out to the crew and the team. We liked it and everybody liked it but we never really put them up for sale and it was really hard for us to separate from that. In the past 3 years, we've been talking to a few of our friends like Ange, accepting the idea of putting out clothing. I think for our 3-year anniversary, we tried to release a shirt. We only did like 20 of them and after 3 or 4 of the sold, we removed them off the shelves because we didn't want to sell them. We just wanted to keep it special for us. 

We figured if we really wanted to do something, we really wanted to do something special. Something more than merch, maybe more something like a line. Something that really separates it from Moonshine as merch, as a shirt written Moonshine on it to a cohesive collection of something. 

In African culture, especially in the party scene, you always gotta be nicely dressed. It was just a continuation from there. Trying to capture the hype and put it into clothes using things that we were exposed to when we were younger like the Maggi shorts, the Papa Wemba shirt. A lot of it is a clin d'oeil to popular African culture and diaspora and the people that come to Moonshine, they get it. 

We're not trying to overdo it, our goal is to put something out twice a year and we try and make sure to take our time to make sure the quality is what we want.


OTH: That’s sweet! Honestly, we love the energy you’re trying to bring. Local, but not just in Montreal, but also in Kinshasa as well. Is the merch going to be available at the upcoming release party?

Moonshine: For the release party we’re doing a little capsule with a long sleeve inspired by the mixtape, and also we’re restocking a really popular short that we’ve released two years ago, that I don’t even have anymore. We’re also doing a reprint of that and some socks, just keeping it light and long sleeve and short was it. We kind of have an obsession with long sleeve in the summer

OTH: Alright, beautiful. Thank you for your time guys. Is there anything you would like to announce? Any teasers, what are you guys planning for the next couple years.

Moonshine: There’s a video coming out this Friday from a song that is out of the mixtape. It’s an MC RedBull song “Tibo Tisipa”. The official video is coming out on Friday so make sure you guys watch it and put it on replay because I’m pretty sure that song is gonna make everybody dance. So make sure you dance on it and make some videos and tag us or share it or do whatever you feel like you wanna do. And we’re waiting for you to share the love on the dancefloor at the next rave really really soon!


Maybe I want to add, you know, just like the team at OTH really, great team, love. You know, it feels like the youth is there, mad supportive people. Big shoutout to people working all the time. Thank you for your support, because you guys have been there for us and I hope this collaboration will last as long as possible.

OTH: Gentlemen, thank you very very much. I appreciate you taking time from your busy days. Enjoy Kinshasa, we can’t wait to relaunch the long sleeve and shorts. I can’t wait to get my hand on mine because I missed out on the first one.

Moonshine: Save some for us too!

OTH: Merci beaucoup messieurs (Thank you very much guys). On a très hâte de vous revoir ici à Montréal, amusez-vous (We’re really looking forward to seeing you back in Montreal, have fun!) ! J’apprécie beaucoup guys (I really appreciate it). Love!

Moonshine: Merci merci, peace!