While well-groomed, he doesn’t don the characteristic round-the neck bling or dark sunglasses. He is down-to-earth, soft-spoken and completely unaffected by his celebrity status.
Alluding to my observation, he laughs: “There are times when you feel high and mighty. I go on tour and they drive me around in a limousine, looking after my every need but when I get back home to my parents’ house, I still have to do the dishes, or go to the shop to buy stuff.
“My parents don’t congratulate me all the time because they worry it might go to my head.”
Raised in Cape Town, Ilunga was born to a Congolese father and an Angolan mother who relocated to the country due to social issues in their hometown. This, however, never stopped him from exploring his roots, travelling the world to find a place to belong – and finding refuge in music.
His debut album, La Vie Est Belle/Life Is Beautiful, set for release later this month, captures this journey. Though his musical background ranges from guitar metal to nu-disco, he has since developed into a confident, future-facing singer-songwriter with a wide palette.
Asked why it’s taken him so long to release an album, he says: “It took a lot of preparation. I needed to define myself.”
He tells how his EP, The King of Anxiety, was intended to be an album, but because they felt the material wasn’t strong enough, only five of the 10 tracks were included. He says: “I’m glad it took this long. It really is my best work to date and is more me and a lot less produced.”
Interwoven into his music is a message of positivity, a vessel of inspiration, offering empowerment to those who need it. “You’ve got to push the positive vibes,” he says. “Lots of pop music nowadays is negative. Positive music has longevity and I want to share that positivity.”
Realising the power of music on the masses, his aim is to bring about an awakening; a sense of equality among all peoples. “Music is a selfless entity,” he says. “If my music can help others, I’m happy.”
Having received a horde of Facebook messages from fans thanking him for his music and highlighting its influence in their lives, Ilunga is well on track in achieving his purpose. His sincerity is clearly palpable, and his candor is testament to the honesty this album was written with.
“Sometimes I listen to my own songs and start crying,” he says.