Post-Australian tour, Angel-Ho is back in South Africa with a much anticipated vocal album set to grace the Red Bull Music Festival stage for the very first time.
It’s a warm evening in Cape Town’s city centre. Angel-Ho’s fiery hair stands out amongst the pastels, as she sits cross-legged on the terrace enjoying an age-old recipe of mixed herbs for High Tea. A giant dollhouse surrounded by meters of green, this particular hotel was once reserved for first class Dutch travelers only, but today we sit, one mountainous, kind-eyed photographer in a colourful bucket hat, one dreadlocked young woman as bold and black as she likes her tea, and Angel Ho herself, an actively creative trans woman (face beat to ferocity) all of us clutching porcelain as if having tumbled down a deep hole after a very Caucasian cottontail.
“Shall we order another pot?” she asks, little finger adrift.
Just like Alice, our presence here is disruptive in itself. Tables laden with tidbits priced in ways that can either grow or shrink your ego, Angel-Ho is not at all worried. She knows she belongs wherever she is.
“People of colour don’t really come to places like this I guess. It’s a hotel. Cape Town’s history is so loaded. They either can’t afford to come here, or they don’t see the need. Or they just don’t share the curiosity that I have about places like this. It is lovely though. It’s nice and peaceful.”
Angel-Ho is not new to this idea of upstaging the status quo, having shrugged off her given name, Angelo Valerio, for the Angel-Ho moniker. After the success of Ascension and Red Devil, she continues to take noises that at first lack purpose, and puts them to harmonious musical use. With her two cohorts as NON, as well as producers Rabit and Arca (who created for Björk and Kanye West), her latest unnamed work delves deeper into the rabbit hole of transness and the joys & tribulations people of colour face therein.
So how are you feeling in the run up to Red Bull Music Festival?
“I just got back from Australia for a mini-tour and the Sissy Ball, which was also a Red Bull event. That was really fun. Imagine getting to be at this place, performing your music for the first time to a new crowd. I wasn’t nervous at all… I was super excited, and I just… we were so late, I had to drive into the building to get there on time! The Sissy Ball is a Australia's first mardi gras trans alternative LGBTQI plus, plus, plus, plus… it’s the first ever ball of this scale. There were legends from all around Australia. Amazing crew too. It was unlike anything I’ve done before. I took a year off from performing music, and decided to produce my record properly… I’ve been dipping into things I created when I was DJing, which must have been 5 years ago. Now I’m ready.”
Did you ever think that this would happen?
“I never said this is my goal, this is my dream... to be the biggest superstar on earth… it’s something I’m passionate about. Creating, contributing to music, to culture, to art, to information, to knowledge. I’ve created and opened so many different doors for myself and many others have opened doors for me; that’s the best part about it. It’s everyone’s victory. All I want to do is perform on stage and say something meaningful with my platform and music, not taking anything for granted.
So who will be joining you on stage this time?
I’m looking forward to Joburg. Chester Martinez is my choreographer, he’s an amazing person... Also Berlin Williams, who is an amazing dancer. I do have more dancers, but that, I’m saving for later, not for the show… the stage is so small, why didn’t I get a bigger stage? No, we’ll just kill it in the club... It’s all new material, this. A vocal pop album. I’m going to be touring the world with this shit. I performed it for the first time ever in Australia at a listening session for about 1500 people… this week it’ll be the first time in South Africa.
How many tracks are we talking?
There are about 11 tracks… the idea behind it is, it’s more of a… the way I’ve written my music is a lot more poetic. It’s storytelling! A lot of it is about my experience transitioning, and I made songs that educate people about transness through my story. I think it’s beautiful… emoting them in lyric; from my exposure to and interest in hip hop music, rap, jazz, pop, disco, soul, classical, indie rock, throat singing… everything. Kuduro as well. That I was introduced to by my collaborator and friend Nkisi; she played her music for me years ago and now we run a collective together with Chino Amobi called NON. Non as the French word for “no.”
What we do now is rather focus on social issues that we can release music to raise funds for. We’ve been doing that with a compilation set of 3 albums by artists all around the world, so it’s very exciting. Aryu Jassika is one of the amazing talents on blast.
What would you say to Angel-Ho starting out, as Angel-Ho today?
Always be you. That’s what my family always said. Being you is being anything else. Being with you, with everyone…. Being you is with many. We are of many, we are of the same and of none, all at the same time. Take it with you and do what you want. Make a batch of cookies.
Words by Shiba Melissa Mazaza