‘What we’re doing is different. It’s just who we are: we are black and Irish’

The young Irish artist Monjola is releasing music, throwing parties and developing the Chamomile Club, a community built on positivity and camaraderie

Late last year, on the first leg of Kojaque’s Phantom of the Afters tour, audiences filling venues across Ireland and Britain had an early treat. Supporting the Cabra rapper was his fellow Dubliner Monjola. A highlight of that support slot was Woowoo, a song that encapsulates Monjola’s sound, a sort of musical reiki that can pull you out of whatever slump you’re in. But that’s just one part of Monjola’s artistry. Under the entity Chamomile Club, the young artist is releasing music, hosting events, throwing parties and developing a community built on positivity and camaraderie.

Monjola established the label arm of Chamomile with his younger brother, the talented music producer Moio, and the artist Aby Coulibaly. The name was chosen impulsively when Coulibaly was uploading a single to streaming services. Chamomile was the tea she drank while working in the music studio, and its name stuck. Coulibaly has taken huge strides since her 2021 breakout track, Long Nights, and at the end of the summer will support Coldplay at Croke Park.

Meanwhile, Smile, Monjola’s bouncy 2021 single, has accumulated more than four million Spotify streams. Next week he releases an eight-track EP, It’s Not that Deep. His tunes are tender, vulnerable, uplifting and gentle, and have a sophisticated tone, where the initial carefreeness hangs around to reveal, despite the EP’s title, music with depth.

As a youngster he leaned on music videos as a creative influence, and was drawn to the multifaceted nature of Pharrell Williams’s creativity. Social media also opened up windows. “Around 2016, Instagram was bubbling up, and people started using it as a tool to showcase what they were doing creatively,” he says. “I was getting tapped into what was going on in other cultures, other cities, and how youth were utilising [Instagram]. I feel like that was a huge influence when I was a teenager.”

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Having played guitar and drums, he surrounded himself with friends who were making music, “but I was just helping them, managing and stuff”. One day, when his friend Zack Oke played a beat he was working on, Monjola jumped on the mic and started freestyling, “He ended up putting out the song. That was like one step closer to me to putting something out. It was called Mystery Man.” He kept working with friends, and the group Tebi Rex, building confidence to pursue his solo work.

“I already had my style, but I think that I needed to find more security in myself,” says Monjola. “At that time I was still building my community. Community is the most important thing. The people I’m working with, I’ve known them for years, even before I was making music with them. When you have that community, it makes it more exciting.”

As he continued to host arts events, that desire to bring people together had a knock-on effect. “I realised how important it was to have your tribe, people who are on a similar wavelength, like-minded people. Through that you build up confidence ... I knew I was about music; it was just a matter of when.”

Monjola is also progressing his talent as a curator and organiser with Chamomile Club’s events, some of the most exciting parties in Dublin right now. Even he appears surprised by their success. “It’s crazy. I still don’t know how it has happened. We’re just doing our thing. It’s always about people first, and not about profit ... The mission is to bring people together who feel really included.

“It’s more than a party. It’s hard to explain, but it’s about the experience. A lot of people coming to them haven’t been to something like it before. I’m first-generation immigrant; I’m black; I was born in Nigeria and came here when I was three. A lot of the people we’re working with are the same. This is our own demonstration of what’s going on in Ireland, the renaissance that’s happening, or whatever you want to call it, across so much culture.”

Chamomile Club events are often initially billed as happening in secret locations, with the slogan Don’t Spill the Tea. They’ve hosted events at the Complex arts centre in Smithfield and on the rooftop of a hotel in Dublin 8, as well as a takeover event at the Otherside Festival and a block party on Fade Street, in central Dublin. The parties are known for their hugely positive energy, high production values and uplifting, inclusive, convivial spirit.

Demand is high. A few weeks ago, when they released the tickets for an upcoming Chamomile Garden party in late July, hundreds sold without the location or line-up being announced. “I think that’s because people think: Chamomile are hosting something, this is for the people,” says Monjola. “There’s just so much trust and support. It’s a big vibe. Shout out to our supporters, our friends. Everyone who’s doing their thing is making this scene grown. From what it started as, to what it is now, is crazy. And it’s still growing.”

Monjola believes the natural mix of people and musical genres has been key to the parties’ success. “You’ll never go anywhere in Dublin and see the crowd like the crowd we get at Chamomile,” he says. “It’s a representation of what the new Ireland is. It’s very diverse – people, genre. You’ll hear Afrobeats, hip hop, house, techno, and people will still catch a vibe.

“Sometimes I’d go to parties and events growing up, trying to find our space where we can express ourselves, and either you’d go to a space where there’s not that many black people, and you feel ‘Am I alone?’ or you’d go to a space where everyone looks like you.

“I feel like what we’re doing is different. We’re bridging a gap. We’re not doing it on purpose, it’s just who we are: we are black and Irish. We’re the ones who can bridge that gap, get these bands, bring these crowds together. We’ve built this community, and it’s so beautiful to see how much it has grown in the last while. People trust us that we will deliver.”

Chamomile Garden takes place in Dublin, at a secret location, on July 27th. The EP It’s Not that Deep is released on Chamomile Club on Friday, June 14th