One cannot mention the African millennial sound without mentioning Trésor Riziki. From music video channels to night clubs, Tresor’s music has become the soundtrack of the Afropolitan. With simple and clear, yet meaningful lyrics, it wouldn’t be wrong to describe Tresor as a pioneer in the Neo-Pop Sounds of the new Africa.
Tresor has recently released his highly anticipated sophomore album, The Beautiful Madness, in May of this year. Even though it’s only a few months old, the album has already received prime banner placement on iTunes in South Africa, Japan, Italy, Australia, and the USA.
Highly esteemed for his unique and distinctive musicality as well as fluid vocals, Tresor’s new single “Remedy”, has already been named one of the most played songs of 2017. A fact worth noting is since its release in April this year, the single continues to enjoy heavy rotation on key South African radio stations such as 5FM, 947 Highveld Stereo, East Coast Radio, KFM, Heart FM, Ukhozi FM, Gagasi FM, and Umhlobo Wenene just to mention a few.
However, this is becoming quite normal for Tresor. His journey has been full of unbelievable achievements. He won the Best Pop Album at the 2016 South Africa Music Awards for his VII album, which had debuted at #2 on the SA iTunes Pop Chart. That same album, which featured greats such as AKA, Khuli Chana, and Sauti Sol, also got him top performances – one being the Battiti Live Festival in Southern Italy where he had a crowd of just over 60 000 people all singing along to his music.
“Mount Everest”, the first single off the album, had featured South African iconic rapper AKA, who brings a fresh combination of urban- electro sounds and alternative Afropop melodies. It received so much positive feedback and even reached as far as Germany. There it was remixed by DJ Freddy Verano, and stole many hearts at the famous International Music Summit in Ibiza. The song also reached number one on the Global Shazam trending list, quickly reaching over 1,000,000 (1 Million) views online after its release.
Power of a Story
Tresor (French for “treasure” and pronounced “Trezor”) is fluent in many languages: English, French, and Swahili. When quizzed on which language he loves the most, however, Tresor always points out music. When listening to his songs, it is inevitable that one will marvel at his ability to tell his personal story in a universal way. Though his story relates to many, very few are able to express their experiences in a way that captures the ear so comprehensively and directly.
Tresor hails from Goma, the capital city of North Kivu province in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Goma is well known for its gorillas and volcanic explosion.
Orphaned at an early age, Tresor left Goma in the eastern DRC after finishing high school. He later headed for Durban in 2007 with the sole purpose of pursuing a professional music career; It was a new world for a small-town boy.
Not Speaking any English, Tresor arrived in the South African coastal city of Durban. He had just left his home country without saying goodbye to anyone, and was off to pursue a dream not many would understand. “I lost both parents at 17. I decided to take a risk and travelled throughout Africa by foot, car, and train. I even crossed a crocodile infested river and dangerous jungles. I risked my life”, he recounts.
Despite the challenges, Tresor managed to earn a living by working as car guard by day, and a security guard by night. In between the two jobs, he managed to hustle his way into the local Durban music scene. By linking up with local musicians and music makers, he quickly making a name for himself. In fact, Tresor even co-founded the Durban afro-fusion band Maisha in 2008, and was soon playing alongside the likes of Lira, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Freshly Ground, Jesse Clegg, Prime Circle, and Johnny Clegg.
He was chosen by Intercontinental Hotels Group and Rolling Stone Magazine Africa as the winner of 2012 Holiday Inn Songwriting Challenge.
Tresor then went on to write songs for South Africa’s biggest reality show, Idols. He also penned some songs for many big acts including House legend and Dj Heavy K. His reputation for writing good music even got him writing two songs for one of South Africa’s biggest singing sensations, Zahara, who asked him for collaborations on two songs called “Limbisa” and “Brighter Day”. That album- Phendula – went on to be certified triple platinum.
A New Africa
When seeing Tresor walk, sing, and perform, one cannot help but notice the Afrocentric tone in his presentation. Even though the themes in his music are universal, everything about his presentation – from mannerisms to clothes – is eclectically African. “I want to be African in all I do, in the shops or on stage”, he states in one interview.
Perhaps his boldness to represent this great continent without pretending to be from elsewhere is why he has won the hearts of many. “Tresor’s music is an incredibly rich sound. It’s a distinct musical style: the blend of the ‘Maskandi’ element that is unique to South Africa with the modern Euro-pop that usually frequents festivals and other elements from the Congo is electrifying. It’s something you can listen to in a car, and dance to in a nightclub”, says fan Vuyiso Tshabalala. Ironically, just as she speaks, Tresor’s music randomly starts to play in the background at the coffee shop.
One striking thing to notice is how Tresor’s music represents a whole movement of young Africans who want to express their ‘African-ness’ without compromising their millennial attitudes and influences. This festival-going, Twitter-using crowd is growing across the continent, and that means artists of Tresor’s calibre will keep expanding their rich influence.
The boldness of Tresor’s music is encouraging many other artists across the continent as well. Malawian musician Lawi, a huge Tresor fan himself, says, “Regardless of any opposition, the emerging of artists like Tresor, who are not merely interpreting Western styles for a modern African audience, but creating authentic African sounds to be digested by the world, will go far, far beyond what we are used to seeing African music do. Africa is back”.
When asked about this wave of Afrocentric music that he’s become a poster boy for, Tresor expresses that “I feel like our generation needs musicians of the calibre of Fela Kuti, Hugh Masekela, Youssou Ndour… and that’s my musical mission: bringing back the glory days of African Pop music”.
Tresor recently performed at the The Blankets and Wine Festival in Kigali, Rwanda – a country where he recorded some of his first music demos as an upcoming musician. Just like most of his shows, the people screamed for an encore. With a continental reach like this, Tresor, who describes himself as African but a global brand, has surely placed himself in the history books as one of the continent’s greats. “As an artist, my craft is forever evolving. As I grow as an artist and as a human being, I am more courageous, and always try to explore new avenues of creativity”, says Tresor. He is soon scheduled to visit New York and Los Angeles to promote The Beautiful Madness, as well as collaborate with international writers and producers.