Mentioning Tresor in a conversation is like an instant dose of feel-good vibes. The same vibes you got when you first heard the melodies of his beautiful song “Never Let Me Go”. When we first heard about this upcoming Afropop & Amapiano collaboration, we were unsure of how it was going to sound. However, because music is such a unique and universal thing, we were eager to hear this mashup of sounds. We saw a glimpse of the vision the guys were going for from the uplifting, dance-rooted single “Funu” that dropped in December and not only did Tresor lace his feel-good vibes on the track (and overall album), but the sound was also interesting.
Tresor has comfortably cemented his position in the African Pop genre since the release of his award-winning breakout album, VII in 2015. He has gone on to add to his string of accolades, including two SAMAs for Best Male Artist and Album of the Year for ‘The Beautiful Madness’ (2017) and a Southern African Afrimma Award for Best Male Artist in 2018. His name means “treasure” in French, which is a testament that he is indeed one for all his contributions to the South African music scene… they have been truly seen and felt.
We had a very interesting chat with Tresor about the album Rumble In The Jungle. Here is what went down.
This is a collaboration we didn’t know we needed 🙏🏾 we thank you and the guys for that. A bigger thank you to you Tresor for setting time aside to have a virtual chat with us! We appreciate it so much.
Tresor: Thank you so much Le’Afrinique for having me and I really appreciate your support.
A child is given its name which is a glimpse of a characteristic the child will have or who they will be once they are grown up. Why the name “Rumble In The Jungle” for this musical child?
Tresor: This album is really important and it carries so much essence of who we are as people. It is unapologetic. Also celebrates the diversity of our culture, we just drew inspiration from all over the continent, from West Africa, Central African to Southern African and just put everything together. It is inspired by the fact that Mohamed Ali and Geroge Forman united African people in the continent for the first time in Congo and had a cultural celebration, and I felt like this album carried the same essence to try to bring people together through music.
Let’s track back a bit. What/who sparked the idea to make “Rumble In The Jungle” and for you, as Tresor, to venture into Amapiano?
Tresor: I came up with the idea because we wanted to create something that would take the sound to another level. I felt that the Amapiano sound has these crazy drums and attitude so I thought, the best way to describe it would be to call it “Rumble in the Jungle”. I’m from Congo, Kabza and Phori being from South Africa, I thought, let’s make something magical and bringing different cultures, languages and sound together on one album is such a beautiful, fun and timeless moment for the sound. I’ve always loved Amapiano and Maphorisa actually introduced me to a lot of Amapiano sounds when we were on tour together in Lusaka and Zambia and we travelled together to one of the festivals out of Lusaka and he played me some amazing sounds. He approached me last year around March after he heard me on a campaign I worked on and suggested we do an album and how crazy it would be. And we were all in lockdown and I thought it would be a great thing for us to do. It was a fun, organic project and I’m really glad we did it because it has really revived some spontaneous moments for me musically.
At first glance, one would say this is a marriage of Afropop (with your influence) and Amapiano (what Scorpion Kings are known for). What other musical influences played a part in the making of the album?
Tresor: Rumble in the Jungle has different styles of music from all over the continent. It is an African fusion album. Of course Maphorisa and Kabza brought Amapiano to it and I bought chants, singing and song-writing from West Africa. We really wanted to mix sounds from everyone, so you find elements from Senegal, Mali, Congo, East Africa and Southern Africa, even Southern America. A lot of beautiful elements that celebrate who we are. That’s the beauty of this album, it brings all the great sounds by black people together.
“Rumble In The Jungle” was initially supposed to be released in February. Why was the date pushed forward to April (is there any significance to aligning it with the month)?
Tresor: Yes, it was actually supposed to come out last year, but we wanted to wait for the right time. We wanted to make room for it. I believe it is such a vital album not just for us but for the genre itself, you know? And we worked with a great team of incredible people and together we just waited for the right time to drop the album and April seemed to be the perfect time. It’s also my birthday month.
We are always fascinated by the making of songs and the different processes each artist adopts when making their magic. Paint a picture for us of how studio time was like in the making of “Rumble in The Jungle”.
Tresor: The process of making ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ was different because we were all under lockdown so I spent a lot of time in my home studio, where I am doing this interview from and Phori was at his house. So, I recorded the vocals in my home studio, got it mixed and then I’d send over to them and they built the beat around it. We went back and forth, it was four songs, then five. It was smooth and beautiful. Then, right about the time we had ten songs, we met and we started playing around. For example, songs like Mali Mali and Angelina, I actually just heard the beat and within an hour I just finished writing the song. The process was beautiful man, I’ve enjoyed working with the Scorpion kings because the guys are so authentic, defined and they just let go and it’s beautiful. I got to challenge myself to not think too much and just go with the flow. That’s the beauty of the process.
If you had to choose 3 songs as your favourites, which ones would they be and why?
Tresor: I think for now I’ll go with ‘Stimela’, because that song was inspired by a very sad story that Bra Hugh Masekela used to tell me, we used to spend a lot of time and he would tell me these stories of how miners would go work and only come back to their families two/ three years later and by then their loved ones could’ve gotten married or moved on with their lives. These were very heart-breaking stories as the men were still in love with them. The second song I’d say is “La Vie Est Belle” and the reason is that I took the words that my mom used to tell me when I was young, that it doesn’t matter what you’re going through- life will always be beautiful and life belongs to the bold. Go out there, do your very best, never give up and persevere. One day everything will come together like a rain of blessings or like a storm of beautiful things that just come and overwhelm your life. So that’s what the song is about and it is dedicated to my beautiful late mother Elizabeth who is still the pillar of strength and inspiration behind my music. The third one has to be ‘Sorrow’. This one is different and set in the Sahara desert. it’s beautiful, the melody. It’s a melancholic love African song that speaks of a hard time, it’s set in a nomadic setting in West Africa. Think of yourself in a desert travelling with your family and there’s so many oasis and camels. It’s just a beautiful love story set in the desert. I love to paint pictures with my music and that’s the picture that I’m painting with this song.
There are only 3 artist features on the album, tell us more about the selected artists and what their contribution adds to the album.
Tresor: First, I’ll go with Beatenberg, the lead singer – Mathews is one of my best friends and we do a lot of work together and I thought having his works on the album will add a little bit of flavour, give it a bit of that pop element. It was really great to have them on the album. I think they are a great talent and I’m glad we got to have them on the song. Tylor ICU (Cherie) & Mas Music (Mali Mali) were really my engineers when we were at Phori’s place. We spent a lot of time together arranging the songs because I’m a perfectionist. They also helped produce these songs, so it was great to have them there. Very talented guys.
Let’s talk about the cover. Such a majestic piece looking at it and also reading about Hedi Xandt‘s inspiration behind it. What was the reaction like looking at the artefact and being depicted as the legendary trinity, Memnon?
Tresor: This is my favourite cover of all time, not because I’m part of it, but because it such a majestic, incredible and amazing artwork done by Hedi Xandt. Of course, we knew we wanted to make an artefact and right from the start it was important that we portray the beautiful music with this incredible artwork. And from the artwork itself, you can see how regal, proud and unapologetic it is. Just how it celebrates the beautiful story of African history. The first time I saw it I was just so amazed. “What beautiful artwork. Wow”. It’s amazing and you can see how talented Hedi Xandt is and I’m glad to have worked together”
The album has been positioned as a celebration of Africa and African heritage. How important was this to be highlighted and what do you hope Africans can take from the work especially with it being Africa Month (in May)?
Tresor: Yes, this album is a celebration of African heritage and it is very important when people understand how powerful it can be when we have no limits, we have no boundaries and we just come together and celebrate ourselves. I believe as the continent, as our people there have been so many things that have come in-between us because of history and others because of how life has turned out for the continent. But, we have such a beautiful continent and history and every time we come together like we did on this album, there’s so many magical things that happen and it’s just strength and unity. That is what I would love for people to take out of this. And also, HAPPY AFRICA MONTH! In fact, it’s Africa month every month, I think we’ve been doing great and are only starting to get what’s due to us now. It’s great to see the world reaching out to us while we’re on our purest form. We are literally on top of pop culture, just influencing a lot of things globally which is really amazing.”
Can we expect more boundary-breaking collaborations like this with Scorpion Kings, or other artists, in the future?
Tresor: Yes, as an artist I love being different and doing things differently, so you can definitely expect more boundary-breaking projects like the one with Scorpion Kings in future. I believe that’s the essence of who I am as an artist, why I live and why I’m here. To always push the envelope and I find it so satisfying and for sure we can expect so many great things that will push the culture forward. Thank you for having me. Bless.
We hope you enjoyed the interview AND Rumble In The Jungle as much as we did! If you haven’t listened to it yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Stream, download, and put it on repeat! Here’s the link to access it on your prefered music platforms now: platoon.lnk.to/RumbleInTheJungle