Congolese singer and songwriter Tresor Riziki has a deep affinity for Africa’s rich music history and the cultural influences that define it.
Since emerging as an authentically African pop star with his highly successful debut album, IV, Tresor has in many ways proved to be a treasured asset to the continent’s budding Afro-pop scene.
It’s been a strenuous week of rehearsals for Tresor as he’s been preparing to make his debut appearance at the Cape Town Jazz Festival, but he’s been taking it all in his stride.
“I’m super amped,” he says, as we chat over the phone. “It’s such a massive show and it’s off my first album, so I’m really excited about that. I think it’s gonna be a big one.”
Tresor will also be using this performance as an opportunity to launch his new band, Tresor and the Legends 80.
“I’m taking it back to the old days, to the days of Fela (Kuti). I just feel like in our generation we haven’t really had anything similar to what Fela, Bra Hugh and Papa Wemba brought. Just being able to export African music to a different kind of level globally.”
So, what inspired this decision?
“I produce most of my music alone and I think the live version of the music is kind of a different presentation. It’s like breathing fresh air into the music. So I thought let me put together a bunch of excellent musicians, and together we can be able to take these songs to another level when you watch them live.”
His aim is to make distinguished versions of his recorded work, to make it sound fresh and different. He also aims to champion the fusion of traditional African instruments with pop music.
For inspiration and direction, he’s been spending a lot of time with Hugh Masekela, who he describes as his “mentor” and “musical father”. They worked together on a song called Congo Women, off Masekela’s most recent album, No Borders. When I spoke to Masekela last week, he was full of praise for Tresor, describing him as “a special talent”.
Tresor has grown in leaps and bounds since his days working around Durban as a car and security guard and gardener following his migration from Congo in 2007.
He’s since written for the likes of Zahara, which he says opened a lot of doors for him, been featured on the BBC and won an international song-writing competition in Rolling Stone magazine.
He’s also seen his debut album win Best Pop Album at the South African Music Awards, and his two singles, Mount Everest and Never Let Me Go, reach the top spot on the dance section of iTunes Italy.
“It’s still just the beginning,” he says. “There’s so much that we’re going to be doing globally.”
His next big step towards global domination will be the upcoming release of his sophomore album, which will be available for pre-order in a few weeks.
Tresor Riziki. Picture: Supplied
“I just hope it reaches as many people as possible and makes the people dance to African music. I have no doubt we can do this. For me, we just need to continue making the music. This whole album is inspired by the 80s, so think Chicco Twala, think Brenda in terms of production. So it’s very adventurous.”
Another goal is to tour the continent, and beyond, throughout the year.
“Look out for some big shows. It’s an exciting year because we’re gonna take the live show to another level.”Tresor will be performing at the Cape Town Jazz Festival on the Bassline stage on Friday, March 31, at 11pm.
**Visit: www.capetownjazzfest.com for the full line-up.