Tresor: from car guard to SA Music Hero

by | Aug 15, 2022 | CSA Celebrates, Culture, Entertainment, Music, Music From Africa, Talent, The Wire

  • Providence: DRC/South Africa
  • Platinum selling, multi-award winning, singer-songwriter-producer genius
  • Origins – journey from Goma
  • The result of hard work powered by talent
  • International collabs

The Philanthropist

From car guard to a platinum selling, multi-award winning, singer-songwriter-production genius, sounds a little hard to believe. But this is Mukengerwa Tresor Riziki, aka Tresor’s story, and it’s based on sheer talent and tenacity. It’s also much like the current break-through of South African music which, for many years, was cast as a curiosity by the world. Our beats, rhythms and idiosyncrasies were quietly co-opted by western artists as building blocks of inspiration, then sold back to us. These days, the status quo is remarkably different. We have cut through bias and cultural/industry gate keepers to declare the power and veracity of our talent. African voices and creativity are now the vanguards of global culture – and our time has come.

Origins: an Epic Journey from Goma to Durban

Tresor’s story begins in Goma in Eastern DRC, a place made miserable by war. He was first introduced to music In the mid-1990s as a young boy, spending much of his spare time in a youth centre banging on drums. Between an instinct for rhythm, he would find the rudiments and architecture of music. Tragedy, however, would touch his life early on with the traumatic loss of both his parents, leaving the teenager to assume the role of family caretaker. It was only the tough realisation that hard work would get himself and his family out of the darkness of grief and need, that kept him going.

After completing his schooling, motivated by the goal of leaving the DRC in search of a better life, an epic journey ensued through Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania before Tresor eventually arrived in Durban, South Africa in late 2007. Determined and strategic, Tresor immediately set in motion his desire to become a musician.

“Of course, not having any knowledge of local language or English at that time, the only access of some sort of income I acquired was some odd jobs being a car guard, eventually doing some security guard work,” recalls the musician. In that time, he began working his way into Durban’s local scene, performing as a session musician with various artists.

By 2010, he had created his own record label and talent management company.

The result of hard work, powered by talent.

Tresor would go on to craft a professional career filled with hits, quietly influencing the sound of contemporary SA music. After signing to Sony Music Entertainment Africa in 2015, his debut would feature collaborations from musicians such as AKA, Beatenberg, Khuli Chana and The Soil, with production by Matthew Field from Beatenberg. His breakthrough was noted with #1 dance hits in Italy for the singles “Mount Everest” and “Never Let Me Go”. The single “Mount Everest” (Freddy Verano Remix) reached #1 on the Shazam trending Global Chart in 2016. The album also won Best pop album at the 22nd South African Music Awards and was nominated at the 2016 MTV Africa Music Awards for Best pop/alternative artist.

Grammy Award-winning musician Seal came calling, inviting him to join his South African tour. Tresor would then win Best Afro Pop album at the 24th SAMAs with his sophomore album “The Beautiful Madness”. He would repeat this win with his third album, “Nostalgia” in 2019, which featured AKA, Kwesta, Lokua Kanza, Beatenberg, Mafikizolo, The Soil, Sauti Sol and Msaki. Ever with his finger on the pulse, Tresor release his fifth album “Rumble In The Jungle”, last year, featuring South African Amapiano producers Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa. The single “Light House” showcased a standout collaboration with Da Capo and Sun-El Musician.

International collabs

Tresor’s formidable song writing skills were tapped by Hip Hop legend Drake and Nigerian Breakthrough Artist Tems for the single “Fountains” which he wrote and produced for Drake’s 2021 album “Certified Lover Boy”. Legendary American heavy metal band Metallica would seek him out to do a cover of their iconic track “Nothing Else Matters” for the charity tribute album “The Metallica Blacklist”. Now unstoppable, Tresor then wrote and co-produced the singles “Currents”, “Massive”, “Flight’s Booked”, “Overdrive”, “Downhill” and “Tie That Binds” for Drake’s 2022 album “Honestly, Nevermind”. The album encompasses an all-star team up with fellow South African DJ and producer Black Coffee to lend their African influence, production, and vocal skills on Drake’s experimental homage to house music. This would see Tresor debut on the Billboard Hot 100 Songwriter List at #15.

In a rare show of recognition, Tresor was inducted into The Recording Academy as a Grammy Awards voting member. “I am truly honoured to be invited to join the Grammys Recording Academy Class of 2022 to help advocate, celebrate, and push our music culture,” said Tresor.

The Philanthropist.

Cognisant of his own journey, Tresor is driven to develop young music talent. It was announced in April 2022 that Hunters would partner with Tresor to establish the Jacquel Culture House platform for emerging artists, a first of its kind in Africa. The venture is launching several platforms, including a talent search, for up-and-coming musicians in their pursuit of success in the industry. Outside of his work as a musician, Tresor is also an ambassador of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and a UNHCR ambassador advocating for refugee rights.

Tresor is the kind of Culture Hero South Africa can be proud of. His gigantic talent and generosity extend to both his creative contribution as well as the development of the next generation of artists and those in need. It’s his time.

C.S.A.’s monthly cultural portal, The WIRE connects the dots of culture. With concise stories, many with video content, take a premium dive into the world of African entertainment & cultural fluidity. It’s one thing to be hip to what’s happening but it is another to know why.

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