On April 9, 2021, Congolese-born artist, Tresor released Rumble in the Jungle with South African Producer-DJ combo, Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa. The project is hugely Amapiano-based and was backed by two singles, “Funu” and the curiously titled “Folasade”.
For Tresor, who has won multiple South Africa and African pop music awards, the goal for Rumble in the Jungle is simple, “We want a Grammy… For the artwork and the global music award.” Tresor then jokes, “Have you seen the artwork for that album, bruv?”
The album title is inspired by Mohammed Alli’s October 1974 boxing heavyweight title bout with champion George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire (now DRC). The title is also inspired by Scorpion Kings and Tresor’s agreement to create a “sonic chaos” with the album.
Rumble in the Jungle is like a collision of genres, cultures, countries and worlds. But at the root of it is the African-ness, which the “jungle” represents.
Tresor might have become a superstar in South Africa, but once upon a time, he was a simple small town Congolese boy with a wild bone infection when he was 11.
The infection led to a surgery where a part of his left tibia got removed, but it grew back after being in the hospital for around one year. He now has a massive scar on his left leg.
That experience taught young Tresor that nothing in life comes with a price and that you must always carry your own weight when things get tough. He says that even though he didn’t realize at the time, it built endurance and perseverance in him at a young age.
“I’m from the DRC, but I moved to South Africa like 10 years ago and eventually started playing in small bands and small shows on the street,” he says. “I just kept pushing till I got my first big break, writing for Zahara’s second album. Then I became a writer for a while, but I’ve been doing music for a long time.”
It was really challenging for Tresor to switch countries, but he likens his move to that of many Nigerian artists who would leave the UK or the US for Lagos to serve their purpose.
“In my hometown, nothing was really exciting – I’m from a small town. I needed to go leave and go find my purpose, because there wasn’t anything necessarily to go back to,” he says. “The world needed to hear me, so I needed to move to South Africa. I started in Durban and moved to Johannesburg.”
While Tresor wasn’t the best English speaker when he landed in South Africa in 2010, his English became fluent within two to three years – he’s a fast learner. Then he started writing songs in English.
When Tresor eventually started making music, he was making Afro-fusion, a melting pot for all forms of pop sounds across the African continent. By 2015, he got signed to Sony Music and released his debut album, VII.
He has since won numerous awards at the South African Music Awards including Best Pop Album and Best Afro-pop Album twice. He’s also had a No 1 single in Italy, of all places.
Around 2015, Tresor met his future collaborator, DJ Maphorisa in Joburg, who used to play him records from Davido, Wizkid and a lot of others. But they never worked together.
In 2019, Maphorisa and Tresor headlined a show in Zambia. After the show, Maphorisa played Tresor an Amapiano record. Then, they worked together on Beyonce’s Lion King: The Gift album, but the records never dropped.
During the lockdown in 2020, Maphorisa then reached out and said, “I love what you’re doing, let’s do an album…”
In less than one month, they had made Rumble in the Jungle by sending files to each other over the internet. It was also the first time Tresor would be making Amapiano.
“Amapiano has travelled far and wide, but the origin would always be South African. I always believe that things go full circle and people always go to find the source because no one can ever replicate the source,” Tresor says on his decision to work with the mercurial Scorpion Kings.
“Maphorisa and Kabza are like the gods of Amapiano, like pioneers on the global stage. When royalty calls you to mix pop music with Amapiano, you don’t reject that,” Tresor continues. “The overall back and forth of the album took like six months, but the album was done during the lockdown.”
With the fusion of pop and Amapiano on Rumble in the Jungle, the idea is to take Amapiano to the global stage with an identity. The sound is African, but a large part of the album gets delivered in English.While he’s achieved all these things in South Africa, he still feels Congolese and he plans to have a homecoming show in Congo later this year. He also hopes to visit Lagos soon to see his friends like Chopstix and Empire’s Ezegozie Eze. – Pulse