Born and raised in Congo, the South African-based singer and songwriter Tresor (pronounced “Trezor”) is a multi award winning and platinum selling African pop star. Yummy writer Anyiko Awoko catches up with him during a break from his Coke Studio stint, to talk about his passion for music and how it hasn’t stopped him from becoming a discreetly good cook.
Congolese- born musician Tresor is at the forefront of Africa’s pop music scene. The multi-talented artist speaks in Swahili, Lingala, English, French, with a few words in South African native dialects thrown in for good measure. Throughout our interview, which is conducted in a mix of English and Lingala-esque Swahili, Tresor exudes an air of relaxed confidence. A true style king, he looks and dresses like a Congolese Sapeur with an African grunge-infused style—embodying elegance, class and a rockstar aura.
I meet the singer and songwriter, who recently brokered a 7-figure record deal, at the Sarova Stanley Exchange Bar. As I wait for him to arrive, I can’t help but admire the bar’s old-fashioned fans. Just like Tresor, their style harks back to days of old and feels somewhat misplaced amongst the city’s bright lights and shiny surfaces.
Today has been the last day of Tresor and the Cameroonian artist Locko’s Coke Studio recording. It has definitely been a long one and he arrives looking exhausted and immediately orders a neat gin on the rocks. As the conversation inevitably segues towards food, Tresor tells me that on a good day when he isn’t making music, he can put together some pretty mean Burgers and Chips. “I can also make very good Ugali and Nyama Choma,” he confides, “I grew up with five sisters and from the time we were young, my mother made sure that I cooked just as much as the girls.”
Tresor explains that this was pretty odd for a boy to be cooking in a culture that expects women to stay tied to the kitchen and that he initially resisted. “At first I wondered ‘what am I doing in the kitchen?’ But with time I realized and understood that this opened my mind and taught me basic things about cooking.”
Tresor recalls the one time he tried and failed to cook a special omelette which, he tells me, totally fell apart. “I once also tried to make a spicy Mexican dish and it was a disaster. I was reading the recipe online and because I was so tired, I got the timing all wrong. Same with making good steak, I never manage to made it soft and tender.”
Thanks to his music, the singer spends most of his year criss crossing the globe. He asserts that his best life experiences include touring Europe and having over 1,000 people singing along to performances of songs he wrote from his small apartment. He says, “A lot of time when I travel, before I perform I can’t eat anything heavy so I usually order vegetables and tropical fruits. After a show though, it’s full on Pizza. I eat a lot of Pizza although I am attempting to tame the habit. It’s the kind of food I will enjoy any time of the day, even late at night.” Tresor says that Congolese Food is pretty much like Kenyan: “We’ve got Pap which is like Ugali and is usually served with meat or fish, rice, beans and cassava leaves.”
Of his experience so far, he says: “It’s a beautiful platform to explore African music and a great initiative for Coca Cola to be involved in, as it brings African music together and bridges the gap. It’s beautiful and really amazing! I really enjoyed working with Locko and discovering more on his country and culture. Can’t wait to go to Cameroon!”