Tallaght's Rocstrong speaks to the Echo about his career to date

ANDRÉ Bangala, better known by his stage name Rocstrong, broke into the Irish music scene in 2014 with the release of his first single 'Go Head', which was swiftly followed by being crowned the winner of Hot Press' Big Break Award.

Rocstrong's sound traverses multiple genres, incorporating hip-hop beats and shimmering pop sensibilities to create an immersive atmosphere.


The musician, who was born in Congo and raised in Brookfield in Tallaght, also saw 'Go Head' being used as the soundtrack for the trailer for the Coen Brothers' 2015 film 'Hail, Caesar'.

Fresh from releasing his latest single 'I Gotcha', Rocstrong spoke to his local paper about how he became a musician, who his influences are and his latest show at the Civic Theatre.

What's your earliest memory of relating to music?

I remember when I was younger my sister was the singer in the house. Her and my father used to rehearse and practice a lot.

She got lots of the attention and I didn’t. One day, while they were rehearsing, I got in and asked if I could sing. My father let me, and I sang my heart out because I knew that was the only chance I was going to get to impress him.

And I think I did. At that age I wouldn’t have had my own CD collection, so all the ones I did listen to were my dad's collection. I grew up listening to greats like Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince and James Brown - the list is long.

What prompted you to start writing your own songs?

My father encouraged me to write from a very young age. It was pretty tough back then, because he was very strict. There was a lot of pressure on me to write good songs or else I would get grounded, because he would put it down to lack of focus.

In my mid teens I stopped writing completely, and later in my early 20s I got back into it again. I now find a lot of pleasure in writing my own songs. It’s an exciting process because I am very hands on and involved from start to finish.

What was your first gig as Rocstrong like?

My first gig was in the Mercantile back in March 2014. My friend Phil Udell gave me the gig when he heard my song 'Go Head'. I was very nervous when I started the first song, then all my nerves settled. I knew from that moment that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.

Your music spans a variety of genres, including pop, hip-hop and funk. How would you describe your sound?

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what genre I fall in to. I’ve had lots of old school influences growing up, like Prince, Madonna, and Michael Jackson, and I listen to a lot of hip hop and R&B like Kendrick Lamar, Anderson Paak and the Weekend.

These days I could make a slow song like ‘No Clue’ today and 'SOWYG (Show Off What You Got)' the next day. As a songwriter, I don’t want to be confined with the mentality of fitting into one genre.

I aim to make good music, and once the music is good then the genre doesn’t really matter. To come back to your question, I like to describe my sound as the Rocstrong sound. It combines multiple genres but it's very unique and distinctive.

You released your new single 'I Gotcha' this month, what's the reaction been like?

'I Gotcha' just came out and I gave a free download to people who wanted to hear it first. I was amazed at the response and the amount of people who downloaded it.

The support for my music is what really keeps me going, it gives me the courage and confidence to keep pushing ahead. I am going on a musical journey where I plan to release new music every month until December, and 'I Gotcha' is the start of this journey.

You can sign up to my mailing list to receive a completely free download of every new song that I release.

How would you describe the current hip-hop scene in Ireland?

It has evolved quite a lot from where it was. There are lots of good musicians, with various influences popping on the scene and it’s exciting.

In two or three years, Ireland will be the place in Europe to visit for great music, and I feel really humbled to be a part of the scene.

You can find out more about Rocstrong and sign up for his mailing list online at www.officialrocstrong.com  

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