Hello! I’m Lazarus, a musician and albinism activist from Malawi, and I’m making my debut album. And I’m Johan, a film and music Producer from Sweden best known for producing Mumford & Sons, The Very Best and Baaba Maal. We’ve teamed up to try to stop the killings of people with albinism in Malawi. We’re doing this through the universal languages of music, film, and community building. We have a story to get out into the world: one that is heartbreaking, unifying, and filled with humanity. We have music to get into your hands. We’re going direct to YOU to collaborate on this heart opening project.
This is Johan. I’m going to describe how I came to know Lazarus and work on his album and short documentary that will be premiering at the Tribeca film festival in May. It’s a crazy story. Madonna is involved, so is Mumford & Sons, and the first single, Ndife Alendo, is out for you to get a taste of what we’re up to!
Two years ago a friend from Malawi showed me a 10-minute film, an interview with Lazarus. At that time he was a street performer busking around the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe. Lazarus has albinism, and in his home country of Malawi, people with albinism are sometimes hunted, killed or mutilated because some people believe they are magical, and their body parts bring good fortune or make them rich. It’s a massive, insane problem I’ve known about for a few years and have been keen to try to make a music project about. I knew that if we could help Lazarus tell his story and show the world that our similarities are greater than our differences, we could help raise awareness about the challenges people with albinism are facing. So when I saw the clip, which also included Lazarus playing two songs, which I loved, I instantly wanted to try to make an album with him and see if I could pull together a documentary team to come with me.
In June of 2018 I went to Malawi with Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning Director David Darg and Producer Bryn Mooser to meet up with my long term collaborator Esau Mwamwaya. Esau Mwamwaya and I have had a band together, called The Very Best, for about thirteen years. Esau is from Malawi and I've been going there a lot for the last 10 years, so together we all started to track down Lazarus. He was busking on the street, supporting his wife and three children, two of which also have albinism. We spent two amazing weeks together recording as much of Lazarus' music as we could, as well as writing new songs together. We made a documentary about Lazarus’ life and about the plight of people with albinism in Malawi. The film is going to be nuts! Inspiring, dark, human -- and universal. I know it can help raise awareness worldwide about albinism and the challenges faced. The album is going to be crazy too! Lazarus is one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever met, and one of the most humble and kind hearted humans I know.
LAZARUS documentary teaser trailer!
While we were recording in Malawi, Madonna's people saw what we were doing on Instagram and asked to meet Lazarus when Madonna was going to be there a few weeks later. Lazarus ended up playing at the opening of one of her new schools and she has now come on board as an Executive Producer of the film.
This is Lazarus. Our goals are big, but I believe we’re at the right moment with the right team to help stop the persecution of people with albinism in Malawi -- and worldwide. We’ve assembled a team across the globe to take this project out into the world. And this is where YOU come in.
The album will be called ‘Stomp On The Devil’ and our goal is to release in August/September 2019 with your support.
We’ve recorded the raw material, some of which was used to score the film, along with a choir and piano from Ben Lovett of Mumford and Sons.
Ben Lovett from Mumford & Sons recording piano for the score.
Thirty songs in total were recorded, with the majority being in Lazarus’ very traditional style, playing a homemade banjo and kick drum. We're using minimal production with singing from Esau Mwamwaya, from The Very Best, and a choir. The album was recorded outdoors, mainly outside of Lazarus' little house on the outskirts of the capital, Lilongwe.
We’re a small, independent team, not relying on the reach and resources of the major record label model. We're basically trying to release Lazarus' album to the world the same way a big record label would do, but with very limited funds so far. We've had amazing help from a lot of generous people to get this far, but to properly finish and release the album we need YOUR help!
"Don't ever change your style of music, I love how organic it is. It’s the future.” Madonna
As Lazarus gears up to tour with the album and documentary film he’ll need to know his family are safe at home. Lazarus has built the foundation of his future home. A home that will be secure. A sanctuary for his family as he’s on the road.
We see the film as the starting point for developing a long term dialog. The film tells a potent and personal story, but at the same time, it’s recognizing a universal desire to live free of fear. We hope this strong media is just the starting point. We’re building ties with global organizations: the EU Commission in Malawi, the United Nations, and Madonna's organization, Raising Malawi. The documentary short is in the final stages of editing, being prepared for its’ world debut at the Tribeca Film Festival at the end of April 2019. Your support will be going towards some of the advocacy work that goes along with developing a global audience and turning a film into a movement.
Your help will enable us to release Lazarus' music to the world in a way it deserves. We need money for things like studio time, marketing, design, making vinyls, distribution, community building, and everything else required to finish creating and releasing the album to a worldwide market. We wouldn’t be able to do this without YOU.
Your help will go towards the building of Lazarus’ home in Malawi, a sanctuary for his family while he’s away touring, and a safe place for him when he’s at home. A little can go a long way towards building a home in Lilongwe!
Thank you for coming on this journey with us.
Follow us on Instagram for more updates! @lazarus_music @realtheverybest
Risks and challenges
Our main worry is that something will happen to Lazarus or his family. In Malawi, the attacks and killings of people with albinism have increased in the last few months so while Lazarus message, story and music are reaching more people than ever, it also makes him a bigger target, which is scary for him and everyone involved. We don't really see any other way to keep everyone safe then to ask for your help. So that's our solution: to raise the money as fast as possible and bring in a team of people that can build the house as fast as possible.
Releasing an album is always a big and risky undertaking, and you never know how it will work out, but at least it's not a life or death situation. We are confident that with all of YOU added to Team Lazarus we can accomplish everything we set out to do!!! (And Lazarus is excited to make a new Canjo for you!) =)
- (30 days)