Lazarusman: Poetry becomes a song

Electronic dance music is specifically composed to facilitate dancing, it’s upbeat- with little or no vocals at all. It evokes feelings we are often unable to adequately express ourselves. Soweto born Lazarus Mathebula, popularly known as LazarusMan, is a spoken word artist who has succeeded in articulating these emotions – whilst making it all musically pleasing.

With the aim of pushing the boundaries of vocals within dance music, his ability to fuse dance music with poetry has seen him open for international acts such as Little Dragon and Bonobo. The 30 something year old boasts a 10-year career in the music scene and collaborations with Martin Stimming, Kid Fonque and Djuma Soundsystem to name a few.

Growing up, I didn’t care much for electronic dance music, the reason being that I have always assumed that there was no profound or deep meaning to the genre, something I constantly long for in music. It’s safe to say that LazarusMan has not only changed my view on electronic dance but has also given a new meaning to it.

After having experienced his sprightly energy at 1 Fox Junction on Saturday, I chat to him about his craft, slam poetry, his experience in what appears to be a white-dominated scene, as well as his most recent set at Bonobo’s SA show.

How would you best describe what you do for someone who has never heard of you? 

I would say it is the near-perfect amalgamation of slam poetry and dance music. An introduction of spoken word to house music and house music to poetry.

You have a slam poetry background; how did you find yourself in music or have the two worlds always influenced each other?

I grew a little bored of the format of spoken word – going to cafés and theatres to perform. I already had a deep love for house music, so the progression to marrying the two came naturally.

Can one make a sustainable living from poetry alone?

I know a few poets who do. It requires complete and utter devotion to the craft. Also, you need to be able to apply poetry or the use of language across vast disciplines.

You mentioned that at some point in your life, you used to frequent taverns and as someone who is familiar with those spaces, I would imagine that they played everything but electronic. How did you stumble upon electronic dance music? And what is it about the genre that appealed to you?

(Laughs) let me not lie, as a boy who lived in the suburbs I was fascinated with the hood. Taverns are interesting because there is a broad spectrum of music that is played because of the Jukebox set up. I am also notorious for having friends who are older than me and they spoon fed me a lot of the music I play today.

What are you trying to communicate through your craft?

The freedom to easily express yourself no matter what you want to talk about. I want to show that there are no limitations to creativity.

How has your style of writing and artistry evolved over the years?

I used to be very technical, considering things like rhyming couplets, clever use of grammar, manipulative words and the meaning of the things. Today, I am more emotive.

You have played in many countries/cities before, do you have a bigger market here or abroad?

Yes, as that is where I broke out first as an artist, people didn’t know I was South African until after three years or so. I am certainly seeing a massive growth here at home, hence I am on lineups like Bonobo.

We are constantly consuming music as a people, new genres are created, new songs are released, new artists are being introduced to the industry, how do you make sure you stay relevant?

Consistency, you need to become a constant figure in whatever craft you do. If you write, write regularly and be present amongst writers. It’s the one thing that has allowed me to endure a ten-year-old career, consistency.

Talk us through your creative process. Do you pen down poetry before creating your music or do you freestyle verses and let yourself get inspired by what you hear?

Freestyle, wholesale, every day, all day. I work in a vacuum, so I don’t listen to music while I create. It’s just me and the mic and whatever I have on my chest. It yields the best results.

You opened for Bonobo. How did you prepare for your set?

(Laughs) I hardly slept, it was literally on my mind every day, and the only thing I could think of is how I am going to start and end the set. The middle part usually sorts itself out. I literally decided what to play two hours before the show. I usually listen to very little house music before shows of this nature.

Where can people catch your next performance?

I will be making a debut at Sugar on 30th March and I’ll be at the Kalushi Label Night on the same night. I suspect it’s going to be a busy year. 

What do you have planned for the rest of the year?

There is a European tour on the cards which is always exciting. I am also releasing my first single and hopefully the full album later this year. I have a slew of other collaborations with local and international artists like FK Mash, Hyenah, Bruce Loko, Leeu, Kaysoul and others.

You can follow LazarusMan on:

Facebook: Lazarus Mathebula

Twitter: @HouseOfLazarus

Instagram: @thelazarusman