Interview: Despite loss, pain, fear and isolation, Larry Maluma’s ‘Justice’ is a beacon of hope

Get the latest from Beat


Interview: Despite loss, pain, fear and isolation, Larry Maluma’s ‘Justice’ is a beacon of hope

Larry Maluma
Words by Kate Streader

In 1985, having established himself as an accomplished musician in his homeland of Zambia, Larry Maluma set his sights on Australia, relocating here to take the next step in his music career.

“There were no real big studios in Zambia at the time, like here,” he explains. “The closest music shop to my house was about 300-400 kilometres away.”

“Every musician back home was looking to head overseas to record and sign to a label. But, like most places around the world, it was a different story when I got here. It wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be when you go overseas.”

Keep up with the latest music news, features, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

Despite having a little more trouble breaking into the music scene than he’d anticipated, Maluma has had great success in Australia. He’s released 13 albums, appeared on the likes of Rage, SBS, triple j and most community radio stations around the country including PBS FM, Triple R and collaborated with the likes of Vika and Linda Bull and Diesel.

And while his mission has always been to make music, fame was never the objective.

“I have always just enjoyed making music and performing, since I was teenager, and wanted to continue doing that without too much hustle. It’s been a long road, but although I didn’t get much support, my journey has been a very liberating experience and one that I wouldn’t swap for anything in the world,” he says.

On Tuesday 1 February, 2022 Maluma released his new record Justice – a project that’s been in the works for years.

The album began taking shape in 2016, off the back of a break from music. Born from musings on social and political issues as well as personal experiences and feelings, Maluma says the record is underpinned by themes of, “Justice, peace and unity, especially after seeing what has been happening and still going on at the moment.”

Written largely on the road on his acoustic guitar, Maluma would “sing to the sea”, recording his creative bursts on his iPhone to refine when he returned to his home studio. Finally releasing the record into the world after six years, Maluma is, “Happy as Larry”.

However, the last few years have presented a barrage of hurdles for him. Not only did the pandemic effect him in the way it effected all people living in Australia and those who work in the music industry, but it meant that when he lost his mother in 2020, he was unable to fly back to Zambia to attend her funeral.

The next year, Maluma faced his own mortality when doctors found a tumour in his bowel.

After undergoing major surgery to have the tumour removed and an extended period of self-isolation to recover, Maluma is in the clear and incredibly grateful for the doctors and nurses who saved his life.

And despite the loss, pain, fear and isolation he’s endured over the past few years, Maluma is full of optimism and hope.

“I am lucky enough to have music, family and good friends,” he says. “Mostly music has been my saviour. It has been a big part of my therapy and has served me many times.”

Looking forward, Maluma is excited to get back on the road and take his music to all stretches of the world.

“Once the dust settles down, I intend to go on a national tour to promote the album and on my list of things to do is to take a band to my homeland one of these fine days and go on an extended international tour, hopefully not too long from now.”

“Fingers crossed and hope that the current situation improves.”

Larry Maluma’s new album, Justice, is out today. Buy it here.