Al Jazeera documentary follows crowd-funded album by Congolese refugees in Malawi


Trésor and the Camp Musicians premieres on Al Jazeera English on Sunday, 19 July 2015 at 2330 CAT. The documentary tells the inspiring story of Trésor Nzengu Mpauni (aka Menes), who successfully crowd-funded a collaborative album between leading Malawian musicians and Congolese refugees - all from a refugee camp in Malawi where the 20 000 inhabitants aren’t legally allowed to work, or even to leave the camp without permission.

Trésor lives in Malawi’s Dzaleka Refugee Camp, which has grown from a collection of tents in 1994 into a big village, but still depends on monthly food deliveries from the World Food Programme to survive.

Like 500,000 other refugees around the world and most of the people at Dzaleka, Trésor fled the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As an up-and-coming musician and slam poet there, he became a victim of repeat attacks after performing a poem that spoke of the political situation in the country at that time, “of being dominated by war, by dictatorship.”

University-educated and relatively privileged for most of his life, Trésor initially struggled to adapt to life in Dzaleka, until he discovered the camp was home to a wealth of musical talent, and even someone who made guitars.

Determined that the skills within Dzaleka should not be wasted, Trésor approached Malawian artists, including hip hop star Third Eye, to collaborate on an album with the refugees, with the aim of fighting against xenophobia and challenging stereotypes through the music.

Directed by South African Neil Shaw, Trésor and the Camp Musicians is a remarkable testimony to the power of the internet to uplift communities, and of how global platforms like Indiegogo and iTunes are creating new opportunities for artists in Africa. But it’s also a reminder of the power of music, to heal and to unite.

Kano, the refugee guitarist on the album, fled the DRC after his parents were killed. As he says in the film. “When I sing, it helps me forget what happened in my country. This music gives me something beautiful, refreshes me, and makes me feel human.”

Tresor and the Camp Musicians premieres on Sunday, 19 July 2015 at 2330 CAT on Witness, Al Jazeera's observational documentary strand, with additional screenings at the following times (all CAT): Monday 20 July at 1030; Tuesday 21 at 0430; Wednesday at 1730 and Thursday at 0630.

Watch the promo here.

For more information, visit the Al Jazeera Website /witness/.