From Heaven to Hell: the Artist who Escaped The Matrix & Embraced the Jungle

February 29, 2024

In the heart of a world grappling with a pandemic’s grip, one individual in particular stood at a crossroads of immense change. It was the time when face masks first concealed smiles and uncertainty painted daily life. In this backdrop, Laszlo, an emerging audiovisual artist based in Cape Town, found himself confronted with a decision of profound significance that would not only affect him, but his whole family.

The journey began in South Africa, where Laszlo, his partner Michelle and their daughter Gianna lived in the usually-tranquil fishing town of Gordon’s Bay. However, it now felt anxious, and had its landscapes adorned with masked faces and queues of shoppers waiting to enter space-restricted shops. It was here that the family set their sights on a life different from the ‘new normal’ of the pandemic. Their second daughter, Gaia, entered the world, and thereby marked a moment of profound change. Laszlo, an adventurer at heart, considered the world he wished for his daughters to grow up in, yet around him, surveyed a world marked by uncertainty and unrest; a world where masks masked not only faces but the very essence of human connection. And so, a resolution was born – a resolve to embark on a journey like no other.

The family traveled to their first destination when baby Gaia was just one month old: the tranquil Drakensberg Mountains. Here, in case of any emergency, they were practically able to hike into the neighboring Swaziland, and the art of off-grid living was nurtured – they greeted a life entwined with nature and self-sustainability. The surrounding community of farmers produced a variety of fresh, organic products and organized a farmers market five days a week. They supported one another, lived in merry harmony and there was no sign of a pandemic.

Yet, in the rest of South Africa, chaos loomed. Shops were out of supplies, factories were looted, people were protesting. Only three hours away, gunshots were composing symphonies in the city of Durban. Troubled by the state of affairs and the government’s reaction, Laszlo’s partner confided in her high school friend, whom had since moved to Central America. It was through this conversation that beyond the sanctuary of the Drakensberg mountains, another adventure beckoned, one that would reshape their lives.

I spent my childhood growing up across Africa and Asia; as adult, I spent years as a digital nomad; and I lived with a Peruvian shaman for over a year studying holistic medicine – I’m an adventurous spirit, plus my work is mostly online. So though I hesitated to leave at first – you know, now having a toddler and a baby – I had concerns about where we were, and the sweet temptation of a new paradise beckoned me.

Costa Rica, with its lush jungles and vibrant wildlife, became their new canvas. A place where nature is supposedly so pure, that the locals’ word for ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and ‘I am fine’ is simply ‘pura vida’, Spanish for ‘pure life’. 

Their journey commenced in the picturesque Nosara, often referred to as the ‘Los Angeles of Costa Rica’. The rhythm of life here pulsated with creativity and vibrancy, and was no stranger to many Hollywood A listers that called this their haven away from home, including Adele, Jay Z, Beyoncé, Justin Bieber and more. As you may expect, however, life here was expensive – monthly rent for a minuscule studio apartment started at a whopping $2,000 / R40,000. Flashy living is not what they came to paradise for, and Laszlo and his family soon decided to move.

From Nosara, Laszlo and his family ventured to Garza Bay, a fishing town thirty minutes North, where Laszlo, Michelle and their two toddlers spent two months living in a tent on the beach, so they could help build up the recording studio that Laszlo founded with local musicians. Here, a mere 20 meters away from the ocean, Laszlo put his knowledge and experience gained at SAE Cape Town and Cape Audio College to good use, and added onto his long list of collaborations that already included YoungstaCPT, SA Idol Jody Williams and Grammy nominated producers. He spent time with local musicians, like the Nosara-based legend Daniel Mora who plays 72 instruments, and internationally known stars like the esteemed guitarist Estas Tonne. Laszlo and Michelle also organized beachside dance events with various acts and DJs, including the world renown Mose, whom Laszlo joined on stage for an impromptu performance that fused jungle house with hip hop and reggae and left the the crowd moving in astonishment with Laszlo’s clever wordplay, rapid rhythm and signature vocals.

But, as they say: ‘what goes up, must come down’. One night, as Laszlo’s children were sleeping and he and his partner were packing to travel to the Caribbean side of the country, the bedroom door opened ever so slightly. 

Assuming it to be my kids, I felt playful and wanted to give them a fright”, Laszlo recalls; “so I grab the door handle and yank it open. I so much was expecting to see my daughters, that at first, that’s who I saw. And then they transformed into two aggressive Nicaraguan men right before my eyes.

The two men fell into the room, and the one armed with a large blade cornered Laszlo while the other cornered his half-dressed partner. Laszlo and the bandit got into a fight, with Laszlo using his bare hand to repeatedly block the knife from cutting into his face. Eventually, the two assailants gave up and fled the scene, taking a single handbag with them.

It’s ironic – we come from South Africa, where things like this seem commonplace yet never happened to us. Then we go to Costa Rica, which statistically is very safe, and I almost lose my face.

Side note: At a later point, Laszlo found out that the two assailants were in fact convicted felons who had escaped from a prison in the capital of San José, hopped buses to their area, and just happened to be hiding out at a little hut nearby their home.

Marking a harrowing end to a chapter in their journey, the unsettling ordeal kept them awake until the next morning, when they hopped a bus to their new home, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, on the Caribbean side of the country. Here, a different culture awaited them – a vibrant tapestry of Jamaican-Rastafarian influence. The village smelled of Cali-green and good food, and paid homage to Bob Marley and Emperor Selassie, with towering lion statues, Rastafarian symbols adorning every corner, and the melodious tunes of reggae music serenading the streets and beaches. ‘Could you be loved’ was a daily anthem.

And without a doubt, it could be loved. The beaches by Puerto Viejo de Talamanca were nothing short of picture-perfect, with bathtub-warm aquamarine blue waters that seemed as if taken from postcards, capuchin monkeys and sloths crawling the trees above, and an abundance of plant life wherever it had a chance to grow.

In the heart of the jungle, Laszlo embarked on a journey of self-sufficiency – moving him and his family into the Talamanca mountains on a homestead in untouched virgin jungle half an hour out of town, where they organized their life to be able to live without money, fully off-grid, by generating their own solar power, channeling water from the mountain streams and cultivating a bounty of foods, fruits, and vegetables. They lived in a community of 23 people spread across 120 hectares of jungle land – it was a sanctuary started 24 years ago, to serve as a safe haven for when society crumbles. As a community, they taught each other’s kids. They cared for various gardens which flourished with papayas, pineapples, coconuts, many banana varieties, sugar cane, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, spices and more. They embraced the art of crafting their own kombucha and kefir, concocting their own pineapple beer, and their neighbor was a mushroom guru who nurtured cacao trees and produced homemade psychedelic chocolates for guided transformative ceremonies in their maloka (a traditional ceremonial building). In this community, spiritual self-work and inner reflection was the norm and medicinal herbs and plants thrived, creating a living pantry of holistic healing on all fronts.

It was this setting, the modern-day equivalent of the Garden of Eden, that inspired Laszlo’s new single, ‘Jungle Boy’. Written and produced by Laszlo, and recorded with a live band in the Costa Rican jungle in 432hz (also known as nature’s healing frequency), the song is a testament to the contribution the jungle has made to Laszlo’s evolution and how it’s re-introduced him to what he’s always been at heart: a jungle boy.

Over a mystically enchanting dance beat composed of a cocktail of indigenous instruments played by Laszlo and various gifted musicians who he recorded, Laszlo triumphantly belts out an ode to the jungle, through lyrics such as: “even if you paint me gold, I got the jungle within me”.

However, next to the labor of farming and traversing her many windy trails, the jungle is not without challenges. The rainy season brought a mysterious affliction known amongst locals as Papalamoya, or more commonly as Leishmaniasis, threatening to dismantle the idyllic existence that Laszlo and his family had crafted. Afflicting all four of them, this flesh-eating parasite started as small holes in the flesh, then grew into gaping wounds resembling volcanoes on the skin. It mercilessly ate skin and nerves, causing excruciating pain. Laszlo had 14 legions, while his daughter and partner each endured between 3 and 5. The nights were often sleepless, with the parasites more active in the darkness.

“Locals refer to the scars that papalamoya leaves as ‘the mark of the Bribri’, since it’s most prevalent among the Bribri tribe, who also live in the deep jungle”, Laszlo elaborates. “In their traditions, this condition is a process of working with one’s emotions and is an initiation into the jungle.”

Unable to conceal the Leishmaniasis legions from camera for the ‘Jungle Boy’ music video, Laszlo creatively decided to incorporate them into the music video’s storyline – telling the story of a shipwrecked artist who washes up on a tropical beach and finds his body covered in strange spots that lead him to hallucinate as he follows a blue jungle fairy and explores the paradise around him.

Although it’s a romantic twist, Leishmaniasis is not a pretty picture: if left untreated, it can continue to devour not only flesh but also internal organs, traversing the lymphatic system to spread its malevolence across the body. The local method of treating the wounds with daily scrubbing and specific plants proved too harsh for young children and for his partner, who was now expecting their third child, so Laszlo found alternative solutions. However, with treatment costs in Costa Rica being high and funds drying out while the rainy season was getting heavier, Laszlo and Michelle decided to return to South Africa and regroup. 

It was during these daunting challenges, that the indomitable spirit of humanity rallied around them. Laszlo started a crowdfunding campaign, was featured in various publications, and generous donations from friends, family and even strangers paved the way back to South Africa, where more affordable medical care awaited.

Laszlo’s journey is a testament to the boundless capacity of the human spirit for transformation. It’s a journey that intertwines artistry with nature, technology with tradition, and ultimately, is a voyage of self-discovery and sovereignty.

Once back in South Africa, Laszlo and his family continue their journey of recovery. With the birth of their youngest daughter Amanita, their lives, too, gave birth to a new phase: one that was centered around healthy habits, clean diet and self care, in order to deal with the challenges posed by living with Leishmaniasis. Weekly treatments, including intravenous ozone and vitamin C, coupled with natural products and approved medicinal cannabis-based therapies, quickly became a normal part of life.

In the meantime, Laszlo remained deeply focused on his music. His latest single, ‘Jungle Boy’, is not only a reflection of his journey but also a powerful anthem that resonates with rebellious listeners who feel disharmony with our current systems and institutions and wish to return to a more nature-centered lifestyle. 

“Additionally,” Laszlo elaborates, “It’s a statement – once you’ve lived in the jungle, self sufficiently, away from the system, you no longer are scared to lose what the system gives you. Cover me in gems, jades and pink rubies; still a jungle I’ll be”.

After 8 months of treatment, Laszlo and his family were finally healed. The volcano-shaped holes in their skins had closed and healed, leaving behind marks akin to those of bullet holes. But alas, they were healed.

Apart from the scars, they’ve been left with their experience – which has been immortalized in Laszlo’s ‘Jungle Boy’ music video.

The ‘Jungle Boy’ music video is an artistic journey masterfully crafted from footage that Laszlo himself captured during his two years in the deep jungle, and can be seen on both his website ( and YouTube. The video’s special effects were done by Loka Vision, who’s signature realistic psychedelic effects have been featured on the Joe Rogan shoe and admired by renown psychedelic artist Alex Grey, and the music video was edited by Corey Pieper, a fellow artist who’s also edited videos for the likes of T.I., T-Pain, Snoop Dogg, and more.

Additionally, Laszlo has a ‘Jungle Boy’ remix in the works featuring a world-famous celebrity yet to be announced, and he’s working on his upcoming EP in his creative studio based in the center of Cape Town, which he’s appropriately named ‘The Jungle’.

In the face of adversity, Laszlo’s unwavering spirit and passion for his craft continue to shine brightly, reminding us all that the human spirit can source inspiration, and create beauty and transformation even from the most challenging of circumstances.

As for Laszlo?

“I’m grateful my family has recovered. I still love the jungle. And I miss it. Deeply. It’ll always be part of me. One day I’ll return, perhaps to a different jungle this time, but for now, I’m here to share my artistry with the Mother Land, and she’s welcomed me home with many open arms.”

Listen to Laszlo’s latest single ‘Jungle Boy’ on all streaming platforms and watch the music video on YouTube. You can also follow @junglelaz on all social media platforms, and visit Laszlo’s website ( to learn more about him.

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