THE FIRST batch of nominations for the 58th Annual Grammy Awards is out. Slotted in the “Best World Musical Album” alongside musical giants like Angelique Kidjo and Anoushka Shankar, is Malawi’s first ever grammy nominee.
Interestingly, it is not a famous musician, but a music group from one of the country’s maximum security prisons known as the Zomba Prison Project who clinched the nomination.
Their album titled “I Have No Everything Here”, has captured the attention of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the US who award the award in recognition of outstanding achievement in the music industry.
Released in January 2015, the album features 16 singer-songwriters in the 20 tracks and was produced by Ian Brennan - an American award-winning Grammy producer. Eighteen of the songs on the album are written by the prisoners, both male and female.
Their discovery began when, in 2013 Brennan and Italian photographer and filmmaker Marilena Delli recorded and documented Malawi’s maximum-security Zomba Central Prison inmates as they sang their deeply personal songs, many of which depict the harsh conditions in which they live and the journey that brought them to their incarceration.
The Zomba Prison Project was launched by the couple in order to raise awareness about the prisoners’ situation and to advocate on the inmates’ behalf. The aim of the album was to use a portion of the proceeds to fund legal representation and provide support for the inmates.
“I Kill No More”
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Brennan described how their crimes range from murder to assault to theft, but that there are others, especially women, who have been imprisoned over “more questionable” charges like witchcraft and issues related to homosexuality, or simply because their cases are taking too long to be heard due to bureaucracy.
Their poignant songs tell of an incredible story with titles such as “Goodbye, All My Friends”, “Prison of Sinners”, “Give Me Back My Child”, “Last Wishes”, “I’m Alone” and the naked emotion of “I Kill No More”— a 20-second declaration of a born-again conversion.
The competition will be stiff for the inmates, but Brennan said that to “see a group of unknown individuals get a nomination makes it that much more of an accomplishment.”
There are 83 categories making the Grammy Awards 2016 with some of the world’s hottest musicians like Kanye West, Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar receiving nods for their work this past year.