From the shackles of Zomba Prison telling their plight through the mic, inmates, through the Zomba Prison Project, took Malawi to the 58th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, USA, last this morning competing against the best in the world of music.
They failed to clinch the award. However, being the first Malawian band to be nominated for the Grammys and competing against Brazilian icon Gilberto Gil, Beninese singer Angélique Kidjo, South African Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Indian Anoushka Shankar is no mean achievement.
They competed in the Best World Music Album category.
This morning, it was Beninese singer Angélique Kidjo’s Sings that triumphed, beating Gilbertos Samba Ao Vivo by Gilberto Gil, Music From Inala by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Home by Anoushka Shankar and Malawi’s flag carrier, I Have No Everything Here by the Zomba Prison Project.
In earlier interview, Ian Brennan, the American Grammy Award-winning producer, who recorded Zomba Prison Project, said he was shocked after learning of the band’s nomination.
“As the first Malawians ever to receive a Grammy nomination, this is something that all of Malawi can be proud of. The fact is that very
few countries in Africa—aside from the ones with very large populations such as Mali, South Africa, and Nigeria— have ever
received even a single nomination. And in all of Far East Asia, there has only been one nomination received for popular music ever,” he
In the summer of 2013, Brennan and Italian photographer and filmmaker Marilena Delli recorded and documented Malawi’s maximum-security Zomba Central Prison inmates as they sang deeply personal songs, many of which depict the harsh conditions in which they live.
The resultant album, I Have No Everything Here, made history as Zomba Prison Project became the first Malawian band to be nominated for the Grammys.
All the songs were written by the inmates, and many have tellingly personal titles such as Give Me Back My Child, I See the Whole World
Dying of Aids and Don’t Hate Me.
Brennan first entered the prison in 2013 and he was not sure he would be allowed access to record.