There was no fairy-tale ending to Zomba Prison Project’s unlikely nomination for the Grammy Awards—the world’s biggest music awards—after the inmate band was pipped to the Best World Music Album category won by iconic Benin musician Angelique Kidjo.
Zomba Prison Project generated international media frenzy after they garnered Malawi’s first Grammy nomination for the album I Have No Everything Here, which was recorded in a makeshift studio at Zomba Central Prison.
The 20-track album, arranged by the US producer Ian Brennan, explored the unexpected musical talents of prisoners at a maximum-security prison.
Reacting to the news on Tuesday, Brennan’s said, although he felt the prisoners deserved to win, he knew that it was going to be a tall order.
“I did not expect that they would since the awards tend to be celebrity driven and the other four nominees were all famous in the genre,” he said.
Brennan, who attended the awards ceremony at Staples Centere in Los Angeles, California, noted that it remains to be seen if the Grammy publicity will open doors for the Zomba Central Prison-based band.
“That remains to be seen, but the media coverage has been very extensive and that is unusual,” he said, adding that he is undecided about his next move with the band.
“We shall see. Certainly, Commissioner of Prisons [Little] Mtengano and the officers will keep working with the men’s band. And that is a great thing. Malawi is a great country. The Malawi Mouse Boys’ third album will be released in April. Beyond that we will have to see. We work in many different countries in Africa and Asia,” he said.
Brennan, who has also been responsible for launching the careers of Rwanda’s The Good Ones, South Sudan’s Wayo: Trance Percussion Masters and the Malawi Mouse Boys, a gospel group of local men who used to make a small living selling roasted mice on sticks as roadside snacks, noted that there is a positive angle to Zomba Prison Project’s loss.
“Many people in America did not even know that Malawi existed. And now due to this nomination, they do. And that is a wonderful thing,” he said. n