Zomba Prison Project, the Zomba Central Prison-based inmate band nominated for a Grammy Award for their I Have No Everything album, will not be part of the audience when the results are announced at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA on February 15.
Ian Brennan, who recorded and produced the album, said the prisoners’ legal cases make international travel impossible.
Brennan was in Zomba last week to visit the band members.
The Zomba Prison Project has been nominated for Best World Music album, on the heels of previous winners and now fellow nominees such as South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo.
Brennan, who has built a career as a producer determined to promote new international music, said he was nevertheless surprised that his “massive, money-losing labour of love” has garnered international prestige.
Brennan notes that the publicity has not necessarily resulted in more sales for the Zomba Prison Project music.
“International recordings that are not in English or Spanish sell very little, but hopefully a win could generate some additional sales,” he said.
However, the international media has been prying on this unlikely band.
“The press coverage has been beautiful. People around the globe have been very moved and captivated by Malawi and the prisoners’ story—BBC, Rolling Stone, Associated Press, Business Insider, The Guardian and New York Daily News, among others,” he said.
Grammy-winning Brennan has also produced Rwanda’s The Good Ones, South Sudanese band Wayo: Trance Percussion Masters and the Malawi Mouse Boys, a gospel group from Manjawira in Balaka that once made a living selling mice on sticks as roadside snacks.