The Grammy nominees.



A Band From A Malawi Prison Is Up For A Grammy

Whether you were absolutely living for, or disappointed in, the 2015 Grammy noms (I mean Kendrick Lamar did get 11 nominations, so we’re alright), award season has always been a time of surprises and upsets. One surprise is the fact that The Zomba Prison Band has been nominated for the best world music album award.

Their Grammy nominated album I Have No Everything demonstrates they’re fully stocked on talent. And, the name “The Zomba Prison Band” isn’t just some campy, cutesy name that your Williamsburg-ian friend came up with for his one-man harmonica show. The band is instead composed of actual prison-mates living and working in Malawi’s maximum security prison.

The Zomba Prison Band is made up of 16 men and women who were found guilty of crimes ranging from theft to murder. Some serve life sentences, and sadly one inmate passed away at the age of 37, shortly after the album’s release. 

The band is up against such widely acclaimed acts as Gilberto Gil, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Anoushka Shankar, and Angelique Kidjo. Thus, it makes sense that the producer Ian Brenner would be totally floored. “I was shocked. Absolutely shocked…The other four nominated artists all have roots that go back decades, so to see this group of completely unknown people from what is really a lesser known country get recognised is really humbling.

Due to their current state of imprisonment, the band hasn’t been able to comment on the prestigious nomination, and may likely not be able to attend the ceremony. Also, unfortunately, the news may not have reached the Zomba prisoners yet, for communication is heavily filtered. 

Nonetheless, we hope that word has reaches them soon. I Have No Everything is beautiful, a poignant look at what it means to be jailed without hope of escape. This is the first act from Malawi to receive such an honor, and many of the songs are song in the countries tongue of Chichewa.

Images via The Zomba Prison Project’s bandcamp. 

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