Prisoners score Malawi’s first Grammy nomination

Prisoners score Malawi’s first Grammy nomination

The gentle chorus of maximum security prisoners sung over simple guitar chords has earned Malawians their first Grammy nomination, but it took nearly 10 days for them to find out.

“I Have No Everything Here” is a 20-track collection of sometimes melancholic songs performed by the inmates of Malawi’s overcrowded Zomba prison, documenting life on both sides of the crumbling red brick walls.

The track “Listen to Me” is a warning to young women to stay out of trouble. Other tracks include “Prison of Sinners,” ”Last Wishes” and the more upbeat “When They See Me Dance.” Eighteen of the 20 tracks are sung in the Chichewa language.

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.

Grammy recognition will not lead to a world-touring career for the Zomba Prison Project, though. Many performers are serving life sentences in the prison’s sandy yard and cramped quarters. Read more

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