Shocker! A Prison Band In Malawi Gets Grammys Nomination

What many top artistes in Africa jostle so hard for, a prison band in Malawi got it so cheap.

An album by Malawian prison band, Zomba Prison Project, has got a nomination for the prestigious Grammy Award scheduled to take happen this February.

The band is made up of convicted murderer Elias Chimenya, on bass guitar; a burglar, Stefano Nyerenda, and a prison guard Thomas Binamo who is one of the songwriters.

According to the AFP, the band’s 20-track record “I Have No Everything Here” has been nominated in the Best World Music Album category.

The band, which is made up of inmates from the Zomba maximum-security prison got international recognition in 2013 after United States producer, Ian Brennan, spent two weeks working with a total of 60 inmates and guards to produce the album.

Six hours of recordings were edited down into the final selection of songs, featuring 16 of the prison’s musicians, singing mainly in the local Chichewa language.

Elias Chimenya, 46, who is serving a life term for killing a man in a quarrel in the 1980s, wrote and sang the haunting ballad “Jealous Neighbour”, the album’s fifth track.

“I am a reformed person, and music has helped me to be cool and deal with the situation of being incarcerated for life,” he told AFP at the decrepit prison in the poor southern African nation.

“(But) I hope to not die in prison, and instead to be released to take up a music career outside.”

More than two years after the recording sessions, news of the award nomination came as a surprise to the inmates.

“We are baffled because we didn’t expect prisoners could be nominated,” said Nyerenda, the 34-year-old guitarist, who expects to be freed next year after serving a 10-year sentence for house burglary.

The prison also has an all-male band that tours local schools to spread HIV prevention messages.

Leave a Comment