Hard luck for Zomba Prison Project


It was a case of so near and yet so far for Zomba Prison Music Project who missed the Best World Music Album Award in the 58th Grammy Awards held at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, USA on Monday.

Malawians were hoping for nothing but the best from the Zomba Prison Music Project having surprised Malawians and the world receiving a Grammy nomination for the first time for Malawi.

But the group which received a nomination for their 20-track album titled I Have No Everything Here missed the award which went to renowned Beninese-born singer-songwriter and activist Angelique Kidjo.


She triumphed with the album titled Sings which she collaborated with the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra. The album was released on March 31, 2015.

According to available information, the album contains orchestral versions of nine songs from previous albums and two original songs.

The album is said to be arguably the most ambitious and spiritually arresting album the New York-based West African singer has recorded in a long and distinguished career.


The other artists who were nominated in the Best World Music Album are Gilbertos Samba Ao Vivo, Ladysmith Black Mambazo with Ella Spira & the Inala Ensemble and Anoushka Shankar.

MultiChoice Malawi’s Sales and Marketing Manager Chimwemwe Nyirenda said yesterday that despite missing the award, Zomba Prison Music Project made history for Malawi and the African continent by getting a Grammy nomination.

“Just by getting a nomination in the first place it was an achievement because Malawi has never received a Grammy nomination and there are also other countries in Africa whose artists have never received a Grammy nomination,” he said.

Nyirenda said the nomination was a wake-up call for the country’s creative industry stressing that artists need to dig deeper and do “our own music.”

“If you listen to the songs from Zomba Music Project you will see that the songs are local. This now gives an idea to artists what type of music they need to do to get nominations. Again we need to have our own local awards which is a starting point,” he said.

MultiChoice Malawi was yesterday expected to hold Grammy Awards screening and dinner at Protea Ryalls in Blantyre.

The 58th Grammy Awards were held on Monday in USA but were beamed live on DStv’s Channel 0 starting 3am through to 6am yesterday.

Musicians Union of Malawi (Mum) President Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango also hinted recently that the nomination of Zomba Prison Music Project in the Grammy Awards was a wakeup call for them.

“It’s now time for artists to do more and make our music known out there. We must do music that appeal not only to Malawians but to the world. Music that is relevant and tells different stories,” said Mhango.

The Mum leader said the nomination of the Zomba Prison Music Project has indicated that there is talent in the country.

“We have talent in the country and despite the various challenges we have continued to do the best. Now we need to look at the ways of how to market our music more importantly online he said .

 Zomba Prison Project is an innovative advocacy based music project involving prisoners at Zomba Prison.

Information on the Zomba Music Project taken from said that in the summer of 2013, Grammy-winning producer, Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, TV on the Radio) and his wife, Italian photographer and filmmaker, Marilena Delli, travelled to the border of Malawi and Mozambique specifically to document and record the music of prisoners at the maximum security prison in Zomba.

So the music in the album talks about the life at Zomba Prison.

Over five dozen people were recorded for the Zomba Prison project sessions, totalling more than six hours of music.

The album has raw songs with most of them done in Chichewa but the titles were translated in English on the cover.

Some of the songs in the album include ‘Listen to Me,’ ‘Woman today take care of business,’ ‘Please don’t kill my child,’ which is the track that stands out the most, ‘Message,’ ‘Jealous,’ ‘Prison of Sinners,’ ‘Let’s Go,’ ‘The Floods,’ ‘Taking My Life,’ ‘Give me back my child,’ ‘House of the dance,’ ‘Don’t hate me,’ ‘I see the whole world dying of all,’ ‘Forgiveness,’ ‘Goodbye, all my friends,’ ‘The weary and the burdened,’ and ‘Aim alone.’

The Grammy Award for Best World Music Album is an honour presented to recording artists for quality albums in the world music genre.

The award for Best World Music Album, reserved for international performers exhibiting “non-European, indigenous traditions”, was first presented to Mickey Hart in 1992 for the album Planet Drum.

Several awards were presented during the 58th Grammy Awards and among others saw reggae group Morgan Heritage which visited the country in December last year and is set to perform again in April, notching the Best Reggae Album for their album titled Strictly Roots.

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