Entertainment, Film and Music
GRAMMY-WINNING PRODUCER RECORDS MUSIC OF MALAWI PRISONERS FOR NEW PROJECT
Ian Brennan, Grammy-winning producer (Tinariwen, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, TV on the Radio, Malawi Mouse Boys, The Good Ones), swapped the studio for an eye-opening African adventure in the summer of 2013, as part of his inspiring Zomba Prison Project “I Have No Everything Here”, which will be released here in the UK on 16 March 2015.
Travelling to the border of Malawi and Mozambique with wife, Italian photographer and filmmaker Marilena Delli, they set out to document the heart-wrenching music of prisoners at the maximum security prison in Zomba, South Malawi.
A dilapidated brick structure that resembles a factory from a Dickens novel and designed to hold just 340 people, Zomba prison admits over 2000 inmates – with hostility often running rife.
Sworn to secrecy and even detained for taking photos in a forbidden area, Brennan found himself caught in the middle of a brawl, witnessing a prisoner being beaten for trying to escape. The couple were granted access to the grounds in exchange for hosting classes for inmates and guards on how to prevent violence.
He said: “Music is universal. It exists everywhere and is a necessity for spiritual survival. It is indefensible that literally hundreds of thousands of musicians from cities like London, LA and New York have been heard for decades. Yet, not a single record has ever been released internationally from entire countries composed of millions of citizens, which have been rendered so invisible that the majority of people on the planet would have a hard time even locating them on a map.”
The majority of the prisoners have received life-sentences for crimes ranging from murder to theft. The men’s group is led by an individual serving a life-sentence for committing murder during a robbery plot where he and his gang attempted to steal equipment from another band. Many of the women are held for “witchcraft”, with their only crime being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Brennan added: “There is a stark difference between the male and female sides of the prison. The men have an organised band and were very particular about how they were to be recorded. The women are without instruments, except for drums made from buckets, yet stepped forward with stunningly personal tunes like ‘I Kill No More.’”
The pair have previously travelled to Rwanda, South Sudan, Palestine, Nairobi and Algeria producing multiple albums along the way from the respective regions in their local languages.
Through the Zomba Prison Project, three of the women involved have gained release from their sentences. Three other cases are now actively under review due to the funds raised. The hope is that these efforts will be ongoing and more prisoners will be advocated for as a result of awareness and support brought about through “I Have No Everything Here” album.
Over 60 people were recorded for the Zomba Prison Project sessions, totalling more than six hours of music. The project proved a multi-generational affair with members as young as twenty and as old as sixty exercising their vocal chords.
About Ian Brennan
“Music and other forms of art are by far the most effective kind of social-work that exists. A single, nameless one-hit wonder brings more comfort to the world than almost any single psychologist can hope to in a lifetime” – Ian Brennan.
Ian Brennan is a GRAMMY-winning producer with three GRAMMY-nominated records (Best World Music 2011, Best Traditional Folk 2006 and 2007).
Amongst other projects, he travelled to South East Algeria to record with Touareg rock legends Tinariwen, for their 2011 release “Tassili” on the Anti-label. He has also produced ‘Rain Machine’, the solo debut of Kyp Malone (TV on the Radio) which was named “one of the 30 best records of the year so far” by SPIN magazine.
Six Degrees Records will be release the Zomba Prison Project “I Have No Everything Here” in the UK on 16 March 2015 – LC-19379.
This record is dedicated to 3-year-old prisoner, Bubaka (“Abuba”), and the memory of his mother.
For more information on Zomba Prison Project, visit: