An inmate band in Malawi could not hide their excitement weeks after officials told them their album was nominated for the Grammy Music Awards in the Best World Music Category.
They are the first Malawians to be nominated for the Grammys.
“I am lost of words that people who are behind bars in those cells have other people who can recognize them as human beings to put them into the category of the Grammy award,” said Dr. Little Dinizulu Mtengano,Acting Chief Commissioner of Prisons.
This is a clear testimony to the world that always looked at prisoners as outcasts and at times people think we are useless. But this nomination is a true reflection that we are useful human beings and God loves us all.
The album titled I Have No Everything Here was recorded in 2013. Ian Brennan produced the albums with 16 inmates who wrote and performed the songs.
“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,” Ian Brennan, who produced the album, told the Guardian.
One noticeable characteristic in all the genres on the album is the open narration of their puzzled life.
The inmates are confined at the Zomba maximum prison in Malawi and it comprise of those sentenced to life stretching to those on minor charges.
The album touches on various life hitches that include HIV pandemics and the economical burdens.
Most inmates struggle to restore hope in their lives. Ganizani Thomas is serving a life sentence at Zomba Prison. He plays the keyboard. He believes music has played a greater part in restoring his hopes to life.
“Since I joined this prison band, my life has never been the same. I am a changed person and my life sentence in prison is more of a school than hard labour. I believe God had a plan. I am a happy person,” he said.
“This is a clear testimony to the world that always looked at prisoners as outcasts and at times people think we are useless. But this nomination is a true reflection that we are useful human beings and God loves us all,” added, Chisomo Chipembere, another band member.
The prison management has also applauded the band and attested to it being used as a good case for reform of Africa’s correctional facilities.
Many correction facilities have resorted to using music band to rehabilitate many inmates.
“The prison is not a place to punish offenders. It is a place where we reform them and turn them into useful citizens when they complete their jail term. This is why we teach and train them a variety of life-skills so that when they are released they should mix well and make a living out of what they acquired while in prison,” said band leader, Inspector Thomas Binamo.
The 2016 Grammy Awards ceremony will take place on Monday, February 15 in Los Angeles, California, United States.
The group, known as the Zomba Prison Band, have been shortlisted with some of world music’s biggest icons including Africa’s own Angelique Kidjo.