An album made with inmates from Malawi's Zomba Prison has been nominated for a Grammy in the "Best World Music Album" category. The album is called "I Have No Everything Here."
Music producer Ian Brennan was allowed rare access inside the prison along with his wife, Marilena Delli, a filmmaker and photographer who documented the recording process in one of the world's most overburdened jails.
"The prison was designed to hold 330 people, and has 2,000 or more at any given time," he says. Brennan recalls that space is so overstuffed, prisoners are forced to sleep on top of each other and head-to-toe, "like sardines."
Often, individuals at the prison are incarcerated based solely on accusations. Some of the inmate were victims of crimes, but were counter-accused by their own assailants.
Brennan recalls the enjoyment the inmates had when recording the album tracks. "They would do these amazing tribal songs to lift their spirits for the hours they were allowed outside," he says.
Female residents in the prison are faced with a particularly wrenching decision. They are allowed to have one child under five years of age live in the prison with them, and often they have to choose between which offspring can stay with them.
Based on what he's seen, Brennan has decided to put the album's proceeds towards legal representation for some of Zomba's prisoners.
He's already started to make some headway; three of the female prisoners on the album have been released since its making.