I Have No Everything Here

24/07/15A Prison Project from Malawi

Two years ago, in the summer of 2013, the American Grammy-winning producer Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, TV on the Radio) and his Italian wife Marilena Delli, a documentarian and photographer herself, embarked on an impressive journey to the southeast African country of Malawi to realise a musical human rights project in the local Zomba prison. The two had previously travelled to other countries including Rwanda, South Sudan, Palestine, Nairobi and Algeria in search of local artists, resulting in multiple albums, often the first ever of their kind to be released internationally.

Constructed in 1935, the Zomba maximum-security facility was originally conceived to house approximately 340 convicts. Today, the dilapidated brick structure holds over two thousand people, many of whom hold life-sentences. Brennan and Delli were allowed access to the prison grounds in exchange for Brennan offering guards and inmates alike a series of classes on violence prevention, a risky arrangement to say the least, in a dire and overpopulated environment. While many of the men there face charges of felony, without ever having been to court for lacking means of transportation, women there are mainly convicted of “witchcraft”.

Music-making though, is a multi-generational affair at Zomba. The project thus encompassed over 60 people, aged between 20 and 60, participating in the prison sessions and producing more than 6 hours of music, which resulted in the “I Have No Everything Here” album, released via San Francisco-based, independent record label Six Degrees Records and available on Bandcamp. More importantly the increase of awareness stemming from the album helped three of the women involved to be released from their sentences, while three other cases are now actively under review due to the funds subsequently raised.

As Brennan puts it: “How can it be that their are what are labeled music ‘centers’ in the world? Music is universal. It exists everywhere and is a necessity for survival spiritually. Our hope is to help tip the scales, in the most minuscule way, back to fairer representation. It is indefensible that literally hundreds of thousands of musicians from cities like London, LA and New York have been heard ad nauseam for decades, while not a single record has ever even been released internationally from entire countries composed of millions of citizens and that have been rendered so invisible that the majority of people on the planet would have a hard time even locating them on a map.”

via: fairplanet.org / sixdegreesrecords.com

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom