Zomba Prison Project: I Have No Everything Here

John Adamian on April 13, 2015

Some monumental American recordings have been made in prison settings: Robert Pete Williams, Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison and Alan Lomax’s documentation of work songs at Parchman Farm all come to mind. These selections from a maximum-security prison in Malawi offer an African installment of the same tradition. The first track “Listen to Me (Or I Will Kick Your Ass)” has one of the greatest punk-rock titles of any African field recording, but the song is a lilting and poignant piece of guitar and vocals. All of these recordings are raw—some with rock-band-like configurations, others with just
unaccompanied vocals. The intonation of some of the performances may strike some Western ears as unusual. The naked emotion of “I Kill No More”—a 20-second declaration of a born-again conversion in solo voice—is startlingly beautiful. A portion of the proceeds from sales of this record will go toward legal representation for some of the inmates at this overcrowded prison and to spread awareness of their predicament.

Artist: Zomba Prison Project
Album: I Have No Everything Here
Label: Six Degrees