Zomba Prison Project: I Have No Everything Here
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.