The Grammy-nominated Zomba Prison Project have announced the release of their second album I Will Not Stop Singing, out September 9th.
Stream or embed the album’s standout track
“I Will Never Stop Grieving for You, My Wife” via Soundcloud
Produced by author and Grammy-winner, Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Malawi Mouse Boys), the Zomba Prison Project’s debut album I Have No Everything Here was the surprise world music hit of 2015. Featuring prisoners and officers from Malawi’s maximum security prison— many that were previously non-musicians— the record offered songs of heartbreaking and forthright loneliness, regret, and despair coupled with a sense of resilience and courage under the most extreme of circumstances. The album received the first Grammy nomination ever for the country of Malawi, an honor that sadly the overwhelming majority of African nations have still yet to receive.
Brennan and his wife, Italian filmmaker and photographer, Marilena Delli, returned to the prison twice more in 2016 to compile a new album of equal gravity to— if not more so than— the first. The standout track “I Will Never Stop Grieving for You, My Wife” was born out of Brennan’s songwriting workshop on the very final day of recording. Done in a single take, the tune explores for the first time the writer’s emotions around the recent loss of his wife and mother of his four young children.
In the time since the release of the first Zomba Prison Project record, Malawi slipped to the #1 poorest nation on earth. This has been evidenced at the prison itself, where the inmates recently went three full days without eating due to delayed funding from the government, breaking the all-too frequent one or two day stints. This lack of nutrition is particularly perilous for the high number of prisoners that are HIV-positive or have AIDS. One inmate— whose charges Brennan and Delli were also having actively reviewed— perished in the prison, as her own child had done the year prior to the recording of the first album. The new album is dedicated to her memory.
The themes and concerns of the inmates are expressed clearly in titles such as “I Am Done With Evil,” “Leave My Daughter Alone,” “Protect Me,” and perhaps most revealingly, the almost prayer-like chant, “I Will Not Return to Prison.” Other standout performances come the newcomer firebrand vocalist, Agnes Chiwisa, and the ethereal, spine-chilling falsetto that lifer, Elias Chimenya unexpectedly reaches at the climax of the a cappella track, “Sister, Take Good Care of Your Husband.”
Watch a mini-documentary about the making of the first album.