Glo­ri­ous songs from be­hind bars

Pro­ducer Ian Bren­nan lat­est project pro­vides an in­trigu­ing glimpse in­side Malawi’s Zomba Cen­tral Pri­son

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - TICKET STUBS - Tony Clay­ton-Lea

Back in 1933, blues singer Lead Belly was in the mid­dle of a fiveto 10-year pri­son stretch for as­sault with in­tent to kill. When mu­si­col­o­gists and folk mu­sic col­lec­tors John and Alan Lo­max vis­ited the An­gola State Pri­son in Louisiana that sum­mer with their recorder from the Li­brary of Congress, they dis­cov­ered Lead Belly and the rest is his­tory.

It’s not the only time prisons have played a role when it comes to mu­sic. Be it the Johnny Cash’s record­ings at Fol­som and San Quentin prisons, Billy Bragg’s Jail Gui­tar Doors’ ini­tia­tive or the many times singers have ended up jailed for var­i­ous mis­de­meanors, prisons and mu­sic have come to­gether many times.

Ex­pe­ri­enced and well-trav­elled mu­sic pro­ducer Ian Bren­nan is the lat­est to find mu­sic be­hind bars. In his case, it was Malawi’s Zomba Cen­tral Pri­son (pic­tured) which was the cat­a­lyst for this project.

The max­i­mum se­cu­rity jail is over­crowded (2,000 peo­ple in a build­ing de­signed to hold 340), many in­mates are held for years be­fore trial and harsh, grue­some con­di­tions are rife.

Bren­nan and Ital­ian film-maker Mar­ilena Delli vis­ited the pri­son in 2013 to record and doc­u­ment the songs of the in­mates. The re­sult is the Zomba Pri­son Project al­bum I Have No Ev­ery­thing Here, which has just been re­leased by Six De­grees Mu­sic. Fea­tur­ing 16 singer-song­writ­ers and 20 tracks, the al­bum is an in­trigu­ing, mov­ing and pow­er­ful demon­stra­tion of the cre­ative life which goes on be­hind locked doors. Jim Car­roll

Col­lab­o­ra­tions from the odd to the aw­ful

To­day, the odd blend of Scot­land’s Franz Fer­di­nand and US duo Sparks re­lease a col­lab­o­ra­tive al­bum, FFS (see re­view, page 12). It got us think­ing what other GUBU pop/rock col­lab­o­ra­tions are out there? Here are our favourites.

Odd: KLF & Tammy Wynette The mav­er­ick Si­t­u­a­tion­ist Bri­tish mu­sic act teamed up with the Amer­i­can coun­try mu­sic icon for Jus­ti­fied and An­cient. The re­sult is a bizarre mix­ture of acid house and C&W - and check out the video for Wynette’s ob­vi­ous dis­com­fort in hav­ing agreed to take part.

Aw­ful: Ozzy Os­bourne & Miss Piggy Yes, it’s meant to be a tongue in cheek ver­sion of Step­pen­wolf’s Born to be Wild, but some­one for­got to tell Ozzy (or maybe they did and he for­got to re­mem­ber?), who gives the song heavy metal welly in­stead of hu­mour.

Charm­ing: David Bowie & Bing Crosby This one al­ways crops up on th­ese lists, and for good rea­son it’s se­ri­ously weird and en­gag­ing. The in­ter­con­nected songs of Lit­tle Drum­mer Boy and Peace on Earth were de­liv­ered af­ter a brief re­hearsal. Bowie’s rea­son for ap­pear­ing on Crosby’s 1977 TV spe­cial, Mer­rie Olde Christ­mas? “I knew my mother liked him…”

Karaoke: Happy Mon­days & Karl Den­ver Take a 1960s yo­delling Scot­tish pop star and a drug-happy Manch­ester band, put them to­gether on the band’s Lazyi­tis, sit back and laugh. Re­peat.

Good: Kanye West & Bon Iver In which hip-hop’s most ad­ven­tur­ous/con­tentious (delete where ap­pli­ca­ble) prac­ti­tioner cosies up with indie folk­ster Justin Ver­non on Lost in the World (from 2010’s My Beau­ti­ful Dark Twisted Fan­tasy). Sub­tle - it works!

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