Meet the first Malawian musical group ever nominated for a Grammy.

It took this music group from Malawi an entire week to find out they'd been nominated for a 2016 Grammy award.

Why? It's hard to know what's going on in the outside world if you have little access to it, and well, all of the group's members are in prison.


All images via sixdegreesrecords/YouTube.

The group, called the Zomba Prison Project, has been nominated for the Best World Music Album.

The nomination is for their album "I Have No Everything Here," and it's the first time anyone from Malawi has been nominated in the Grammy Awards' 58 years, let alone from a maximum-security prison.

And despite the whole being-in-prison thing, it's pretty lucky how the nomination happened.

Music producer Ian Brennan deliberately set out to find voices that aren't well-represented in the music industry.

Brennan, a Grammy winner himself, has always had his pulse on world music. He knows that talent is everywhere, even in the places you'd least expect. The problem is accessing it.

"How can it be just that tens of thousands of 'artists' from cities like Los Angeles and London are given platforms, but entire countries are left voiceless globally?" Brennan asks on his website. "This mathematical absurdity of superiorness only mirrors society's greater inequities."

With the goal of closing that gap, Brennan and his wife set out to provide a platform to underrepresented voices. A prison in one of the world's poorest countries seemed like an interesting place to start.

"How can it be just that tens of thousands of 'artists' from cities like Los Angeles and London are given platforms, but entire countries are left voiceless globally?"

The couple were given access to the Zomba Prison in Malawi in exchange for offering classes on violence prevention to its inmates and guards, according to NBC News. There, Brennan was able to work with the musical talent living inside those prison walls everyday. And talent wasn't hard to find.

Brennan worked with around 60 inmates, who ranged in age from 22 to 70, helping them tell their own stories through music.

Over six hours of what Brennan calls field recordings, an album was born — mostly in the inmates' native Chichewa language.

You can hear one of the album's main songs, the heart-wrenchingly named "Please Don't Kill My Child," here:


With tracks like "I See the Whole World Dying of AIDS," "Don't Hate Me," "I Kill No More," "I Am Alone," and "Forgiveness," it's clear that the album gave the artists an opportunity to release a lot of their feelings.

And that's the point, Brennan says, describing music and art in general as "by far the most effective kind of social-work that exists."

It's giving them another kind of release, too. Proceeds from the album sales are helping certain prisoners to appeal their detention. So far, three of the women involved in the project have been released. That's major.

The album has been critically well-received all over the world, which emphasizes how important it is.

On National Public Radio, Betto Arcos called it "one of the most exciting projects I've heard."

There's a world of talent out there. It's important to make sure we're stepping outside our comfort zones to hear and appreciate music and stories from around the world, so whether it wins a Grammy in February or not, the album and its nomination is still a huge win.

You can hear more from the Zomba Prison Project in this short video:

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When Molly Reeser was a student at Michigan State University, she took a job mucking horse stalls to help pay for classes. While she was there, she met a 10-year-old girl named Casey, who was being treated for cancer, and — because both were animal lovers — they became fast friends.

Two years later, Casey died of cancer.

"Everyone at the barn wanted to do something to honor her memory," Molly remembers. A lot of suggestions were thrown out, but Molly knew that there was a bigger, more enduring way to do it.

"I saw firsthand how horses helped Casey and her family escape from the difficult and terrifying times they were enduring. I knew that there must be other families who could benefit from horses in the way she and her family had."

Molly approached the barn owners and asked if they would be open to letting her hold a one-day event. She wanted to bring pediatric cancer patients to the farm, where they could enjoy the horses and peaceful setting. They agreed, and with the help of her closest friends and the "emergency" credit card her parents had given her, Molly created her first Camp Casey. She worked with the local hospital where Casey had been a patient and invited 20 patients, their siblings and their parents.

The event was a huge success — and it was originally meant to be just that: a one-day thing. But, Molly says, "I believe Casey had other plans."

One week after the event, Molly received a letter from a five-year-old boy who had brain cancer. He had been at Camp Casey and said it was "the best day of his life."

"[After that], I knew that we had to pull it off again," Molly says. And they did. Every month for the next few years, they threw a Camp Casey. And when Molly graduated, she did the most terrifying thing she had ever done and told her parents that she would be waitressing for a year to see if it might be possible to turn Camp Casey into an actual nonprofit organization. That year of waitressing turned into six, but in the end she was able to pull it off: by 2010, Camp Casey became a non-profit with a paid staff.

"I am grateful for all the ways I've experienced good luck in my life and, therefore, I believe I have a responsibility to give back. It brings me tremendous joy to see people, animals, or things coming together to create goodness in a world that can often be filled with hardships."

Camp Casey serves 1500 children under the age of 18 each year in Michigan. "The organization looks different than when it started," Molly says. "We now operate four cost-free programs that bring accessible horseback riding and recreational services to children with cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening illnesses."

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