It’s a sad reality that the lives of the majority of the prison population have been blighted by disadvantage of one form or another; a lack of educational opportunity, poverty and poor mental health are sadly common themes. Also indisputable is the knowledge we all share; that somehow, music reaches us on a deeply emotional level. Through the powerful medium of music, Jail Time Records is enabled to create positive learning experiences that can help to raise the self-confidence and aspirations of men, women and young people in prisons, open doors to other forms of education and learning, and contribute to a reduction in re-offending rates.
Jail Time Records is a non-profit record label made up of artists, rappers, producers and film makers formerly and currently incarcerated in Cameroon’s toughest prison – Douala Central Prison. After setting up the recording studio inside the institution in 2018 and following four single releases, the collective will release their first double album ‘JAIL TIME VOLUME 1’ on November 30th, featuring 24 heavy-hitting rap, afrobeats, afro-trap, trap, drill, afro-house tracks from the Jail Time squad.
Tracks journey through the languages spoken in Cameroon: French, English, Douala, Fulbè, Bamoun, Bassa, Sango, and explores a wide spectrum of themes and experiences of life incarcerated. Frustration, pain, love, guilt, hope, social and political criticism culminating in a communal showcase of resilience through the redemptive power of music. From within the grim prison grounds, music allows the artists to overcome the limitations of their condition and becomes an expression of hope, solace and common purpose, as felt in the urgency and intensity of every track. The album is intersected by skits composed by recordings of prison sounds, testimonies of the artists, phone conversations between the incarcerated artists and their families, creating an immersive experience of the universe of incarceration.
The album is anticipated by the recent release of the fifth JTR single, ‘Show me the way’, an afrobeats ballad sung by Jeje, JTR’s first incarcerated female artist. The emotional yet danceable banger recorded inside the Central Prison of Douala, is crowned perfectly by Jeje’s sweet and catchy voice, and her lyrics expressing the loneliness of her condition and the absence of someone guiding her during her life. The video clip was shot at the entrance of the female quarter of the Central Prison of Douala at twilight, reflecting the intimate and moody atmosphere of the song. Jeje is Nigerian but has been living in Cameroon with her extended family since she was a child. She is 21 and has been incarcerated for two years for theft. Having always known that her path was music, with the complicity of an artist-friend Jeje stole her uncle’s money to try and escape back to her home-country Nigeria and invest in her career as an artist before both were arrested. Inside prison Jeje has been working on her debut solo album which will be released in 2023.
The video clip was shot at the entrance of the female quarter of the Central Prison of Douala. The choice of shooting at twilight reflects the intimate and moody atmosphere of the song. Jeje is shown mostly alone, beneath an eerie prison guard tower, often singing while sitting in a chair and staring into a spotlight shining straight towards her, as if it was a confessional. The spectral prison surroundings come alive again when JEJE is seen surrounded by a group of fellow female inmates cast against the barbed wire walls and evening sky. Each woman’s stern face seems to reflect her own difficult life path, while the lyrics sing about nobody showing the singer the way to go in life, and only God being the final guide.
‘JAIL TIME VOL. I’ PREVIEW
The album will be released on the 30.11.22 accompanied by the drop of the video-clip for the track ‘Offline’, a collab between two JTR members: D.O.X. and Vidou H. The catchy pop tune sung in French compares being in prison to being offline, out of reach and network, and highlights both the frustrations and strengths that are gained through this experience. The video-clip was shot inside the Texas and Regime quarters of the Central Prison of Douala that no longer exist following a big fire that burned them down in 2020. D.O.X. and Vidou H are cousins and spent two years unjustly incarcerated over family quarrels involving black magic until they were acquitted of murder and released. Vidou H is also JTR’s co-founder and producer and has recorded and produced the whole JAIL TIME VOL.1 album from behind bars.
After creating the first permanent recording studio inside an African prison, Jail Time Records has evolved into a collective of musicians, music producers and film makers from inside and outside of Cameroon’s Central Prison in Douala. JTR scouts and promotes talent within the prison and provides a vital outlet for those inside; giving a voice to these highly underrepresented men. The project also aims to help with social integration, and for many of these men music has become their reason to continue fighting and believing in a second chance at life.
Jail Time Records is a registered charity, to donate please visit the support page. The long-term aim of the project is to expand the JTR mission to other prisons both in Africa and internationally and to bring a fresh and original contribution to the contemporary music scene.
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