Zoe Boekbinder and Ani DiFranco’s Prison Music Project

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Two things have been true since the beginning of time, music heals the soul and women get things done. And when women decide to use music to do good, we love to see it. A decade ago, singer-songwriter Zoe Boekbinder visited New Folsom Prison to play concerts and teach music workshops. That single day in prison changed everything and the Prison Music Project was born. The project sought to give a voice to those often forgotten and silenced by society as they live their lives behind bars. And since music does such a good job connecting people, it only made sense. But Boekbinder couldn’t do it alone.

With help of legendary indie icon Ani DiFranco, the Prison Music Project took off. The project was a collaborative effort between musicians and poets behind bars. It gave prisoners an outlet to showcase their art. But perhaps more importantly, it allowed them to express themselves. Often times, those behind bars are treated with little to no humanity. And for most people, it’s not something they’d normally think about, leaving the prisoners to suffer in silence. Thanks to the Prison Music Project, they are silent no more. Many of the prisoners were poets, and their poems were transformed into song. Others were musicians at heart and had no trouble getting lyrics down and collaborating with Boekbinder. Soon enough, there was enough material for an entire album.

Long Time Gone features the work of nine incarcerated writers and a decade’s worth of work. Produced by DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records, the album will be released on June 5th, with proceeds going to communities affected by mass incarceration. Many of the writers were not able to perform their own songs, as recording devices are not allowed inside prisons. So, the songs were reinterpreted by women musicians. The few inmates who did get to work on songs had to record their parts over the phone. Besides giving these seemingly forgotten citizens an outlet, a Long Time Gone hopes to shed some light on this country’s broken justice system. It’s no secret that institutionalized racism, brutal police violence, privatized and for-profit prisons, and an ongoing and completely ineffective ‘war on drugs’ led to staggering amounts of incarceration. This album is just one step to hopefully making things right.

Watch Zoe Boekbinder and Ani DiFranco talk about the album below.

Long Time Gone will be available for purchase on June 5th on all streaming music services and the Righteous Babe Records store.

 

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