Interviews

Published on February 6th, 2020 | by Jerry Doby

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Artist and Video-maker Dione Roach Talks Music Project Inside an African Prison

Music can be the breath of life or the cathartic activity which allows one to recapture life. There are many who are imprisoned in their minds and music helps them be free again and there are those who are physically detained behind bars for whom music can be the way back to a life rich in meaning and possibility. The story of Jail Time Records, a label housed inside of Cameroon’s Central Prison of Douala, is one of something that brings some magic back to the existence of current and ex-detainees who participate in this one of a kind musical program.

About Jail Time Records

Jail Time Records is a non-profit music label that was born as the result of a music project started in 2018 in Cameroon inside the Central Prison of Douala.

After succeeding in creating what is the first permanent recording studio inside an African prison Jail Time Records has become a collective of musicians, music producers and filmmakers from inside and outside the prison that produces the music of detainees and ex-detainees from Cameroon’s toughest prison.

It has the scope of scouting and promoting talent while helping social reintegration and changing society’s perception of imprisonment. It is seen as the means to give a voice to a part of society that is highly unrepresented. For these artists undergoing the hellish reality of Cameroon’s jail, music has become the reason to continue fighting and believing in a second chance in life.

The aim of the project is to expand its mission to other prisons both in Africa and internationally bringing a fresh and original contribution to music.

Tell  us about the Jail Time Records project and how it came to fruition

Jail Time Records is a record label that was born inside the central prison of Douala and produces music directly from inside Cameroon’s toughest prison. The project was started in 2018 by artist and video-maker Dione Roach. Impressed by the large number of extremely talented musicians inside the prison she decided to work with a rap collective to produce an album of their music. Through this she managed to get the construction of a small recording studio financed by an Italian NGO. This is the first recording studio built inside an African prison. Since then the project has expanded and we have recorded hundreds of songs by more than thirty incarcerated artists and shot various video-clips inside the prison. Jail Time Records  has the scope of scouting and promoting talent while helping social reintegration and changing society’s perception of imprisonment. It is seen as the means to give a voice to a part of society that is highly unrepresented. For the artists undergoing the hellish reality of Cameroon’s jail, music has become the reason to continue fighting and believing in the second chance in life.

What does it mean to have the project accepted by the prison system?

Cameroon’s prison system is very different from that of the Western world and it can be easier to shorten bureaucratical procedures. The project was also accepted since the director of the prison is very progressive and open-minded, Dione Roach had been working for one year doing art workshops for the incarcerated minors so was already known in the structure and was working with an NGO that has been promoting reinsertion programs within the prison for many years.

How do you see the project moving forward for the future?

Our aim is for Jail Time Records to expand to other prisons in other African countries as well as internationally, making music become a key instrument to personal development and social reinsertion inside the penal system while bringing a fresh contribution to music through the incredible raw talents that can be found behind bars.

Has the label achieved a distribution agreement and if so will the music releases see global distribution?

The label is going to launch it’s first compilation album Jail Time Vol. 1 in 2020 through all the main media platforms: Spotify, Apple Music, etc

Thus far how has the music community received the project?

The music community has reacted really enthusiastically to the project, and we have received support from various well-known artists in particular in Cameroon and in Italy , Dione’s country of origin. Changing lives through music is something very powerful and the music community is particularly sensitive to the subject. We have a couple of collaborations with some really good beat-makers and artists scheduled for this year and some events in different countries to present the project so we are really excited about the future. of the project.

Who are the principal players and how did the team come together

The project is managed by Dione Roach and Vidou H, the music producer that has recorded and produced all JTR artists. Dione Roach is an Italian/Australian artist that has been living between Africa, Europe and South America for the last five years, working on personal art projects as well as social and community-based art projects with a vision of shared creativity for a healthier society. JTR’s producer Vidou H spent two years in prison with his two brothers following family quarrels over the deceased body of their father involving black magic. During his time in prison, he has managed the recording studio and recorded hundreds of songs of many different genres: hip-hop, afro-pop, traditional, adding his own unique touch to the work of many talented artists. Since the end of 2019, the brand consultant Amedeo Cianfrone has been following JTR in creating a creative brand strategy. Many other artists, music managers, video makers, and producers have helped us on the way transforming Jail Time Records into a collective of individuals that believe in the power of music as an instrument for individual and social change.

Who are the standout artists from the project?

Stone Larabik is one of JTR’s strongest artists and is also the leader of the rap collective La meute des penseurs. With his deep voice, conscient lyrics and strong charisma he has created some of the best rap songs we have. Stone used to be an anti-terrorist soldier in the special presidential forces and is now appealing against a ten-year verdict for armed robbery.

D.O.X. is a multi-talented singer, the younger brother of our producer Vidou H he grew up on music, and spent the two years he was in jail recording a large number of high-quality trap, pop and rap songs. Do Stylo is one of the best freestyle rappers of the prison, with intelligent lyrics filled with social criticism. He is at his third prison sentence as drug addiction plays a central role in his life. Makondo only spent a couple of months in prison but he managed to record many songs in his traditional language from the southern coast of Cameroon, creating a unique style of fusing traditional singing with low-fi beats. With one of the most powerful and touching voices we have come across, we believe he is going to go ahead creating something really unique.

Where can the readers go to support the project?

You can find Jail Time Records on Facebook and Instagram and you can check out the two video-clips we have released so far on our youtube channel

Is there anything else you might want us to know about the importance of the JTR movement?

“There is a second chance for all, a soul can never be entirely lost, life is an endless breath” Vidou H



About the Author

Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, and internationally published arts & entertainment journalist. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture as well as the United States Press Corps.


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