Prisoners sing in Peru version of "American Idol"

LIMA Wed Feb 27, 2008 2:52pm EST

1 of 4. Inmates perform the inaugural dance at the 2008 'Melodies of Freedom' singing contest at the Santa Monica female prison in Lima February 26, 2008. Ten groups of inmates from various Peruvian prisons competed for the 'Melodies of Freedom' award as part of a rehabilitation program.

Credit: Reuters/Mariana Bazo

LIMA (Reuters) - "Bad Luck," "Free Like the Wind," and "Waltz of the Prisoner" were top crowd pleasers as convicts faced off at a prison in Lima to sing in the Peruvian underworld's version of the popular TV show "American Idol."

Augusto Flores won first prize for a song he wrote called "Your Visit," about waiting for news from his family and friends.

He won a guitar, a trophy and a pair of shoes. Winners of "American Idol" competitions, which gives ordinary people a chance at stardom, win recording contracts and global fame.

Not all of the contestants made it to the finals of the "Melodies of Freedom" competition, billed as a settling of scores between a dozen convicts from prisons across Peru's biggest city.

Juan Jose Gutierrez, under house arrest after being released on parole, sent in a choppy music video. Promoters jazzed it up by flanking the screen with psychedelic lights and a smoke machine.

Others said they were just happy to be there.

"This is like a day of freedom," Javier Casal, who sang an original song called "Freedom," said. "And that's the best prize we can get."

Excerpts from the contest were shown on local television news broadcasts.

(Reporting by Dana Ford and Maria Luisa Palomino; Writing by Dana Ford; Editing by Terry Wade and Jackie Frank)

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