Plagiarism blights Zim music

HARARE - Recent claims that local music star Jah Prayzah plagiarised the concept of Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz’s ‘Mdogo Mdogo’ on his ‘Jerusarema’ video has put Zimbabwean music in the dock.

While the Tsviriyo singer was only one viciously attacked in the court of public opinion, the Daily News on Sunday has established that the plagiarising of beats or tunes from other musicians mainly foreign ones by local acts has been taking place in Zimbabwe since time immemorial.

In 2006, the late sungura star Tongai Moyo released the song ‘Zakeo,’ off the album ‘Pakanaka Dhewa’ but the beat of the song was very similar to that of Botswana rhumba artiste Franco’s  hit ‘Tsietso’ which had been released three years earlier. Though lyrics of the two songs are different, one might be forgiven for thinking that both songs were composed by one singer, mainly due to an almost similar lead guitar.

Despite the fact that Zakeo’s beat had been heavily ‘borrowed’ from Franco, the song, rather ironically, played a big part in making Kwekwe-based Utakataka Express one of the most popular bands in the country.

The big list of culprits includes R and K African Sounds. The Dzivarasekwa-based a group, that was fronted by one Kelvin Chikore and Ranga Sagombeto, released a song titled ‘Christmas Paruzevha,’ off their 2005 album ‘Mhemberero.’ The song captivated Zimbabwean music fans during the festive season of that year but sadly, it turned out that the beat of the song had been copied from Franco’s ‘Robala Nnana.’

Dendera musician Suluman Chimbetu, who is one of the most followed artistes in Zimbabwe, also stands accused of ‘stealing’ the beat of Kenyan group Les Wanyika’s hit ‘Kajituliza Kasuku’ to create the 2010 song ‘Kwedu’ on which he featured music superstar Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi.

‘Kwedu’ was released 10 years after Kajituliza Kasuku. Interestingly, the Kiswahili word Kasuku is generally similar in meaning to ‘Kwedu.’

Three years ago, Jah Prayzah was accused of copying the beat of the song ‘Mwanasikana,’ off his 2013 album “Tsviriyo” from Ghanaian musician Emmanuel Samini’s 2007 hit track titled “Samini.” After being attacked in the media, Jah Prayzah later owned up. The Uzumba-born star said he heard ‘Samini’ on an African movie that he watched when he was making Tsviriyo in 2013.

“I was watching an African movie and I enjoyed the soundtrack. I did not know it was a released song (on the market). I just thought it was a track made for the movie. The beat was good and I was tempted to use it on one of my songs,” he was quoted as saying then.

Jah Prayzah added that he did not know the composer of the song at the time he plagiarised the beat. Interestingly the popular music star won the Outstanding Video award for the contentious ‘Mwanasikana.

Sungura ace Alick Macheso was also accused of stealing “Mundikumbuke” from a similarly titled song by Malawian Lucias Banda. Ironically, Macheso has also attacked fellow Zimbabwean musicians like Somandla Ndebele, Gift Amuli and Roderick Chomudhara of copying his beats. The sungura star even composed the song ‘Murondatsimba’ in which he attacked copycats.

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