A social media row has erupted between mbira player and singer Ambuya Stella Chiweshe and music producer and guitarist Clive ‘Mono’ Mukundu over a sound track that was superimposed on her performance at he unveiling of Mbuya Nehanda’s statue last month.
Mukundu’s son, Takakunda, a guitarist of note in his own right, edited the video on Mbuya Stella Chiweshe’s performance and put himself on her side playing an acoustic in line with what she was singing.
Ambuya Stella Chiweshe took offence because she had not been told that Takakunda would edit the clip and post it on social media platforms.
She then took to social media to denounce the act.
“To all the people who were at the unveiling of Mbuya Nehanda medium’s statue, I would like to ask you if you saw me with anybody on stage. Now I have seen a video of a guitarist sitting behind me playing a guitar that is spoiling my voice and the song that I had sung,” she posted.
“Please, I would like to let you know that I am very disappointed. Who edited that and added a guitarist? If you listen to the guitar it’s just spoiling my voice, it’s not playing along with it. I was alone on stage, now I see a wicked guitarist behind me, who is he?
“Can someone please explain to me why it was edited afterwards without my knowledge. Who did that? I want an answer please, because even Lucifer does not have such cruelty.”
This did not go down well with Mukundu, who thought Mbuya Chiweshe’s choice of words was not appropriate, and that there was nothing wrong in honouring her with a rendition as most artiste usually do.
What followed was a war of words between Ambuya Chiweshe and Mukundu.
“I am not happy at all with Mbuya Stella Chiweshe’s response to my son’s sound tracking of her performance,” wrote Mukundu on social media. “I do admit my son should have asked for permission, but (hamurange mwana) you don’t reprimand by calling such a young boy, (age of your grandchild) zera remuzukuru wenyu “a wicked guitarist”. Your response was way out of hand. My son is a very respectful, well raised child, far from being wicked.
“After all I am easily accessible, my contacts are all over all arts institutions in Zimbabwe, you could have contacted me. I would have apologised together with my son, but with your over reaction and name calling, you now owe me and my family an apology instead.
“He did the background soundtrack out of mere admiration. I have always taught him to look up to great artists of the previous generation like you, Mukanya and Tuku. Last time he was very overjoyed when Mukanya himself called him and expressed his joy after he had covered his song. “Last time Sulu Chimbetu sent him a message of encouragement after he saw him and his friends do his cover. That is what we expect from elders like you, not to use such strong words like ‘wicked’ on kids who look up to you.
“I am not forcing you to like his version, but this is his own artistic interpretation. Art is subjective, that’s why there are some who loved it, but all the same, he should have asked for permission, but on the other hand, you shouldn’t have over reacted like that.
“After all, YouTube is full of young artists paying homage to their idols, bringing relevance to their music by adding some modern touch. This is not something that is done out of malice, it’s mere admiration.”
Issue of copyright have been there since music started and it is unusual for an artist to use other artist’s songs to make their own. What is important is that they acknowledge that it’s not their compositions and also they should seek permission first from the originators of the music.
Recently, there was another row over copyright infringement involving United States-based musician Zivanai Masango and UK-based musician Michael Lannas after Masongo recorded and performed “Hapana Mazwi” without his permission.
Lannas took to Facebook and lashed out at Zivanai although it later appeared that Zivanai had actually asked for permission from him to do a cover.
Mukundu has also done the same performing covers for other artists.
And internationally musicians Nicki Minaj and Tracy Chapman were sued for using Chapmans lyrics in her song without permission and she was made to pay after a lawsuit.
Now the question that baffled many was how both Mukundu and Ambuya Chiweshe handled the matter.
In a fit of anger, Ambuya Chiweshe labelled Mukundu’s son as wicked, a word which drew anger from Mukundu, who also retaliated.
The beef attracted hundreds of comments from people from various walks of life on social, with some arguing in Mbuya Stella’s corner, while others supported Mukundu.
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Edith WeUtonga wrote: “Mono Mukundu not asking you to turn the other cheek. As a parent you do what you are called to do. Just wondering if there were no other ways to do it. Fighting fires with fire doesn’t get us anywhere. Done differently she would have retracted and apologised and Taka would have done the same too. For now matongokwinyao and went to her level, whatever it is”.
Plot Mhako said: “I was shocked by her response. I liked how Dereck responded to her. It’s unfortunate that we have senior artists who gate-keep with arrogance.”
Willis Wataffi wrote: “Okay guys balance me here, are we saying the young guitarist didn’t do anything wrong? If we can agree he did, then are we here to fix how someone reacts when something of theirs is taken without permission or are we HERE TO FIX THE ONGOING TAKING OF IP WITHOUT seeking permission? I get it words used may have been derogatory but DID THE YOUNG GUITARIST NOT BREAK THE CODE?”
Michael Lannas wrote: “Young Zimbabwean artists should write their own songs. Then there won’t be any problems over infringement of copyright”.