Entertainment of Friday, 21 October 2016
Source: flex newspaper
Copyright issues are ones that are not cherished by most people due to their complex nature but stakeholders that ignore such issues do that at their own peril.
The issue of ‘song theft’ and what constitutes such an act has been re – ignited by the release of Guru’s new single Are You Aware, which has already started enjoying massive rotation on most radio stations due to its catchy chorus and message. Few days after the song was released, controversy started raging about the ownership of the song. A lady known as Divine Diamond on Facebook had come out to lay claim to ownership of the chorus of Guru’s latest release.
The Story On 22nd September, 2016, Divine posted a video in which she sang a song that contained the chorus of Guru’s Are You Aware. Few days later, Guru released this song.
The lady upon hearing the song came out to say Guru had stolen her song. By that she meant Guru stole her words and her melodies. She said this in an interview with Sammy Flex on Pluzz FM.
Most Ghanaians are aware of Ghanaian gospel music maestro Francis Agyei’s Wasma song that has same melodies of the song and had even thought it was sampled from Francis Agyei. For those who had not heard Divine’s version anywhere before, it was new to them. But that version has been a jama song for a long time so some of us were not enthused about the video. Perhaps what made Divine’s video go viral was how she dramatized it.
Melodies are of Swahili Origin Through the help of Kobby Annor, a friend on Facebook, I was able to find the real owners of the melodies to the song Guru is accused of stealing.
Contrary to a widely held perception that gospel artiste Francis Agyei owned the melodies to that song, I discovered that it was rather a traditional Swahili song of unknown composer that emerged in the 1900s. In 2008, however, also Zachary Ward arranged it and notated into a hymn called Yesu Ni Wangu which is very popular in most South African countries. This song has been reproduced by a lot of individuals and music groups across the world.
Reading the notations of Zachary’s score, it is 95% closer to the melodies of Francis Agyei’s Wasma. It is the second phrase that differs slightly with few notes. Maybe Francis tweaked it a bit in his composition. Or maybe the traditional version rather was like how Francis sang it and that Zachary rather tweaked few notes in the second phrase in his arrangement. This is a clear indication that Divine does not own the melodies in the first place. Well, maybe Diamond is that unknown composer of the Swahili folk song who has transformed into a young Ghanaian woman.
Lyrics Are Public Domain Jama Song Again, Diamond does not also own the words to Guru’s Are You Aware – hence, she cannot claim any royalties for it. It is a public domain jama song. This is a song that has been sung in various senior high and tertiary institutions and to say she owned those words, was also a lie. Except if she wants to say she composed those words years before 22nd September, 2016 and sent copies to all those jama groups at the various schools, to learn and sing.
The Bishop Agbey Testament When the issue came out a senior colleague and presenter at Radio 1 and Ahotor FM called and gave me some information that really affirmed by position.
According to Bishop Agbey Junior, her auntie, madam Celestina Segbefia aka Daadia, a very popular wedding MC known in Ewe communities in Accra, Tema, Ashaiman and the Volta Region sings this song at weddings and even sang it at his wedding on 10th July, 2014. This has even been captured in Bishop’s wedding videos.
This is another affirmation of the fact that Divine doesn’t own the song but just seeks to make capital out of the situation. I have the inkling that she may possibly have an ulterior motive in advancing this course.
The Manager – Artiste Disconnect: a Stunt? Another surprising thing is when after the manager Ray Moni had said on Pluzz FM that Guru took inspiration from the song, Guru had also come out to say Ray Moni was not his official manager and had not asked him to speak on his behalf.
As to whether this whole song – stealing brouhaha is a stunt, I doubt because this is not the first time Guru has been accused of smartly ‘stealing’ people’s songs. What I rather think he and his manager may be doing is just to create more controversy to be in the news.
Resolving the Issue To end, this issue, I would love that Guru features the lady in the video and gives her ‘something.’ Giving her something would not mean he has committed any copyright infringement but rather as a sign of goodwill.
I don’t know the lady’s ambition in showbiz but if she has any, that would be a launch pad for her into the industry.