Contemporary singer Jah Prayzah is under fire from all quarters after he was exposed as a copycat. There have been calls on the social media for the “Tsviriyo” singer to do the honourable thing and return the NAMA award to the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe. Jah Prayzah won the National Arts Merit Awards for Outstanding Video for “Mwanasikana” the song which is at the centre of controversy.
This came to light last week after an online publication blew the whistle and the subsequent article carried in The Herald Entertainment in which the lanky singer admitted to stealing a song called “Samini” by a Ghanaian pop star — Emmanuel Samini.
Not only did Jah Prayzah use some interpolations but he copied and pasted both the melody and the beat while replacing some of the original lyrics with Shona words.
In an interview with The Herald Entertainment Jah Prayzah did not show any signs of remorse but instead professed ignorance about the copyright laws and intellectual property rights.
“I was watching an African movie and I enjoyed the soundtrack. I did not know it was a released song. 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 said.
He also claimed he did not know the composer of the song until recently.
“I did not know about Samini and I did not know it was his song until a friend sent me a link of the track recently. He just told me to check the similarities between the songs and I realised it was the same track used it the African movie.”
The NACZ deputy director Nicholas Moyo said he was unaware of the story but admitted that it was a rare occurrence before saying the mother body would take appropriate action.
“I have not been in office since last week and I am not aware of that issue. Perhaps it was discussed while I was away. Since it is a rare occurrence I would like to think that appropriate action will be taken,” he said.
Asked to comment whether he would return the award or not, Jah Prayzah declined to comment.
“I am not going to say anything on that issue. You can go ahead and write whatever you want. In fact, why don’t you come to our offices and have a copy of my new DVD and see if there is anything to write,” he said.
However, it is not only Jah Prayzah who has done the unthinkable. There are several artistes who like Jah Prayzah thought they had created new music when in fact they had forgotten where they heard it before.
Names that quickly come to mind include Suluman Chimbetu’s “Kwedu” that sampled the track “Kajituliza Kasuku” by Les Wenyika, Alick Macheso’s “Mundikumbuke” sampled a track of the same title by Lucias Banda from Malawi and The Thornhill Brothers stole from theme song for a TV series “El Dorado”.
Using samples can be done legally for as long as there is prior agreement with composers, it is only bad when artistes flout the rules thinking that no one will know.
An official from Zimbabwe Music Rights Association said it is illegal to reproduce another artiste’s beat without permission. Artistes who share beats are also expected to share royalties.