Mapfumo the Revolution. A voice that will reverberate for generations

The return of Dr. Thomas Tafirenyika Mapfumo to Zimbabwe after 14 years in exile was very good news to the music industry as he managed to speak on key and critical issues affecting the industry.

By Norman Theodore for EARGROUND 

Plot Mhako who is a youth, and urban arts activist and journalist has described Mukanya’s performance as both epic and historical.

Less than 24 hours before the dust from the historic Bira settles I revisit key issues that were aroused by Mapfumo upon his return.

 

Mukanya provided views ranging from Zimdancehall to piracy. In all the interviews he gave,the most prominent matter was that of piracy. The debate on piracy is key if our industry is to go forward simply because the issues obtaining on the ground are different from many people’s understanding of the problem.While there is global agreement that piracy is a marauding cancer, there is a huge cleavage as regards to how stakeholders should tackle it leading to its exponential growth and impact on the stockholders of the music industry.

There are two important issues that we must understand before any regulatory framework is put forward to deal with the scourge. Firstly musical piracy in Zimbabwe has deeply grown and graduated to levels where it is highly complicated to detach it from the economic malaise which means that a solution which does not address the economy will be highly short-term and myopic to the broader long term eradication of the challenge. Alick Macheso’s album Simbaradzo was the last time a Zimbabwean musician was to realize any meaningful income from album sales as the Zimbabwean economy soon nosedived. This effectively marked the new relationship between economy decline and the accompanying fall in fortunes for most musicians.

Secondly the problem of piracy is such that some musicians are popular because of piracy.It is a marketing strategy and tool which has seen many artists deliberately pushing through their content  to followers by day and complain of piracy by night. Ultimately there is a conundrum because the question on regulation becomes to what extent should we regulate marketing efforts?

Perhaps Mukanya is correct to bring the important subject of piracy to the fore and beyond this,he also had the opportunity to mix with “industry relatives” and hopefully let them know that they are failing the concerted efforts by remaining mum about it.This is because those who must be at the forefront of fighting piracy are not doing so in their best ways. Politicians deal with political problems in the political arena. Footballers settle scores in the pitch. Academics debate in the academic arena. Our musicians are not doing much through the microphone and it is part of the problem.Besides Sulumani Chimbetu’s Sean Timba which we are told was a piracy song,there is not so much content to address the problem through song.Most of our musicians have deliberately skipped the subject in their content despite the assurance that they have the best chances of it reaching out to relevant recipients.

In 2014,Television screenwriter and actor, Enock Chihombori shed some tears as he accepted a Nama award for his outstanding movie, Gringo the Troublemaker.Chihombori’s tears were reflective of the pain that artists go through as they work for nothing.It was the best possible opportunity to send the message to stakeholders including government which was then represented by former Arts and Culture minister Andrew Langa.Our artists are not speaking enough and the noise is not loud enough to attract the attention of government.

According to Section 2(a) of Chapter 26:01 of the Copyrights and Patents Act, it is an offence for any person to sell, let hire, trade or distribute any article to such an extent that prejudices the owner of the copyright in question.This means that the legal question is answered already. Sunday 101  has written to Minister Kazembe Kazembe before to address this.

Besides MC Villa’s “arrest” by Alick Macheso and conviction by the courts he prophesied something that we seem to be coming to terms with today.In October 2007, MC Villa described Macheso as “big-headed” and threatened that the sungura maestro had started a “war he cannot win”.Indeed Alick Macheso and many others in the industry are seemingly failing to win this war more than 13 years after the words of MC Villa.Sunday 101 is however unsure if MC Villa’s latest prophecy that he will outclass Jah Prayzah will come to life.Let’s see what time has in store for us.

Sunday 101 believes that the problem of piracy could be dealt with if there is stakeholder convergence on the rightful things to do.The matter has to start with dialogue and debate around the best strategy which can be implemented to the benefit of all musicians.Many legends and their families are going through uneasy times whilst their music is selling like hot cakes in the streets.This is sad.

This is what we suggest as we open up debate on the issue.

Disallow the importation of blank CDs and DVDs by unregistered music distribution companies.This should lead to formalization of music distribution as companies register inorder to import Discs.Even churches are depriving government of revenue from sale of discs at around $5 without anything going to the treasury. With this system in place,all Discs sold at churches will have to be done at Diamond, Alema etc and tagged to comply with the laws.

Introduce Universal CD tagging for all discs imported and sold in the country and empower police and relevant standard boards to confiscate and destroy all untagged Discs.

For purposes of tax computations and recording music sales statistics, compel legal music marketing and distribution companies to account for imported discs,release sales figures and be subject to audits.(At least we will know who is selling what and settle this debate once and for all).

Allow all recording studios to buy tagged blank discs from registered music distribution companies at a price equal to the selling price of discs in the streets ($1 for a blank disc) because the purpose of getting those discs is for recording and not distribution.

Implement Section 2(a) of Chapter 26:01 of the Copyrights and Patents Act and do so with the zeal that we see with other laws.

Create close to 100 000 jobs across the value chain.There is so much revenue potential in dealing with the piracy issue as it formalizes the informal.It brings to the fore a lot of issues that regulatory authorities can deal with in a formal way.

 

The biggest loser in this whole piracy issue is the Treasury.Government could be reaping a lot of tax returns revenue from the sale of music. Online estimates say that the U.S. economy loses $12.5 billion in total output annually as a consequence of music theft.Music piracy costs Europe $190 million a year, EU Study Estimates.

 

Whilst it is difficult to actually estimate the figures close to 20000 copies of pirated discs might be changing hands daily in Zimbabwe which is a huge loss to the economy.