A few days after the celebrated rapper Tay Grin was implicated in a copyright infringement case, another high profile artist Gwamba has been accused of reproducing a verse of his hit song, Better.
Gwamba faces accusations from a rising hip-hop artist Slessor Munthali and his fans who allege that Gwamba has redone a verse from Slessor’s Puputa Misonzi.
Puputa Misonzi was released on January 1 2016 whereas Better was released at the end of the same month. Music videos for both of the songs are currently enjoying airplay on most of the local television stations.
However, several of Slessor’s fans took it to Facebook recently, expressing their surprise over the similarities. Slessor, in an interview with The Nation, expressed the same feelings, allegations Gwamba thinks are a ploy by Slessor to get attention.
“Well, I don’t want to make it look like I want to gain a little fame from it. I was just surprised and so are my listeners. The first lines of the first verse are exactly how he started his version. Only that he translated his to Chichewa….Ndikudziwa umazifunsa, does God really exist?/Is his existence really just a myth?… Then compare with how he started his,” said Slessor.
Slessor said what puzzles him most is that Gwamba was in forefront sharing his song upon its release. He said the Chichewa rapper had also sent him Better before its release for his feedback.
“But when I indicated to him about the similarities, he somehow blocked the conversation. Actually, he blocked me on that [WhatsApp] line,” he said.
Tionge T Raww, a music fan, observed on his Facebook page: “Am I the only one who has noticed the little similarity between Puputa Misonzi by Slessor and Better by Gwamba? Mpaka ma lyrics, Slessor did some lines in English and Gwamba has done it in Chichewa. Maybe because it’s Gwamba, we are going to let it pass.”
In an interview on Tuesday, Gwamba dismissed the allegations as a mere ploy by the concerned parties to get public attention.
“Right now the only way that guy [Slessor] can make it to the newspaper is when there is a story that has my name on it. I’m tired of making rappers relevant. That’s all I’m going to say on this issue. Otherwise, there is a difference between a phrase and a sentence.
“If someone says ‘Mkazi umakhala kuti’ then another says ‘Mkazi umakhala kuti’ then it means they have stolen a song from each other? Or else, Cardwell Bobby once said in his song ‘I know you wonder why’ and in Better I said ‘Ndikudziwa pena umadabwa’ then it means I stole my song from Bobby?
“People love the song, and I thank God for that. We all need to live with that. But it’s good to be surprised sometimes,” said Gwamba.
In an earlier interview, Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) senior licensing officer Rosario Kamanga said they only act on copyright cases when it has been established that there has been a violation.
“If he brings the songs to us, first we must establish that there has been a violation and thereafter the law provides recourse,” he said.