The family of Malawi’s reggae icon Evison Matafale has threatened legal action against musicians who are infringing the copyright of the fallen artist’s music by releasing unauthorised remixes.
In the past month, two artists have released renditions of Matafale’s music.
Last month, gospel honjo artist San B released Chauta Wamphamvu before Lilongwe-based rapper Martse cut a rendition of Malawi on Monday.
But this has not gone down well with Matafale’s family, who have asked the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) to act on the matter.
Matafale’s brother, Toza Matafale, said musicians in the country should come up with their own compositions rather than riding on the back on someone’s legacy.
“If they are original artists, they should compose and sing their own songs rather than capitalising on Matafale’s songs.
“What they are doing illegal. Worse still, the artists are not seeking permission from the family to reproduce the songs,” said Toza.
He has since taken San B to task over the reproduction of Chauta Wamphamvu.
“I have taken the issue with relevant authorities. It’s not on for the artists in the country to just wake up one morning and abuse Matafale’s music,” he said.
Matafale died at the age of 32 in police custody on November 27 2001.
But his music and legacy still live on through his music.
But Toza has no kind words with the artists who are trying to find their feet in the competitive music industry with Matafale’s music.
“The danger is that Matafale’s legacy will be erased because what is happening is that it is the music of these copycats that is enjoying airplay at the expense of the Matafale’s original music. Secondly, the remixes are diluting the quality of Matafale’s reggae music,” said Toza.
On his part, Black Missionaries band leader Anjiru Fumulani said he is surprised that people are using Matafale’s music without permission.
“I am equally saddened that people can just decide to abuse Matafale’s music whey they feel like doing so. But we are not happy with this and it must stop because there are issues of copyright that are involved,” said Anjiru.
It has become a trend for artists in Malawi to copy old classics without permission.
Most musicians use this as a strategy to survive on the music scene, believing that they will have a lasting effect by aligning themselves with legendary artists or popular songs.
Asked what inspired him to do Malawi, a song which was originally done by Matafale, Marste simply said: “Nothing…that’s just my mind thinking.”
In respect of their rights provided for in the Copyright Act of 1989, Cosoma is there to promote and protect the interests of authors, performers, translators, producers of sound recordings, broadcasters, publishers and in particular to collect and distribute any royalties or other remuneration accruing to them.
The society’s senior licensing officer Rosario Kamanga said it is a copyright infringement for any person to use material without permission and that the society acts when a complaint has been officially lodged.
However, Malawi is still using the 1989 Copyright Act, which imposes weak fines on perpetrators of copyright.
For example, Section 48 on the Offences and Penalties stipulates that: “A copyright infringer shall be reliable to a fine of not less than K200 and not exceeding K15, 000 and to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year.
About a decade ago, Cosoma censured Nelson Kasache’s Timakhala ku Blantyre, a response to Peter Mawanga’s hit Amakhala ku Blantyre, after the body established that there was a copyright infringement.
Matafale rose to become one of the Malawi’s top musicians with his 2000 release of the Kuimba 1 album with The Wailinig Brothers.
Since his death, the Black Missionaries have carried on his mission through Kuimba series.n