Zim band in royalty fight with Voice of America

Isizukulwane, a Zimbabwean band in Bulawayo, is claiming that Voice of America’s Studio 7 used its song ‘Nanka Amasela’ without paying royalties.

Voice of America Studios. Photo: Britannica.com
Voice of America Studios. Photo: Britannica.com

‘Nanka Amasela’ was Studio 7’s signature tune ahead of its Ndebele news bulletin for more than a decade.

Gideon Nxumalo, a member of the group, said Isizukulwane has not received payment from the US broadcaster and do not know how to claim their dues, having failed to reach Studio 7. “Our song has been used on the station for almost 14 years,” he said. “We have never been paid for its use.

“We have received royalties from the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) through the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (ZIMURA) but never received any royalties from VOA. We have failed to reach out to them. ZIMURA have also tried to talk to them, but failed. There has been no headway in the talks over our royalties.”

VOA Studio 7 Ndebele news producer, Praxedes Jeremiah said the media company took the song from a free music library. “We have since stopped using the song,” he said. “So it is not 14 years and when we used it, we did not take it from their song, but from generic vocal free music from our library.”

A ZIMURA official, Henry Makombe said they have had difficulties dealing with Studio 7, claiming it was a “pirate” radio station. “The challenge that we have with that radio station is that it’s not a proper radio station. It is operating from the United States of America,” he said.

He added: “The management of royalties is territorial. We collect royalties here in Zimbabwe and then pass the collection to associations representing musicians world over, societies that musicians are part of in their respective countries.

“In this case, that broadcasting station is a pirate broadcaster. It is like the pirate selling music in the streets. We cannot expect Gramma to collect royalties from them. What we can do is to try and talk to (musicians) societies in that territory to get them arrested if they can locate them because they are indeed using the copyright material of our musicians here.”

VOA is the official broadcasting service of the United States government. Its Studio 7 broadcasts content for Zimbabwe.

This article was originally published in NewsDay on 18 January 2017.

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