SULUMAN Chimbetu has been accussed of copying a Kenyan group’s work when he wrote “Kwedu”, and did not credit the veteran group.
A former member of the Kenyan band, Les Wanyika, now living in Zimbabwe says “Kwedu” sounds a lot like “Kajituliza Kasuku”, which they recorded almost 10 years ago.
Sulu insisted that the song originated from one of his dreams, despite the similarities in the production.
Formed in 1978 Les Wanyika was a hugely popular group and are best known for their 1979 classic hits “Sina Makosa” and “Paulina”.
Suluman has been attacked by critics for a tendency to derive his music from others, rather than create his own style, but he says “Kwedu” came to him in a dream and that he has never heard of “Kasuku”.
“Quite honestly, the song came in one of my dreams and I decided to write it,” Sulu said.
“My brother, I listen to a lot of music and I can sing like Oliver (Mtukudzi), Thomas (Mapfumo) or any other musician,” he said.
“Kasuku” was released almost a decade ago while “Kwedu” taken off the studio album “Non-Stop” was only released last year.
Incidentally, “Kasuku” in Kiswahili means “kwedu”.
Like in Les Wanyika’s song, Sulu also reminisces over the good old lifestyle in the countryside, where the families would gather fruits and hunt in the wilderness.
Richard Kohola, a music critic and development expert, said there were three possibilities regarding “Kwedu”.
“Sulu might have heard the song and forgot that he probably heard it somewhere and when he wrote it he thought he had created a melody.
“The second possibility is that Sulu might have heard music which influenced his writing and then he recorded his own song but which is uniquely his and different from the other songs.
“Thirdly, Sulu might have done the unthinkable by sitting down and changing one or two things from the original song to try and make it his own. This includes changing words or language while everything remains the same,” Kohola said.
He said Sulu, as a musician, should know that when creating music, the progression must be different.
“As a musician he should know that the sound will be same for as long as one uses the 1,4,5 progression the music will be the same. This is why most sungura songs sound the same because of one musical progression,” he explained.
Some music lovers have also criticised Sulu for using Mtukudzi. The original song also features a husky-voiced vocalist who sounds a lot like Tuku.
Some music experts argue that Tuku was off-key especially where he interjects by singing “Hurungwe kacha”, “Madziwa kacha” or
“Bindura kacha” while others say that it was only a difference in dialects.
According to Sulu, the words “kata” and “kacha” mean one and the same thing.
“As you might be aware Mudhara (Tuku) is Korekore and he says kacha inyaudzosingwi . . . while I say kata because that’s what I learnt at school,” he explained.
When one listens to “Kwedu” there is little doubt that the song sounds similar to “Kasuku” whether it’s the chorus, rhythm, melody or the guitar riffs.
The problem of everyone using the same music notes has led to lawsuits, some successful and some not, over whether the newer song is sufficiently similar to an older song so as to infringe a copyright.
Such suits depend on fact, the degree of similarity, rather than any unprovable allegation of copying.
Performing artistes among them P Diddy, Rihanna, Keith Sweat, Chris Brown have taken hits from the 1980s and remade them, but after clearances from the original songwriters.
Others adapt the work of others, such as Mercy Mutsvene who has been known to lace her Shona vocals over Rebecca Malope’s Zulu songs.
While Sulu’s music borrows heavily from Kanindo, from the Great Lakes region.
Below we post the two songs – one from the Swahili song “Kajituliza Kasuku” for our readers and the other by Sulu. Be the judge.
Les Wanyika – “Kajituliza Kasuku”
Sulumani Chimbetu – “Kwedu”
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