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Songwriters demand a place in the limelight

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Songwriters demand a place in the limelight

By Fahad Kasibante

Song writer Black Skin (L) with friends

Song writer Black Skin (L) with friends

One of Uganda’s celebrated music writers Silva Kyagulanyi once remarked that, one of the things that hurt him most is for musicians to take to the podium to pick an award for a hit song, but fail to acknowledge the writer. And when you think about it, this is a sobering and truly genuine complaint. Why do you hate to credit the brains behind the work that makes them shoot into stardom.

Those of you who still doubt the fact that musicians take perhaps an undeserved credit may remember how it hurt the fans of the late Mowzey Radio when they heard that he had written so many hit songs including Rema Namakula’s Tikkula.

And yet we all know that composing music is not a bed of roses, as explained perhaps by the fact that only a handful of people in our music industry are renowned for scripting music, even though there are countless people with musical voices but won’t give you a great song. But singing and producing the music too are not any simpler tasks either.

What is clear is that there is no minimum standard for this old craft, at least in Uganda. Everyone who has worked as a song writer, has negotiated their own terms with the musician. Some like, Yese Oman Rafiki, makes sure he adds his name to the lyrics, and insists that whoever sings, does not delete it.

Others have been cool about it and not taken trouble to demand it of musicians to mention their names anywhere.

What you are just about to read show that the real makers of the music are increasingly becoming assertive and want a place in the limelight.

Recently, Blackskin, the man behind hit songs like Ampalana by Gravity, Katono by Bebe Cool, Agenda Akusse by Sheebah and many others, shared a message on one of his social media platforms seeking advice from friends and fans whether it was necessary for him to continue writing music when some artists don’t want to acknowledge his efforts.

‘Please my fans and friends advise me on this. Can I go on to write good music for these artists who are so mean can’t even come out and say that Blackskin wrote this song for me apart from Bebecool who is very ok with it,’ he continued and mentioned most of his hit songs in the same message.

In his other post, he made no secret of the fact that he is very disappointed by the way artists think that the act of crediting people behind lyrics is doing them a favor.

‘It is very disappointing that people involved in art think [that] crediting a songwriter becomes a favor when a singer pays! Crediting is discipline, a responsibility every artist should promote without being pushed, that is why credit boards exist. You would rather not pay for art but credit the artist/ producer/writer and that should be courtesy’

Blackskins’ post did not leave Nince Henry, one of the celebrated song writers seated in one place. Henry came out and gave Blackskin a piece of advice. Using one of his social media platforms, the Cinderella singer said: ‘The issue of publicly acknowledging a song writer is dependent on individual character. It is specifically about the behavioral makeup of the individual singer you have worked with,” he lightened.

“Do you expect someone to go mentioning your name everywhere regardless of whether asked who wrote the song or not? No bro! but it might be easier to put the credit on the visuals as a mention in the audio……..therefore when I see my brother Blackskin crying out loud for recognition, I stand between him and the singers equally. It is a morally right to say THANK YOU but the situation comes in play,” Henry added.

Yese Oman Rafiki the writer of Irene Ntale’s Kyolowoza told The Sunrise reporter that musicians and composers should agree over song writer credits before anything else. Rafiki said he has no problem with artists who don’t acknowledge him because in most of his songs, he includes the sentences where his name is mentioned and giving credits is easier when you do business on a friendship level.

John Kay, the talent behind Sibyamukisa by Remah Namakula, Kyaddaaki by Irene Namubiru, Ojjakuzinta by Lydia Jazmine and many others also has his opinion.

‘The song starts with the composer so he has every right to be credited. Writers are like mothers to the songs since they develop every idea and the message. The artist’s intention is to pass my message so why shouldn’t I be recognized?’ Kay asked.

When asked if he has any rights over a song he sold, Kay had this to say:

“When you buy a product from a supermarket, does your taking the good erase the fact that it came from the supermarket? First and foremost our artists cannot pay good money for these songs. Giving me credit is one way of marketing me so that fellow musicians come for more. There are writers who do not sing so if you don’t acknowledge them, how will they get to the public?’

When pressed on what he thinks about Nince Henry’s advice to black skin, this is what he had to say

“Nince Henry should learn to practice what he preaches. If he says he has no problem with artists who don’t credit him then why did he perform songs he had written for other artists on stage? Why was his relationship with artists like Juliana and other artists sour?’

By law, moral right information means information which identifies the author of the work or performer, the tittle of the work, the producer of the sound recording or audio-visual fixation, the owner of any right in the work or information about the terms and conditions of use of the work.

As a writer, I am tempted to back fellow writers and wish to call upon like-minded persons to support this noble cause. Before we know it, these increasingly vocal minds could result into a petition Parliament or the powers that be to pass a law that will make it mandatory for musicians to acknowledge them wherever they perform their music.

Artistes Views

Leading vocalist Rema Namakula

Leading vocalist Rema Namakula

Remah Namakula one of Uganda’s leading vocalists says that what writers should know is that crediting a composer is followed by either a mutual understanding between the composer and the artist or it should be a token of appreciation from the artist to the writer. Remah added that she does the acknowledgement especially in her interviews.

Musician Karitas Kario

Musician Karitas Kario

Karitas Kario, another talented beauty said that writers deserve to be acknowledged and respected by the artists but it is not mandatory to include the composer’s name on their music videos.

Victor Kamenyo also shared his opinion with the sunrise reporter and this is what he had to say

‘Song writer credits depend on the working relationship between artists and the writers. Many artists don’t want the public to know that they don’t compose their music that is why they buy the song and all the rights.’

When pressed about the advice he gives to Black skin, Kamenyo said that he doesn’t know how the writer relates with his artists and Nince Henry’s advice would have been the best if he personally shared it with black Skin.

Naira Ali’s opinion on the matter could not be left out. She said that problem comes when the two parties don’t agree on what to be followed in the first place. Some writers many times focus on the money they are receiving from artists. Many writers sign contracts selling the songs and their rights too. The ndi mubwengula singer said acknowledgement should be done during interviews and failure of an artist to do so should not be taken as a big deal because we have not seen many international artists acknowledge writers yet they too have composers.

Sunrise reporter pressed Bobby Lash, a talent from the B2C and he had this to say.

‘Song writers need to be acknowledged because they compose and need the market. How will the public know about their existence if we don’t credit them.  Acknowledgement costs nothing. It is also not easy for one to develop ideas and come out with something’

Lash also said that audio producers should help writers at least with a shout out in the audio or their names should not be left out in the videos

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