By Maxwell Sibanda
Zora music star Leonard Zhakata is surprised that Gramma Records, Zimbabwe Music Corporation (ZMC) and Ngaavongwe Records are being sold when the record companies have not spoken to musicians who happen to own the products at the company.
Zhakata said 19 of his music albums are with ZMC and he only has one. “I do not believe they want to sell the record company (ZMC) without consulting me because I have products there.
“They want to sell my masters (originals) to someone else I do not even know and I haven’t agreed for them to be sold to that person. What if that person hates me and does not want to have anything to do with me — it means my career dies as well.”
Zhakata believes fellow musician Elias Musakawa who has the controlling stake at the three record companies should have sought audience with the musicians first “otherwise as musicians we could have come together and bought shares or even the whole company.”
He said it was wrong for the musicians to read advertisements in newspapers that the companies are on sale. “We have contracts with these record companies and I doubt if the people taking over will respect those contracts.
“The new owners will disown us and tell us to approach the companies we signed contracts with. This sale has to be transparent; there is no need for the sale to be conducted in secrecy.”
The Zora music star said anyone buying those companies will for sure face legal challenges. “I am not sure if the new owners will be able to face all the affected musicians — actually since the three were the main recording companies, they have products for virtually all yester-year musicians.”
He said the companies should have brought affected musicians in batches. “I know they could not have brought them all together because that could have created chaos, they possibly couldn’t handle them but they need to bring in say five at a time and talk to them. Now it is too late because they are already looking for buyers.”
Zhakata said while piracy deflated business at the record companies, there were other people who can be able to survive in this environment.
“I believe there are other business people with other ideas to beat piracy because it is not like there is no market at all for our music. I had kept my 19 albums with ZMC because I still believe the industry’s dynamics may change with time and people would start buying original music again. Not that I was still getting any royalties from ZMC.”
Zhakata added that he did not remember when he last got royalties for his 19 albums, most of them gold and platinum releases. “Go and ask them when they last gave me some royalties – I think they also do not know when, it has been years.
“But you feel sorry for those working there and when you get to their offices you cannot even demand royalties. Varikutotamburawo zvekuti unovanzwira tsitsi (…workers there are in a sorry state that you feel bad demanding royalties). You have to visit them and see on your own — most of the buildings are being rented out and there are bakeries there now.”
Musicians who include the late Leonard Dembo, Tongai Moyo, System Tazvida, Andy Brown, Four Brothers, Deverangwena, Lovemore Majaivana, Thomas Mapfumo, Alick Macheso, Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave, Charles and Olivia Charamba, Hosiah Chipanga and Nicholas Zakaria are among the hundreds of signed musicians.
Sungura musician Nicholas Zakaria said he is having sleepless nights over his products at Gramma Records. “I have more than 20 albums with Gramma and I am not sure what will happen if they sell the company.
“ Emmanuel Vori (a director at Gramma Records) sounded me on the issue but I advised him to look for someone with enough finances but preferably a Zimbabwean. There are Zimbabweans who can turn these record companies around. I asked him to convince Musakwa to sell the companies.”
Zakaria said it is dangerous to just sell them to anyone. “Maybe the person coming will only do dancehall music and this means he will throw away our masters (originals). I need my masters and next week I am approaching them so as to retrieve them.”
Mutare-based singer Hosiah Chipanga who used to record with Ngaavongwe Records told the Daily News on the sidelines of a concert at City Sports Bar in Harare that he was confused. “I am yet to learn what they will do with my music. Is it that the person buying the company will also buy my music? But no-one from the record company has approached me although I have several albums with this label.”
Bothwell Nyamhondera, who has produced most of these musicians and is supposed to receive producer’s fees for every album he produced said he last received royalties in 2008.
“I have no idea what they will do with the musicians’ products but I last received royalties in 2008 if I am not mistaken. You need to find out from them.
Peter Muparutsa, who has also produced and engineered for some of the musicians said: “The new owners buying the companies will inherit all (as is customary) its catalogue and artists contractual agreements.”
Apart from music album masters, the record companies also have video masters for all the videos they are reproducing for sale. Daily News