News / Arts & Entertainment

Piracy Forces Malawi Artists into Streets to Sell Their Own Music

Thocco Katimba, a gospel artist who sells his own music. (Photo courtesy of Thocco Katimba)
Thocco Katimba, a gospel artist who sells his own music. (Photo courtesy of Thocco Katimba)
Lameck Masina
In reaction to the growing problem of music piracy, more and more local musicians in Malawi are taking their products directly to the street to cut out the middle man. City authorities, however, are expressing concern about noise pollution as the musicians use loudspeakers to advertise. 
 
Despite massive airplay and growing popularity for local music on the country's radio stations and in the clubs, life has not been that rosy for the musicians.  Most of them have been living far below their fame.

“The main problem here in Malawi is piracy. Honestly, it has been a very tough journey for us, the musicians, because one may come up with a very good album, you will find that it’s almost everywhere in the country and the neighboring countries, but if you look at yourself what you have achieved by doing that, you will find that it’s literally nothing,” said Thocco Katimb, a local musician.

Fingers have long been pointed at music distributors - middle men who sell the music on behalf of the artists. The musicians accuse the distributors of making copies for personal gain, an allegation distributors have persistently denied.

Despite the denials, many musicians, including gospel artist Katimba, have cut ties with the distributors and are going into the street to sell their own music. Another artist who has done so is Lloyd Phiri.

“Basically I would say that I have sold 17,000 CDs from the new album. Whilst previously I was selling like 2,000 copies per album and I was not getting the monies in cash. It’s like these vendors were making more copies for themselves so if I go to them they would say, ‘ah no, come tomorrow, bra, bra, bra.’ This time… we are making money,” said Phiri.

Officials of the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) say musicians who are selling their own music risk being prosecuted and fined because they do not put copyright sticker holograms on their products, which COSOMA claims is contrary to the 1989 Copyright Act.

“The law says each work that goes to the market shall have an adhesive label. It shall be an infringement of copyright where the manufacturer exhibits or sells without an adhesive label,” said Rosario Kamanga, the senior licensing officer for COSOMA.

Kamanga also cautions artists that selling music without the hologram brings the risk of being denied help or protection from COSOMA if their music is pirated, as they will have no basis of substantiating their claim.

Phiri thinks the warning is overblown.

“They want money, simple. Because if they put their hologram on our music, it’s like we are telling them to go out and protect our music but basically I haven’t enjoyed their services to be honest. So what they are doing now is that they are stranded. They were getting money when we go buy their holograms,” said Phiri.

Meanwhile, city authorities are accusing the musicians of violating legislation on noise pollution by using loudspeakers along city streets to sell their music.

This follows complaints from some business operators about what they say is the ‘irritating noise’ the musicians make.
 
Sylvester Matini-Nkhoma, the director of leisure, culture and environmental services for the Blantyre City Council, says action is forthcoming.

“The bylaws governing pollution in the city of Blantyre say that we are not supposed to produce noise in public places unless permission is granted by the Blantyre City Council. And as such we are aware of such practice, so we will be taking them to task and discuss with them to find a common ground,” said Matini-Nkhoma.

Critics say the city authorities are likely to lose the battle on noise pollution as the bylaws do not specify sound level limits for various areas.

Matini-Nkhoma also told VOA of a major challenge: the city council does not have equipment to measure sound levels. This, he said, will likely affect the enforcement of the bylaws on noise pollution.

You May Like

Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Accuses Russia of Territorial Incursionsi
X
Zlatica Hoke
August 28, 2014 4:07 AM
Ukraine says a key border town (Novoazovsk) and surrounding areas of in southeastern Ukraine have fallen under the control of Russia's military. President Poroshenko says "Russian troops have actually been brought into Ukraine." Despite repeated denials from Moscow, Ukraine accuses the Kremlin of providing weapons and fighters to separatists in eastern Ukraine, toward the Russian leadership's alleged goal of annexing that strategic territory. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Accuses Russia of Territorial Incursions

Ukraine says a key border town (Novoazovsk) and surrounding areas of in southeastern Ukraine have fallen under the control of Russia's military. President Poroshenko says "Russian troops have actually been brought into Ukraine." Despite repeated denials from Moscow, Ukraine accuses the Kremlin of providing weapons and fighters to separatists in eastern Ukraine, toward the Russian leadership's alleged goal of annexing that strategic territory. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Pianist Myra Melford’s new CD “Life Carries Me This Way” features solo piano interpretations of drawings by modern artist Don Reich. She performs songs from the album, talks about turning art into music, and joins host Eric Felten in some Chicago boogie-woogie on "Beyond Category."