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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Troops Depart

Afghans are grappling with how exodus will affect country's fragile economy More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”