The problem of piracy is one that has been haunting Zimbabwe’s arts sector for some time, but also one that only artistes themselves can fight to conquer. While most arts disciplines have been affected by piracy, it is music piracy that has largely been predominant, as pirates continue finding thriving markets in different parts of the country.
As the war against piracy continues to take centre stage in the media, most young and upcoming artistes, especially those trading in gospel music, continue to be on the receiving end of the scourge.
With regards to gospel artistes, fighting music pirates by openly dragging them to the courts appears harsh and unChristian for most artistes.
This is mainly because gospel artistes, like pastors or ordinary Christians, are expected to show exemplary behaviour, especially when dealing with criminal elements in our society such as pirates.
As God-fearing Christians gospel artistes are expected by society to practise their message of peace, love and forgiveness when faced with the decision to either or not report or sue pirates for such cases as fraud or theft of intellectual property.
In other words, society generally has put undue pressure on gospel artistes by expecting them to find more peaceful ways to dealing with piracy other than involving the law, a move which in the end soils their image.
But with the unrelenting nature of piracy, most gospel artistes who had even dared to fight the scourge ended up giving up the struggle entirely, choosing instead to adapt to the problem by personally selling their own CDs for a dollar and holding numerous live shows.
The idea is to sell original music at the same price as that of music pirates is prompted by the need to fight the black market for arts products and reclaiming lost business for artistes.
Although this strategy has worked for some, piracy continues to prove itself resilient, and each time, managing to assume a different form.
This is one characteristic of piracy in Zimbabwe that has ensured its survival over the years.
Today, most pirates have taken to identity theft by way of assuming total ownership of other artistes’ work. Copycats in the same manner copy every aspect of music of the artists they esteem and believe to be a huge market catch.
Although only a few of such cases have been discovered or reported, there is indication that this criminal behaviour will soon sink roots in our arts industry.
One of the reported cases was that of Apostle Toggy Chivaviro, whose brush with piracy involved one of his CD albums titled “Nguva Yakanakisisa”, which was discovered selling on the black market and the pirate involved had put his own image and name to claim ownership of the product.
In another case, we have heard reports of a feud between Blessing Shumba and Mathias Mhere over what appeared to be illegal copying of Shumba’s music style by Mhere.
Although the artistes themselves did not allude to the existence of a feud between them over their music, the fight itself was largely created and played out in the media.
The role, however, of their producer Lyton Ngolomi was one that put to rest all rumours of a war between the two artistes since it turned out that he produced a uniform sound for both artistes with the result that they resembled each other.
But for those with critical minds, the mere idea of having two different artistes resembling each other in terms of music style and even voice clearly indicates a gap in terms of artistic creativity and hard work. It also signals that copycats are on the loose in our music industry.
We have also heard the recently reported case of piracy or rather theft of identity involving Trymore Bande whose CD album, “Zvakagara Zvakadaro”, was found selling on the black market bearing Pastor Charles Charamba’s name.
Bande’s music resembles that of Charamba, and having Charamba’s image on his album was enough to convince the listener that Charamba had produced the album.
We may hear many more similar stories in the future but in every debate about piracy one question continues to linger. How should artistes especially those in gospel sector deal with piracy?
Since piracy is such a huge problem there is need for artistes including those involved in gospel music to take ownership of the problem by going out of their way to fight the scourge.
The work of police and other relevant authorities can be made easier if artistes themselves take the initiative by forming organised groups whose sole purpose would be to root out piracy in all its variant forms.
Artistes should be able to pool resources together and hold campaigns aimed at educating the general public on the corrosive effects of buying pirated arts products to the development of our arts industry. The general public or music consumers should also be encouraged to report cases of piracy in their proximity or anywhere where piracy appears to be thriving.