Johannesburg - South African artist Vusimuzi Nongxa, known as Vusi Nova, has been accused of allegedly stealing a song called 'Ndincede' believed to be made up and sung by a woman named Tenki-tenki Mabutho, 64, from Langa, Cape Town.
In a video shared on social media, an inebriated Tenki-tenki was seen singing a song that the family believes she made up called ‘Ndincede’, and it went viral on Tik Tok.
The lyrics to her song go: “ndincede nkosiyam ndiyeke obutywala ngoba ndinxila umvulo necawe” (Help me quit alcohol, oh Lord, because I drink from Monday to Sunday), and are taken from a traditional Xhosa hymn called ‘Ndincede’ that’s been in existence for many years.
Madoda Mabutho, who is Tenki-tenki’s brother, said on March 11 the family had a traditional ceremony, and that was where Tenki-tenki was seen singing this song.
“My sister was drunk. She composed this stanza and the following morning it went viral on social media. To our surprise last Saturday, April 30, Vusi Nova had a gig in Bloemfontein and he performed this song called ‘Ndincede', with the same lyrics composed by my sister,” Mabutho said.
“My niece, who is mothered by my sister, sent a message to say Vusi Nova is coming down to Cape Town to speak to Tenki-tenki. They got excited about this and took a wrong turn by not calling a family meeting,” he said.
Mabutho was given feedback that Vusi Nova asked for their blessing to launch the song and to own the lyrics, but that no contractual agreement was entered into.
“He may have added his own twist to the song, but the lyrics to the chorus remain the same. He went to my sister’s home with his crew and gave her R3 000. No formal agreement on paper has been made.”
Vusi Nova said he went on social media to try to find this lady, and he eventually did.
“I spoke to her on the phone, and to her daughter. I set up a meeting and went over there on Wednesday. My whole reason for going there was to meet her and to get her blessing. At the end of the day she came up with the lyrics for the chorus, but the melody is a traditional hymn. What fascinated me about the whole thing is what she did with her lyrics. That was amazing. I wanted to speak to her and her children concerning the song, and what the split would be from a business perspective.”
Nova said they agreed that in terms of songwriting, he (Nova) and Tenki-tenki will get 50% each of the royalties, because she wrote the chorus and he wrote the rest of the song.
“I left her a copy of the Royalty Agreement between two songwriters which they have to email back to the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) with her details filled out. This is a lifetime of royalties for uMama. I know the song will do well and will be big. What people don’t understand is that she and I do not need to have a contract. The contract is with SAMRO,” he said.
He added that SAMRO are the company that collects the money on behalf of all artists.
“Whether the song plays on radio or TV, SAMRO collects that money for us all as artists. She will be paid her share directly from SAMRO. We’ve done everything by the book. Her family knows they can get in touch with SAMRO whenever they need to,” Nova said.
Multijurisdictional copyright lawyer and forensics expert Dr Graeme Gilfillan said the following works, if they are original, shall be eligible for copyright: literary works; musical works; and cinematograph films. He said one would need to prove that it is indeed their song.
Gilfillan said, if the song actually released by Vusi Nova’s label and publisher contains any part of the musical work and literary work of Tenki-tenki, without her written permission to do so, then the label and publisher would be in breach of the law (Section 6 of the Copyright Act 98 of 1978) and the exclusive rights of the owner, being Tenki-tenki.
“If one makes up a song and shares it on social media, and has someone else steals it, one must notify their claim on the song released at SAMRO and at CAPASSO (Composers, Authors and Publishers Association).
“You must file a dispute so that no money is paid for the performing rights/reproduction rights to any party until the dispute is resolved. Creation is a matter of fact, not agreement. You must ensure that her chain of title in the work is secure,” Gilfillan said.