Kenyan musician violates Tuku’s copyright

The late Oliver Mtukudzi

A NEW cover version of the late music superstar and national hero Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi’s song Todii repackaged as a campaign tune for the fight against COVID-19 by Kenyan pastor and musician Antony Musembi has raised concern over possible copyright violation.


Tuku Music manager Walter Wanyanya yesterday said they have engaged Musembi over the development and were pursuing the matter through legal channels.

The video of the cover of Tuku’s 1999 production, Todii — originally themed around HIV and Aids at its peak in Zimbabwe before the advent of anti-retroviral treatment — now carries a COVID-19 message.

Although done in Swahili with English subtitles, the cover sounds exactly like the original but with a different message.

“We were notified about the cover version of the song Todii on the 19th of April 2020 and after watching it we immediately reached out to Pastor Anthony Musembi via his Facebook,” Wanyanya said in a statement.

“We did not get a response from him and after contacting our colleagues we managed to get his phone number and management made contact with him and we are waiting for his official statement.”

This was after the music video had been released through Musembi’s YouTube channel and official Facebook page.

Wanyanya said although Musembi did not seek rights and permission to use the song, “he has shown willingness to rectify the mistake” and they would work together to ensure that was done.

“We believe his version of the song will compliment efforts to flatten the curve in the fight against COVID-19 in Kenya and in Africa,” he said.

“We encourage artistes to follow the correct protocols when they need to use copyright protected material to avoid unnecessary issues that can arise from violations of these protocols.”

Wanyanya said Tuku played a pivotal role in raising awareness about various health issues and would have done the same in light of COVID-19.

He said the cover would help raise awareness in Kenya and other parts of Africa and it was critical for artistes to play their role in helping to flatten the COVID-19 curve and save lives.

In a Facebook post earlier, renowned music producer and instrumentalist, Clive “Mono” Mukundu, who worked with Tuku for many years, said as long as royalties for the song would go to Tuku Music, the development would not be regarded as copyright infringement.

“By the way, in such a case, according to copyright law, all airplay royalties will go directly to Tuku music,” he said.

“In 2005, I was part of Tuku’s band and we did an East African tour… I was amazed at how Tuku was respected all around Africa. He was given presidential treatment in most countries… Back to the song; I was shocked at how this song Todii was popular all around Africa.”

Tuku died on January 23 last year after a long battle with diabetes and was buried at his rural home in Madziva.