Muluken’s anger over the reproduction of his songs:a question of copyright or supremacy?
In an interview one of Ethiopian’s most acclaimed musician, Muluken Melese, gave recently to a radio in the US he spoke emotionally about his resentment to the recent reproduction of his songs made by Bizuayehu Demisse.He complained that he was not asked to give his permission and that he performed the songs so perfectly that they could not be reproduced better.
He said that he considered the work as a theft, and the musician a thief. “My music belongs to the people and should have to be kept in a museum as a treasure.”
On his part, Bizuayehu formally apologized to Muluken after the interview was broadcast on FM 97.1.
Responding to the question whether he would permit if he was asked at first, Muluken responded that he would never.
The fact that the original owner of the songs, Muluken, should be asked for permission by Bizuayehu before embarking on the process of reproduction is legitimate, fitting and undoubtable. And what Bizuayehu did (reproducing the songs without permission) is indeed lamentable.
Many agree that Muluken Melese is an icon in the modern Ethiopian music era. As such he to be should have been given due respect and asked to give his consent. It is not surprising that he was incensed by the reproduction of his songs without his acknowledgement. To make matters worse, Muluken was not even given a written credit as the owner of the songs on the CD and cassettes produced. “The songs are labeled as ‘oldies’ on the CD,” said Muluken.
I agree with all these points. However, my reservation lies in Muluken’s claim which alluded that what he did is beyond the test of time and is an ultimate production. “I did the songs in the way they can not be produced better again,” says Muluken.
The trend of music reproduction by an artist other than the original one is not a new experience to the world music industry. Whitney Houston did a reproduction of Dolly Parton’s “I will always love you,” by Patron’s permission, with an interesting beat and was very much liked and accepted. Michael Bolton made a number of songs originally made by others. These have garnered him increased acceptance and popularity. The original singers have also expressed appreciation of his music.
Now the question is not whether the reproduction is better than the original. A work of art, especially music, has got its quality in its success and acceptance at the time it is produced. Time is the touchstone by which music is gauged. And the musics that stand the test of time are the classical ones.
Every era and its generation has got its manifestation of the popular culture in the works of art and musics of the time. Every generation has its taste and style of music, according to the musical order of the time.
When coming to our current music trend, there are opinions that note the decline of music quality in contrast to the former. Though this opinion is partly true, there are music productions that are worth appreciating and could stand out to spare the current musical trend from being described “totally unmusical.” Egigayehu Shibabaw, Teddy Afro, Zeritu Tadesse and other young musicians have shown their musical stature and are typical representatives of their time.
However successful and entertaining the music of the time may be, there would still be nostalgia for the old music and songs. So, old songs will be heard along side the current ones and be remembered, though not widely. And when there is a wide demand to hear the excellent songs of the renowned musicians like Muluken Melese, there comes a work of reproduction with the current musical style, while maintaining their original identity. This is supposed to present the same old music with rich musical composition. That is why even Muluken’s, Tilahun Gessese’s and recently Kuku Sebsibie’s old songs were reproduced by the original musicians with more interesting composition.
Therefore, the art of music is always in progress and is never made to be the ultimate, as if it would never ever be made or be reproduced again, regardless of the popular culture and technology.