Controversy Over Jerusalema Royalties

In the music business, the situation which is often described as cut-throat, where people or companies involved all want success and do not care if they harm each other in getting it, is quite common.


This phenomenon seems to have been the case between award–winning Master K.G. and Nomcebo Zikode who is featured on the globally famous Jerusalema song.

Zikode is the lady who is heard singing at the end of the song in Isi Zulu: Jerusalem is my home/ Guide me / Take me with You / Do not leave me here.

By Fred Zindi
Now Zikode and producer Master KG who brought the world together with the global hit Jerusalema have reached troubled waters.

Three weeks ago, Zikode took to social media threatening legal action against Open Mic Productions, the label that recorded Jerusalema in late 2019.

“My voice and lyrics have transcended globally, but I still await what is due to me,” Zikode claimed in an emotional statement to her fans on Twitter.

“I have not been paid a cent by the label for Jerusalema despite the song’s global success. I have been ridiculed, with efforts to marginalise my contribution. The continued love and support from the fans of Jerusalema has been my strength and anchor during this difficult time,” she added.

Zikode threatens legal action, claiming she was never paid for the song that became a global hit during the pandemic.

Jerusalema, recorded with DJ Master KG, became one of the world’s most popular songs of 2020 and a soundtrack of the Covid-19 pandemic. It reached Number 1 in Belgium, Romania, the Netherlands, South Africa and Switzerland. It reached Number 4 on Billboard’s world digital song sales chart, went triple platinum in Italy and double platinum in Spain. It is, therefore, logical to think that its creators would benefit immensely from this production. But not at all, according to Zikode.

While her haunting vocals on the global hit song Jerusalema continue to reverberate around the world, the South African singer Zikode claims she is yet to receive any money for her work.

“I, as a female artist, can’t stay silent any more; the matter is now with my lawyers.”

Master KG, who has won global awards for the song, has hit back at Zikode’s claims, saying the singer wants a larger share of the proceeds than originally agreed.

“The agreement of Jerusalema is 50/50 between me and Zikode but she wants 70% and I must get 30%,” Master KG tweeted in his defense.

He said Zikode had been paid 1.5 million rand ( about US$100,000).

In a statement, Master K.G.’s label, Open Mic Productions, in contradiction to Master K.G.’s statement, admitted the artist had not yet been paid for the song owing to a contractual disagreement.

“We can confirm that during the creation of the song that Master KG (the main artist) and Nomcebo Zikode (the featured artist) agreed on sharing 50/50 of Master KG’s earnings,” it read.

“The featured artist’s agreement, which reflected an equal split between the two artistes, was drafted last year, November, for both parties to sign. NomceboZikode through her legal team reviewed the contract and proposed for a higher percentage.”

It said neither artist has been paid because Zikode has yet to sign the featured artist agreement. But that can’t be true given the expensive cars and flashy lifestyle Master K.G. is enjoying at the moment.

“This is the agreement that stipulates amongst other matters, what percentage of Master KG’s artist royalties is payable to Nomcebo for her role as a featured artiste in the song. These engagements remain on-going and as soon as these are concluded and the agreement is signed by all the parties, payment will be made immediately, ” Open Mic Productions said.

In all fairness, judging from what took place in the creation of Jerusalema,credit must be given to both Master K.G. and NomceboZikode. It is just that the two artistes were young and naïve before they knew that bigger things were to happen out of their creation. Before both knew it and before a proper agreement had been signed, bigger sharks with experience in the business found these two naïve artistes, easy prey, especially Zikode.

South African musicians took to social media to commiserate with Zikode.

A top gospel musician, Khaya Mthethwa, tweeted: “This is heart-breaking. Standing with you sis.”

The song was made the official soundtrack for South Africa’s Heritage Day by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year, while businesses also took advantage of its popularity to market their products as they danced to it. Other world famous celebrities and artistes such as Christiano Ronaldo, Burna Boy, Janet Jackson, Akon praised this effort and all wanted to do something with the song.

The upbeat song is a lamentation for God to take the singer to the heavenly city. It is translated from the native Zulu language: “Jerusalem is my home/ Guide me / Take me with You / Do not leave me here.”

According to Zikode, “All of this happened when I was about to lose hope,”.

After so many years of being a backing singer, she wanted her voice to be heard. “The lyrics are a plea for God to answer this prayer.

Jerusalema, produced late one night at Master KG’s studio near Johannesburg, has since become the world’s bonafide viral hit.

That night at the studio, Zikode yelled out to Master KG: “Come back, come back, come back! Something came out.”
Controversy Over Jerusalema Royalties
Controversy Over Jerusalema Royalties 
They recorded Jerusalema there and then, finishing just after midnight. On the way to the gym the next morning, Zikode listened to it in her car. “I had goosebumps all over my body,” she says. She heard a voice saying, “This is going to be a big song.”

She prayed, sitting in her car, that Master KG would love the track, too. Lo and behold, a few days later he called and said: “My sister, you actually need to come back. This song is sounding too nice.”

The isiZulu song crossed the language barrier because as Zikode says: “I wasn’t focussing on being Beyoncé. I was me, Nomcebo. I was singing what I know,” she said. “I know that when you’re singing in your own language you are comfortable. That feeling resonates with people”, she says.

Once travel restrictions are eased, Zikode hopes to be able to perform the song in countries around the world with Master KG. For now, she sometimes performs it for fans over Skype or WhatsApp. Often, they don’t speak the same language and it’s the only thing she can really do to communicate.

“They’ll just say, ‘Jerusalema! Jerusalema!’,” says Zikode.

Zikode’s relationship with Open Mic Productions has soured recently. The record company contracted another female artist, Zanda Zakuza, to replace her on the Jerusalema world tour. It looks like she has been sidelined by Open Mic Productions and Master K.G. seems as if he is in agreement with that.

Master KG tweeted: “Last year Nomcebo started Jerusalema tour without me and I never had a problem with that. A few weeks back, I started my tour and then Nomcebo went to the media and created a story that I’m leaving her behind … I don’t really know why things must be like this,” he said.

On a different note and a smaller scale, but closer to home, there is another YouTube-centred dispute between two Zimbabwean popular musicians, Tocky Vibes and Ex-Q both of whom have active channels on YouTube.

According to 263Chat, the two musicians are now locked in a battle that has seen Ex-Q’s popular single Wakatemba being taken down on YouTube after Tocky Vibes claimed copyright.

So What Happened?
After creating Wakatemba, Tocky Vibes and ExQ agreed that they would collaborate on a Tocky song. However, Tocky says ExQ’s camp reneged, and are refusing to honour what they agreed on. Now Tocky Vibes has made a copyright claim to YouTube and Wakatemba has been taken down.

It is well known that the song Wakatemba was a collaboration by the duo. Normally when that happens musicians enter into an agreement as to who has primary copyright to the song.

In this case, it seems the agreement was that this was Ex-Q’s song and Tocky Vibes would get to collaborate with Ex-Q at a later date on a song that would be Tocky Vibe’s song.

That hasn’t happened and Tocky Vibes seems to have retaliated by asking YouTube to take down Ex-Q’s song and for now, it seems YouTube has obliged.

Expect more battles like this. It shouldn’t be like that but that is music business for you. It is cut-throat. www.thestandard.co.zw


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