Clive Malunga


Making music is a serious economic activity that involves many professionals and institutions working at various levels of the production process. These include lyricists, vocalists, instrumentalists, dancers, managers, engineers, producers, promoters, broadcasters, graphic artists and recording companies. The role played by each of these professionals is indispensable in the production of music. If each professional in the music production chain does his or her work faithfully and passionately the industry prospers. However, incompetence and dishonesty by any one of them brings dysfunction to the entire industry. In this article, I focus on the problems that arise if music   managers, producers and recording companies fail to execute their duties well

A band is a business institution and, like all business enterprises, needs a manager. The responsibilities of a band manager include helping the band to make sound business decisions, attending band performances, resolving conflicts among band members and negotiating contracts on behalf of the band.  He or she also acts as a liaison between the band and key players in the music industry to secure the best contracts and deals. In carrying out his or her responsibilities the band manager should not seek to benefit personally at the expense of the musicians he or she represents. When the manager does his or her work professionally, the band can concentrate on their creative work.

A music promoter, on the other hand, works in the music industry as an individual or organization. The promoter’s role is that of marketing and promoting live performances such as concerts/gigs and festivals. A promoter works with bands and bands’ agents to establish dates and times for performances, negotiating fees and any other benefits the band will get. This is obviously a very vital role in developing the music industry if it’s performed professionally.

Without taking away anything from managers, promoters and recording companies that have tirelessly worked for the good of the music industry, Zimbabwe has had more than its fair share of broken careers, impoverished artists and missed development opportunities as a result of unscrupulous promoters, managers and recording companies. There are many cases where artists have been blatantly exploited.

Musicians need to know their rights when they are dealing with managers, promoters and recording companies.  Strong national administrative structures and a vibrant, well resourced, Zimbabwe Union of Musicians may help defend the rights of artists.  Many a time I had to fight parasitic promoters and managers through the Zimbabwe courts.

 In one of the cases, Jenaguru Arts Centre engaged Madzivanzira and Partners Legal Practitioners to bring Ms Debbie Metcalfe to court over the executorship of David Mankaba’s estate. David Mankaba was the bass guitarist for the Bhundu Boys. Debbie managed the Bhundu Boys’ musical equipment at Frontline Studios, which was at Rhodesville Shopping Centre. When David was so ill that he could not walk, Debbie fraudulently appointed herself executor of David’s estate.  David Mankaba’s estate consisted mainly of a flat at Roma Court in Harare.

I became aware of the fraud when one morning, the late Jonah Mutume of Sisonke Band and David Mankaba’s young brother, Innocent Mankaba, came to Jenaguru offices with the disturbing news.  They informed me that Innocent Mankaba had visited his late brother’s flat the previous day. Debbie had reported him to the police as an intruder and he was arrested and spent a night at Harare Central Police Station.  Since Debbie considered herself the sole executor of David Mankaba’s estate, she had power to prevent anyone from entering the flat. David’s parents resided in Gweru with David’s only child, Louis.

When the matter of David’s estate got to court, the court ruled in David’s parents favour.  The court found that the signature on the executorship papers did not match David’s signature as found on other documents. The court concluded that the signature was not his and , even if it had been, he was not supposed to sign a document of executorship when he was about to die.

Further investigations revealed that Debbie had been renting out the flat but had not bothered to pay a small amount to Beverley Building Society, which was outstanding for a bond.  A decision was reached between David’s parents and the lawyers to sell the flat to clear the outstanding amount on the bond.The balance of the money was deposited in Louis’ account.

The Bhundu Boys were sorrounded by criminals who just wanted to steal from the group. In another scam that befell the band, Debbie’s friend, Gordon Muir, used the group’s money from the Madonna Concert to buy a house in Britain. In 1987 the band had played to 240,000 fans for three nights at Wembley as a supporting act to Madonna.   Part of the payment they earned for that act was used to buy a house which they hardly stayed in but was sold by their manager under circumstances, which can only be described as fraudulent.  The band thus lost the house in Britain. Later, they also lost their musical instruments, which were kept in Harare.

In honour of David Mankaba , Jenaguru organised and teamed up with many  prominent musicians in the country to record the hit song “Chenjerera Hupenyu’. The song was arranged by Louis Mhlanga and Jethro Shasha, while Ben Zulu sourced funding from UNESCO.

As musicians, we must carefully choose our managers and promoters. Some managers and promoters are out to suck blood out of labouring artists.

Local copyright laws give musicians certain rights that entitle them to financial compensation for their work. It appears, however, that local artists have not mastered the culture of monitoring the sale or use of their work in order to maximise earnings. The Zimbabwean music industry abounds with stories of how recording companies rip off artists. In most cases the relationships between recording companies and artists have been parasitic, with the recording companies getting the lion’s share of earnings from the artist ‘s work while the artist struggles for survival. That’s why it was very common to hear of musicians acrimoniously dumping one record company for another. Some musicians have started their own labels while others have stopped recording music completely to avoid further exploitation.

In another typical case of exploitation of musicians, Jenaguru realised that Gramma Records had been selling our music on a platform called Zim-Audio.Com without remitting any of the proceeds to the musicians. I approached many musicians who included Baba Mechanic Manyeruke, Kireni Zulu, Pastor Haisa, Marshal Munhumumwe and Mitchel Jambo. We included the wives of late music legends such as Biggie Tembo, System Tazvida and Leonard Dembo and took Gramma Records to court. We contended that it was criminal for Gramma Records to sell our music without compensating us.  When the case was before the courts, Gramma Records sent its henchman called Emmanuel Vori to approach complainants individually. Vori talked to all the complainants except Marshall Munhumumwe Junior, Freddy Chimombe and myself and promised each of the complainants a housing stand and advance money to build the house. Baba Mechanic Manyeruke was promised musical instruments.  This disturbed our joint action and only Freddy Chimombe , Marshall Munhumumwe Junior and myself pressed on with the charges. We lost the case because most of the members had withdrawn their names from our case.   The most painful part of the story is that none of the musicians who withdrew the case got what they were promised. Gramma Records, instead of fulfilling its promises, rewarded Mr Vori with a promotion to the position of Managing Director. We, the musicians lost out.

I am for a strong Ministry of Arts and Culture. It must be a standalone ministry that focuses 100% on arts and culture. This is because arts and culture have the potential to evolve into a very large industry and contribute immensely to national development if they are given the serious support they deserve. The current arrangement, where arts and culture, seem like an ancillary section in another ministry is, in my view, not tenable.  But this has been our lot since independence.  Why can’t we take a leaf from countries that are succeeding in the arts such as South Africa and Nigeria? I also strongly feel that a Ministry of Arts and Culture, if set up, must be led by someone who is thoroughly knowledgeable in the arts and, therefore, passionate about the development of the sector. That way, the state will end up setting up strong legislation and structures to support the arts. The state will also provide strong budgetary support to the arts and culture sector.

Finally, artists must be positive role models to members of the general public. Gone should be the days when artists were known for excessive drinking and vices such as drug abuse and promiscuity. Artists must also improve themselves academically.  If artists are an informed sector and behave well, the general public and state will respect and support us.