Clive Malunga

No Victory Without a Fight

Gramma Records and Zimbabwe Music Corporation (ZMC) were both subsidiaries of Lonrho Africa Plc. I understand that Lonrho sold Gramma Records to Mr. Julian Howard who was working for Lonrho as a legal practitioner. Mr. Julian Howard became the major shareholder of Gramma Records as well as its chairman.  By that time Gramma Recording studios were in the Southerton Industrial site. To the best of my knowledge that was the only recording studio in Zimbabwe. Mr. Julian Howard employed as managing director, a Chinese guy called Mr. Dennis Kung who was an extreme racist in many ways.

It is advisable to hire a lawyer to review the contents of a contract before signing it to make the contract as favourable as possible to you. When I joined Gramma Records stable as a musician and signed a five-year contract with them, I had no time to enlist the services of a legal practitioner. My first recorded work with them was a maxi-single called Kumusha and flipside, Mukoma Tichafa. Gauging by its popularity, I expected to make a lot of money out of the sales of the maxi-single. Royalties were collected from Gramma’s accounts department quarterly in arrears. The accounts department was controlled by Auntie Lizzie as she was affectionately known. When collecting royalties, each musician had to sign a paper on which was written the composer’s name and the amount collected only.  I was not happy with that kind of payment. 

I wanted my payments to be accompanied by a total breakdown of my record sales so that I could see how I was performing on the market. I raised the issue with the marketing department and they referred me to Mr. Dennis Kung, the director. Instead of seriously considering my grievance, Mr. Kung arrogantly told me that if I was not happy with the way Gramma Records was conducting business, I had to go elsewhere!

I heard that Auntie Lizzie was caught stealing musicians’ money by her workmates. The allegations were that she would write a cheque with less money for a musician and then pocket the balance of a musician’s royalties. I went back to Gramma Records to remind Mr. Dennis Kung about my request to have a breakdown of my total sales. He refused to listen. Musicians were losing a lot of money but they were afraid to complain because Gramma had a monopoly in the music field. Many musicians were also afraid of Mr. Kung because they thought that since he was Chinese, he could use Kung-Fu tactics to beat anyone.

 One day I went to Gramma charged in order to confront Mr. Kung. First I went to see Mr. Emmanuel Vhori and Mr. Brian Carder who were marketing managers. They told me that Mr. Kung was in his office. I knocked on Mr. Dennis Kung’s door and he opened the door, showing me the unwelcome face. I told him that things at Gramma had to change for the better for all musicians. I grabbed him by the collar and wrestled him to the ground and a mob of his workmates came to his rescue. A security guard was instructed to close the gate.  He did so but I managed to jump over the durawall and made good my escape before the police arrived. I was banned from entering Gramma premises and my contract was terminated. My portrait was put in the guardroom for all security guards to see the person who was prohibited from entering the premises.

Though I was banished from Gramma, I was happy that my push changed things for the better for other musicians.  Gramma Records began to treat my fellow musicians as valuable partners. They also began issuing a printout of record sales whenever a musician collected royalties.

 I crossed the border to South Africa and joined Tusk Music Company. They instructed me to record an album in Zimbabwe.  I told them my problems with Gramma Records. They said they would assist on my behalf. Tusk Music Company paid Gramma Records for me to record using Gramma Recording Studios and music engineers. That was an opportunity to touch base again at Gramma Records.  The album Nesango was first released by Tusk Music Company (1993), in South Africa.

Mr. Dennis Kung later on resigned from Gramma Records. By that time Gramma Records was relocating to new premises in Msasa Industrial area. Mr. Julian Howard took charge of Gramma and ZMC.

My relationship with Mr. Julian Howard was excellent.  He understood the requirements of the music industry.  When I started organising the Jenaguru Music Festival Mr. Howard would donate 2 000 to 3 000 albums to be given for free to our fans. The first 3 000 fans to get into the stadium would each get a free album. Our festivals became popular because our fans benefited from them.  When Mukoma Marshal Munhumumwe was sick, I approached Mr. Julian Howard for financial assistance for him (Marshal) to go for rehabilitation.  Mr. Julian Howard provided the financial support. When Mitchel Jambo was involved in a car accident, I approached Mr. Julian Howard and again he provided the financial support. Gramma Records sponsored the production of Thomas Mapfumo’s plaque which was erected along First Street and George Silundika Avenue.  Mr. Julian Howard and Gramma Records also sponsored the production of a 21 carat gold medal for Dr Thomas Mapfumo.

There came a time when the music industry was under threat through pirated cassettes coming from Zambia and Tanzania, and both Gramma and musicians lost a lot of revenue. Mr. Julian Howard invited me to a business meeting so that we could work out how to curb the piracy menace. I proposed that we should involve the Zimbabwe Union of Musicians chairman, Mr. Michael Francis Sekerani and his secretary, Samaita Zindi.  We agreed to conduct raids with the help of ZRP. We further agreed to employ full time investigators who were supposed to be on the ground hunting for the perpetrators. Mr. Franco Hodobo and Mr. Walter Kuhlengisa were engaged as undercover agents who coordinated with the ZRP. Many raids were conducted throughout the country but to no avail.  We then organised a stakeholders’ meeting that included the ring leaders who were importing cassettes from Zambia and Tanzania. Gramma agreed to give all record bar owners a big discount on the purchase of cassettes. Some record bars would get products on credit. We managed to stop piracy completely and all parties benefited: musicians, record bar owners, Gramma Records and the government (from the tax revenue). Sometimes, you have to fight for a just cause. Never mind the bruises!