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Miriam Makeba's Family Wins Rights to Her Music

The legendary South African's singer's intellectual property now belongs to her two grandchildren.

Mariam Makeba's family has won the rights to her music over her former business manager, reports BBC Africa.

Graeme Gilfillan, owner of Siyandisa Music, took the late South African legend's two grandchildren Lumumba and Zenzile Lee, to court in an attempt to block their access to her intellectual property and the rights to her legacy.

The music company moved to maintain full ownership of her name, also attempting to prevent the South African Hall of Fame from inducting the singer without written approval from the company.


Siyandisa argued that Makeba had taken steps during her career to commercialize her catalog even after her death—an agreement that the family claimed was fictitious.

A judge ruled against Siyandisa Music's motion, citing South Africa's Trust Property Control Act, which identifies the roles and rights of trustees.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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