Playing ball with ‘Zangalewa’

Cameroonian Jean Paul Ze Bella was in his plantation when Colombian sensation Shakira reproduced parts of his group’s song ‘Zangalewa’ in her ‘Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)’, as the FIFA World Cup 2010 theme song.

“I was in my plantation at the village when I got a telephone call to tell me the news. I couldn't get over it. Thanks to Shakira,” said Ze Bella, who is now retired and used to front for Golden Sounds music group which released the song in 1986.

“The reprise of our song 'Zangalewa' by Shakira has enabled us to come out of the solitude of retirement,” Ze Bella said then.  “It has enabled us to get together again and to get down to work.”

Ze Bella, however, said “they needed to take permission from us first”.

“Now that it has happened, we need our share of the sales and rights and we have started the procedure right from Cameroon to South Africa,” he said in an interview with Cameroonian publication Cameroonechoes.

The group’s manager Didier Edo did not waste time in engaging Shakira’s record label, Sony for settlement.

“Negotiations are under way,” said Edo at the time, adding that the group would like to give “a series of shows during the time of the World Cup” ‑ which took place in South Africa from June 11 to July 11, 2010.

Indeed, the group made up of former military members of the Cameroonian army got back together on June 1, 2010, to prelaunch their career.

Although Sony and Shakira settled out of court, paying an undisclosed amount, Ze Bella is still angry that it was not only Shakira who used their song or parts of it but more than 30 other groups have also done so without crediting them.

Ze Bella said ‘Zangalewa’ or ‘Zaminamina’ was first goosened up by an American studio as soundtrack for one of its films.

Initially, Shakira had not credited the group but did so only after scrutiny just before the song was declared the official 2010 World Cup anthem.

While parts of the song belongs to the Cameroonian public domain and could be traced back to the African riflemen from that country who took part in the Second World War, the Golden Sounds made up of former presidential guards ‑ Emile Kojidie, Victor Dooh Belley and group leader Ze Bell ‑ popularised the song in 1986.

The title comes from the Cameroonian Ewondo language word ‘zangalowa’, which means ‘who called you up’ but the song is onomatopoeic of the sounds made by the riflemen while marching.

“The song was written to give some spirit to a young soldier in difficult times,” he said, adding that their group which assumed the name Zangalewa when their song went viral broke away from presidential guard orchestra.

Another African musician, Kéké Kassiry from Ivory Coast also claimed the song. Kassiry said he recorded his version in 1986 and registered it with SACEM, a French-based association that collects payments of artists’ rights and distributing the rights to the original songwriters, composers, and music publishers.

The song, Kassiry said, is on his album titled ‘Abidjan’. “The song remixed by Shakira was in my 1986 album titled ‘Abidjan’.

It was recorded in Paris and still clearly bears my name as the copyright owner at SACEM (the Society of Authors and Composers of Music) in France,” he told Notre Voie, an Ivorian paper in 2010.

The Ivorian also revealed that he had consulted with the Golden Sounds on what action to take against Shakira.

“I have contacted Golden Sounds and we’re in the process of sorting this out so Shakira and her producers pay us our due share,” he said.

Although ‘Zangalewa’ propelled the Golden Sounds into celebrity status, it can’t be compared to what Shakira’s version did for her.

Just a week after its release, Shakira’s ‘Waka Waka’ landed on number 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts after selling more than 57 000 digital units and becoming her second song to get that high after the 2009 ‘She Wolf’ that made it at 34 on the Hot 100 charts.

In its second week, ‘Waka Waka’ rose to number 38, while peaking at number 47 on Hot Latin Songs and 35 on Latin Pop Songs.

In its third week, it rose to number 26 on the Hot Latin Songs; 11 on Latin Pop Songs and landed at number 31 on the Tropical Songs.

In four months, the song had more 500 000 units sold ‑ enough to have it certified Gold and it went on to sell more than 867 000 digital units in the US alone.

By October 2010, the song had been viewed 210 million times on YouTube, becoming the fourth most viewed online video. If at all ‘Zangalewa’ got their dues, they will never get what Shakira is getting.

November 2012
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