Drama and chaos are threatening to taint the legacy of celebrated dancehall chanter Soul Jah Love — Soul Muzavazi Musaka — who breathed his last on February 16 under unclear circumstances.
Uncertainty also lingers over what will happen to the freestyle deity’s legacy.
Widespread reports over the past week are that issues have arisen around inheritance, and intellectual property, a situation that deteriorated into a fist-fight between the Musaka family and his friends last Sunday during a process to share the deceased’s belongings.
Standard Style heard that the family has approached lawyers to stop producers and other music stakeholders from releasing or profiting from the artiste’s music royalties in what begs the question: Who really ought to benefit from the gifted lyricist’s music as well as how they will do it?
“The family does not understand the environment that he worked in and it will be interesting to see how they will stop the release or use of Soul Jah Love’s content by different people whom he worked with throughout his career,” the musician’s former manager Benjamin Nyandoro said.
Nyandoro, who worked with Soul Jah Love in the last half of 2017 before jumping ship after a misunderstanding, explained how it could be an impossible task for any individual or group to bar others from fully benefiting off his artistic work.
“What I know is that Soul Jah Love would just walk into a studio and record for free as a way of supporting the studio. I do not know of any producer who says they were paid to record him. If anything, producers would fight to have him on their microphones and that was how they handled their business,” he said.
“It would be hard for anyone to stop the release of such music if it was created under such mutual agreements.”
Following his sudden death, there has been a visible growth in appetite for his old and new songs in what has sparked a spike in the number of views, streams and pirated CDs sales, proof that someone, somewhere is making money out of it.
Different music stables have also stepped forward pledging that they will be releasing the Pamamonya Ipapo singer’s work in the coming weeks.
According to music critic Plot Mhako, it is likely that Soul Jah Love was robbed of his royalties in life and “the same will happen in his death”.
“It is unfortunate that Sauro had his music distributed on too many platforms and did not have much control over his content online. Now his estate or family has to engage some professional distributor to make sure that the already released content is on the right platform they have access to and can directly benefit from,” he said.
Had he written a will, says Mhako, the listed beneficiaries “should be the ones getting the proceeds,” but, unsurprisingly of the unconventional artiste, there has been no mention of such a document existing.
However, the issue of who really his family was has proved a controversial one between the distant Musakas with whom he had the same blood or the Conquering Family, that he had a longstanding brotherhood with.
Apart from his musical geniuse and controversy, Soul Jah Love was known for loving companionship to the extent that he would move around and stay with a sizeable number of people at any given time.
But, in the past two weeks, his musical clan, the Conquering Family, appears to have been sidelined despite evidently having been around Soul Jah Love through the highs and lows of his life.
“In all the six months I worked with him, I never had him talk about his (Musaka) family, but would only see members of Conquering Family and other youngsters he was grooming musically with him all the time,” said Nyandoro, adding:
“Everything around him was Conquering Family and those he took care of.”
One wonders what will be the end of it all, but time will tell if the musician’s undisclosed wishes, if any, will be taken into consideration.
Those around him feared his unpredictability when questioned about his future plans, says Nyandoro, who suggests that government should assist in setting up a board to safeguard the legacy of Soul Jah Love who was bestowed the honour of a liberation hero upon his untimely death.
“I believe there needs to be an institution as an offshoot from his liberation hero status in order to safeguard his legacy, I do not think his blood family and Conquering Family are strong enough to do it alone,” he said.
Whatever happens, Soul Jah Love’s case should be a wake-up call for other artistes to invest into understanding the digital way of doing things and earning significantly off it, says Mhako.
“Artistes can avoid this by getting information and knowledge on digital distribution, enlisting the services of professionals and people who are well informed as well as capable of managing digital platforms,” he said.
“Also, having clear contracts before any engagement. Artistes and their managers need to continuously seek knowledge in the fast-changing digital world and to attend workshops, trainings and summits.”
Soul Jah Love may have written an inspiring rags-to-riches tale through his rise to fame, but without proper management of his legacy all that will be of naught.