Thursday, February 5, 2009

Rihanna & Jacko sued by Cameroonian musician

If you’re gonna seek permission to sample a piece of music, get permission from the right person – that’s the lesson to be learned from news that Rihanna and Michael Jackson have both copped a lawsuit today.

The plaintiff is 75 year old Cameroonian singer and saxophonist, Manu Dibango. According the The Guardian, Rihanna’s massive hit “Please Don’t Stop the Music” allegedly borrows from Dibango’s 1972 song “Soul Makossa”. Now, in that sentence where it says “allegedly”, read “obviously”, because it is obvious. More specifically, it is Dibango’s chant of “mama ko, mama sa, mama mako sa” (or something like that), which appears towards the end of Rihanna’s track to give it a bit of exotic flavour.

Where does Michael Jackson come in? He had previously borrowed the chant in 1983 for his smash “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”. He changed the chant ever so slightly, but its source is obvious. Jackson admitted to this and settled with Dibango out of court. But more recently, when Rihanna also used the chant, she sought permission from Jackson’s people, and was granted it. Yet she did not seek clearance from Dibango. So now Dibango wants to get paid, and who could blame him. There’s a lot of coin to be made out of this, but more importantly, it’s the principle of the thing.

If you have never heard the original “Soul Makossa”, you can check it out below. It’s a monster afro-funk jam that crossed over into the American funk scene as well. (There’s even a Jamaican cover version bouncing around entitled “Reggae Makossa”.) You can hear the chant early in the song, just before Dibango busts out his killer saxophone riff. It’s the epitome of afro cool. Enjoy!

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