On June 10, 2022, rapper Colonel Mustapha released a song titled Maloko in what was a desperate attempt to bounce back into the music industry after almost a decade out.
But this attempt was not successful as the song only received 300 views on YouTube, handing the rapper a harsh reality check of a changing industry that waits for no man.
This marked the beginning of Mustafa’s downward spiral into poverty. Friends abandoned him and even some family members chose to look the other way as he struggled both emotionally and financially.
Mustapha managed to keep his troubles under wraps until recently, when a video of him working in a construction site, looking thin and dishevelled, went viral.
“Honestly, my life hasn’t been good, I’ve been suffering for a long time and it’s just that I’ve never talked about it. I was struggling to even put a meal on the table. Music was not working. I went to friends in the industry for help, but no one came to my aid,” Mustapha said.
It all started after he sold his car and used part of the money to open a clothing boutique and some of it to finance the release of a song. But neither venture brought him the returns he expected.
He moved into a bedsitter in Utawala and started looking for odd jobs to make ends meet. The jobs he got were on construction sites, where he says he always wore a hoodie and a face mask to hide his identity.
“I survived on a budget of Sh200 a day. I decided to work as a casual labourer because I realised that no one was coming to help me and if I did not help myself, I would go to bed hungry. I had no choice. I could not believe that this was my life,” he said.
At the same time, he was battling depression caused by a combination of things. One of them was disappointment at the realisation that he was not getting anything out of all the money he had spent to build his career.
“Releasing a song and only getting 300 views? That was what really gave me depression. It is only after the video of me working at a construction site went viral that it has gone up to 40,000 views on YouTube,” he explains.
When he first broke into the music scene as Deux Vultures with Nasty Thomas, all seemed well. They made instant hits including Mona Lisa, Katika and Kinyaunyau, which earned them significant popularity.
But the fame that came with these big hits couldn’t guarantee their survival in the industry. Mustapha vividly remembers those days when his pockets were full and his celebrity status was the envy of many.
“I sometimes wonder whether my life would be different now if I had done things differently. When my career was at its peak, I made a lot of money. But being a young man then, I did not spend the money wisely. Now I am mature and I know what to do, but I do not have the money,” he said.
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His story echoes that of many other artists of his era who, despite being legacy musicians, continue to reap little to nothing from their music. This is because they do not receive royalties from their content since they are not registered members of a Collective Management Organisation (CMO).
In fact, Mustapha confirms that he has never received any royalties collected on his behalf by CMOs. CMOs are mandated to collect royalties on behalf of performers and distribute the money to the individuals.
But it appears that although they collect royalties, the money is only distributed to registered members.
“It is illegal for any CMO to say they cannot pay an artist because they are not registered members because when they collect royalties, they collect for all artists. Mustapha cannot go to clubs and demand payment every time one of his songs is played. That is the work of the CMO. If Mustapha is not a registered member then his share should have been held by the CMO and he should have been contacted to go and collect his money,” said lawyer Robert Asewe, who is also the founder of Music Advocate Africa.
Copyrights and IP rights have for long been a bone of contention between artistes and producers in the music industry.
Mr Asewe states that in Music Copyright, there are two major rights: the Master sound recording, and the song writing. Master copyright is tied to the record label or the person who sponsors the recording of the song.
The record label or producer of the song is entitled to a share of the royalties generated from the song. The artiste then owns royalties if he is the one who wrote the lyrics to the song and contributed to the composition of the song.