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When music pirates sing better
News / Latest / Ernest Kanjo / Monday, 07 June 2010 12:51

Music_-_HAOREWhen problems last for just a while because they are solved, little is said about them. But when they stretch endlessly, it means solutions have become far-fetched. That seems to be the case with music piracy in Cameroon, today an unbearable canker.

Within the last 10 years, the illegal duplication and sale of CDs has characterised the landscape in one of Africa's music destinations - Cameroon.  Original CDs, usually marked by high quality sound and colourfully attractive jacketing have almost finally given way to appallingly bad ones, fabricated under very unorthodox conditions.

Not only are these contraband products, unprofessionally manufactured, distasteful to the ears, they are reported to be the root cause of the breakdown of musical sets. Usually, an MP3 would harbour the compilation of all the works of given musicians, with jacket listings that diametrically oppose what is recorded on the CD. Sometimes, the face on the jacket has nothing to do with the songs in the CD.

Yet, the fake is what has flooded the Cameroonian music market and its authors have continuously made brisk business to the detriment of producers, singers and professional distributors. Many of the pirates whom musicians accused being heartless competitors, hardly contribute anything to music production, but are the first to jump at any new product and give it the widest publicity for their own interest alone. Some have even put songs on the market before their release.

Thus, when original CDs sell at 1.500FCFA (3.75 Dollars) to 2.000FCFA (5 Dollars), pirated versions go for as cheap as 3.00FCFA (0.75 Dollars). Some pirated music consumers confess they have bought CDs at 2.50FCFA (0.62 Dollars) and even less.

It has been literally understood in Cameroon that music comsumers go for pitrated CDs because of a weak purchasing power, resulting from the dreaded economic crisis plaguing most countries for long now. Others complain that they are unable to lay hands on original CDs any more. Music sponsors say they would rather run just a few original copies for buyers who can afford than embark on wasteful mass production. But, the fact remains - musicians, the hitherto crowd pullers, and once considered demi-gods have gone bankrupt and reduced to beggars. While some seek solace in the Diaspora, others have disappeared from the music scene and opted for careers in completely different disciplines.

The alarming nature of the crime (punishable by the Cameroonian law) has necessitated several attempts at combating music piracy. But the more frantic efforts are made, the more solid it has become. Acknowledging their might was not mighty enough to fight pirates, music stakeholders sought for Government intervention. Feedback was not only delayed, but turned out negative when it dawned (rightly or wrongly) on them that the piracy network was ironically manned by some big wigs in policy-making positions.

A former Board Chair of Cameroon Music Corporation, CMC (now replaced by another body) would walk along the streets of Yaounde and Douala, the country's two main cities, cease and burn piracted CDs, with the aid of the police, only to find more the next day.

Even when they thought the creation of an anti-pirate body made up musicians, Comite Musicale de Lutte Contre la Piraterie (in French) was going to be the lasting solution, it soon became public knowledge that some singers themselves were deeply invloved in the crime.

Many questions have since lingered around - if the powers that be and musicians themselves are accomplices, how and when will the crime be tackled? When do Cameroonian musicians start making a livelihood from their works once again?

 


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