The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Correspondent
AS his career begins to surge forward south of the Limpopo, Bulawayo crooner Otis Ngwabi is now living in fear after receiving death threats from a local who insists that he stole his idea for a song.
Ngwabi, who made waves on the local music scene with such hits as Ndiwe, has been resident in South Africa for the last few years and recently began to make inroads in that country’s lucrative Afro Jazz scene.
With his ability to hold musical notes and the experience that he has acquired over the years in the music industry, Ngwabi has been tipped as the next big thing and looks set to follow Bekezela as the latest Bulawayo talent to crack it the South African music industry.
However, it has all not been smooth sailing for Ngwabi who is now managed by Nefertiti Media in South Africa, with an unnamed local artiste claiming that he stole his idea for the song Nomzamo and is now therefore demanding his due. So determined is the artiste in asking for what he believes he is owed that death threats have been sent to one of the stars of Zimbabwe’s urban grooves era.
“Otis is stressed now because these guys are sending him death threats,” Ngwabi’s manager Unathi Memela revealed to Sunday Life.
According to Memela, who manages artistes such as South African hip-hop legend Zuluboy, Ngwabi had confessed that the artiste in question had indeed written the chorus of the track, which was initially released in Zimbabwe and was even included in the local compilation, Zim Stars, which was released in 2013. Ngwabi had said at the time that Nomzamo would be the title track of an album he was working on.
“There is a gentleman who apparently wrote the chorus of the original Nomzamo. He is a friend of Otis. Now that we are rebranding and are doing big things, he has come out of the woodwork saying that Otis is a thief, he stole his song . . . blah blah.
“So I want to clear this out. My issue is why did he keep quiet for 10 years? Why is he bringing this out now that things are happening for Otis? He has been insulting him on Facebook saying he is not creative and steals people’s ideas. That is defamation. But that is neither here nor there,” Memela said.
Memela said Ngwabi had told her that he had indeed been helped during the composition of the track. However, he had said that he had been assisted with only the chorus.
“I spoke to Otis and he acknowledged that the guy contributed the chorus. So what we are going to do on our side with the reworked version is to credit him for his contribution in the chorus. That is all he contributed and he will get whatever publishing royalties the song makes based on his contribution. I can see he is just trying to cause drama. I tried to reach out to him and he was just rude,” she said.
Speaking to Sunday Life, Ngwabi confirmed Memela’s version of events, although he downplayed the spat between him and the unnamed artiste.
“I’ve done work with a lot of people and sometimes as artistes we share ideas. However, when that idea becomes a success everyone feels like they have to make a claim. At this point it’s nothing to worry about because we’re on talking terms with that person and we’re making an arrangement on how royalties will be distributed between everyone,” he said.
Memela said Ngwabi was just a victim of his own success, as opportunists want to take from his rising stock in South Africa.
Meanwhile, Ngwabi said he has found a new lease of life in South African music, as he has reinvented his sound.
“I’m definitely doing some things differently now. The new Otis Ngwabi is all about coming up with new ideas, new concepts and new sounds. In fact I can still say that it’s my old sound but this time I’m bringing it with more power and force,” he said.
He said unlike in the past where he struggled because of a lack of financial support, he had found that he could do better with solid financial backing.
“In the past I struggled a lot. I was struggling to get sponsorship and because for you to get to the top you need that, I decided to join a movement that was on the right track, a movement that is connected with the people that make it possible for an artiste to rise. It is because of this that opportunities have begun opening up for me. I’ve been getting a lot of support and I’ve been working with people that support my vision and brand,” he said.
After a drought that has seen his fans go for over eight years without a new project, Ngwabi said one was already in the works.