Muluken’s anger over the reproduction of his songs:a question of copyright or supremacy?

In an interview one of Ethiopian’s most acclaimed musician, Muluken Melese, gave recently to a radio in the US he spoke emotionally about his resentment to the recent reproduction of his songs made by Bizuayehu Demisse.He complained that he was not asked to give his permission and that he performed the songs so perfectly that they could not be reproduced better.
He said that he considered the work as a theft, and the musician a thief. “My music belongs to the people and should have to be kept in a museum as a treasure.”

On his part, Bizuayehu formally apologized to Muluken after the interview was broadcast on FM 97.1.

Responding to the question whether he would permit if he was asked at first, Muluken responded that he would never.

The fact that the original owner of the songs, Muluken, should be asked for permission by Bizuayehu before embarking on the process of reproduction is legitimate, fitting and undoubtable. And what Bizuayehu did (reproducing the songs without permission) is indeed lamentable.

Many agree that Muluken Melese is an icon in the modern Ethiopian music era. As such he to be should have been given due respect and asked to give his consent. It is not surprising that he was incensed by the reproduction of his songs without his acknowledgement. To make matters worse, Muluken was not even given a written credit as the owner of the songs on the CD and cassettes produced. “The songs are labeled as ‘oldies’ on the CD,” said Muluken.

I agree with all these points. However, my reservation lies in Muluken’s claim which alluded that what he did is beyond the test of time and is an ultimate production. “I did the songs in the way they can not be produced better again,” says Muluken.

The trend of music reproduction by an artist other than the original one is not a new experience to the world music industry. Whitney Houston did a reproduction of Dolly Parton’s “I will always love you,” by Patron’s permission, with an interesting beat and was very much liked and accepted. Michael Bolton made a number of songs originally made by others. These have garnered him increased acceptance and popularity. The original singers have also expressed appreciation of his music.

Now the question is not whether the reproduction is better than the original. A work of art, especially music, has got its quality in its success and acceptance at the time it is produced. Time is the touchstone by which music is gauged. And the musics that stand the test of time are the classical ones.

Every era and its generation has got its manifestation of the popular culture in the works of art and musics of the time. Every generation has its taste and style of music, according to the musical order of the time.

When coming to our current music trend, there are opinions that note the decline of music quality in contrast to the former. Though this opinion is partly true, there are music productions that are worth appreciating and could stand out to spare the current musical trend from being described “totally unmusical.” Egigayehu Shibabaw, Teddy Afro, Zeritu Tadesse and other young musicians have shown their musical stature and are typical representatives of their time.

However successful and entertaining the music of the time may be, there would still be nostalgia for the old music and songs. So, old songs will be heard along side the current ones and be remembered, though not widely. And when there is a wide demand to hear the excellent songs of the renowned musicians like Muluken Melese, there comes a work of reproduction with the current musical style, while maintaining their original identity. This is supposed to present the same old music with rich musical composition. That is why even Muluken’s, Tilahun Gessese’s and recently Kuku Sebsibie’s old songs were reproduced by the original musicians with more interesting composition.

Therefore, the art of music is always in progress and is never made to be the ultimate, as if it would never ever be made or be reproduced again, regardless of the popular culture and technology.

19 thoughts on “Muluken’s anger over the reproduction of his songs:a question of copyright or supremacy?

  1. i like the explanation on this issue.please try to publish such kind of updated arrguments with suggestion & lets work for the best of ethiopian music.


  2. Is Muluqen realy the sole owner of all the songs reproduced? Did he ever asked permission or paid royalty to the original singers of some of the songs? If I’m not mistaken, the constitution dectates that the singer has the right for only six months from the date the music is published or registered, but the music producer(s) and lyrics writter(s) preserve a life time ownership of the material. Are all the songs on the reproduced album written by Muluqen? I’ll leave that upto the individual(s) reading my comment.


  3. I do agree with Muluken. He is one of the well known musician in Ethiopia and he did his best to satisfy his people’s needs by providing such an amazing albums. He did it for desire/instnict not for money as this so called ‘bizuayehu’ guy did. He has to apologize for millions of times to Muluken for his horrible reactions. He even doesn’t complain if Muluken insulted him.


  4. I totally disagree with Muluken’s claim and assertion that the songs in Bizuayehu’s CD are solely his. That is absolutely untrue and ludicrous. Tizita, che belew and ebwa zebidr were there before he even existed. Bizuayehu has nothing to apologize for other than having a similar voice to Muluken’s. If Muluken is lableling Bizuayehu a ‘thief’, he should be reminded that he is the original sinner.
    Muluken: your original recording of these songs is withering away in Vinyl and Cassette Tapes. Those products are not Museum items. If you want to be generous to the people, rerecord these songs in a digital format.
    Otherwise, as far as some of us are concerned, you yourself have resigned to be a museum piece in the history of Ethiopian music.


    Liked by 1 person

  5. he has already departed from music world what make him dissappiont stupid+nonsenese idea .
    amharic “hulet aywodum kmenrkosu aywoldum”


  6. he has already departed from music world what make him dissappiont stupid+nonsenese idea .
    amharic “hulet aywodum kmenkosu aywoldum”
    he can join and deal with


  7. Neftegna, you said it all. Thank you. If i remember correctly the late Yeshewlul Mengistu said something about the lyrics of CHE BELEW (it was not suppse to be a love song). not only he stole it, he destroy it.



  8. Are you guys kidding me! This is not different from bank robbery of the worst kind! You steal his intellectual property–not consent, no credit and make money of it instead of going to prison? Look no apology is enough or genuine unless he makes a restitution and abandon the project. That is shameful and disgraceful and we should in no way justify theft. The article is also shameful in that it minimizes the gravity of the crime and nit picks on the minor staff. And for some of you–Idiots–there is a different from what is in public domain as a communal property like Tizita and private copy righted property like Muluken’s songs!


  9. Zazu,

    You are mixing up issues to make a point. You make Tizita a communal property and not Nanu Nanu Neye or Imbua Zebider, che belew …etc. Just because Muluken modified some of these songs does not entitle him to owen them. You are either ignorant with Ethiopian music history or you simply lack the knowlege to objectivly judge issues on their on merit.


  10. Pingback: Daddy’s too big a shoe.. « My e-Shoe Box

  11. Muluqen melese is loved by many ethiopians for his music; and ethiopians are not prepared to forget him. To replay his songs one more time, when he gave his back to his music career, by his countryman is an honor to the original artist.

    By the way Muluqen, have you ever asked a written or verbal permission from the original gospel singers such as Dereje Kebede and Gizachew Worqu when you published your songs such as (Abenezer) etc. So you are equally guilty in that if you have to accuse others for doing the same.


  12. Hallo, nice blog I must say. I like the way you wrote it even though I’m not so sure if I agree with the point you are trying to make.
    If you could please list on your link’s list. Thank you


  13. Muluken..should be flattered that his music is being kept alive alive by other present day admiring musicians. It is after all eons ago… since MUlukens ‘ abandonment of secular music..,there is a new kids on the block who still have to discover MULUKen…maybe through Bizuayehu’s
    daring efforts…for he did try to walk in MUluken’s gigantic shoes, and that initself is admirable..
    MULUKEn also should thank God …that he is still alive to see his living legend being celebrated by many.
    The musician Bizuayehu..
    can sing MIchael Jackson’s song if he feels inspired by him..
    Yeah…copyright would be an issue, but one is going to stop artist for covering songs of artists they admire..
    The fault of that he should have noted and gave credit to the original singer of the songs.And MULken, if he had been asked,.should have been delighted to have given his blessings and consent.
    I mean, even the Master…himself …has said ..Greater work than I you can do…Possessiveness…is not a mark of saintliness and if MULUken really thought about it, Bizu has his own God given talent and just like God gave him his sing those songs…
    I my brother…MULUKEn.”.Though shall not cast an evil eye on thy dear brother..the songs and the whole alem..belong to one owner..and that is God.
    I say forget about the noise you are making and embrace Bizu…with all your beautiful fegegta..and the love of God in your heart.
    Bizu is Bizu
    MUlken is MUluken.
    .All who know what is what know who is the Master
    and who the wannabe..
    Nuffffff said!!
    Selam HUnnn..MUluye..we still love you..even though you left us hanging…begging for the Lord to send you back to us..
    The Lord did not send you back ..but he sent Bezu instead…..It must be time for Bezu to sing your song.
    Or else , I dare you, come and mesmerize us one more time…I am sure the Lord won’t mind.It is all for LOve.


  14. Do you know how to get in touch with Muluken or his publishing company? We’re interested in using one of his songs and want to make sure to clear it with him!


  15. Do you know how to get in touch with Muluken or his publishing company? We’re interested in using one of his songs and want to make sure to clear it with him!


  16. It appears that Muluken does not like or care for what he accomplished and contributed to the legacy of Ethiopian music. To those of us who still love his music and enjoy his songs even now, he was an icon and a gifted artist. In my humble opinion, any form of talent whether in music, sports, science, the arts including literature etc. are all gifts of God to humans. There is nothing wrong, or sinful or morally corrupt about developing these talents to the fullest, making them one’s bread and water, or gaining fame and fortune off them. The secular and spiritual life are not mutually exclusive. If we observe any of these talents in our kids, relatives, friends and any person we know, including ourselves, we must do the utomost to help them attain and achieve the maximum they can. That is our duty as fellow human beings.

    I felt rather disconcerted and disagree with Muluken’s view that what he did in the past was to paraphrase the “work of the devil” or what have you. In one of his testimonies he mentions that we need to change our look about life. The categorization of people into two broad classes of the spiritual (menfesawi) and the secular (alemawi) where certain worldly pleasures are forbidden and denied for ever is plain wrong to me.Even monks are not perfect. Not priests. Not the Pope. Nor the Abun. Not a single one of us lives his or her life in 100% perfection and harmony. There is no such distinction ever to be made between the spirtual and the secular human being. We learn in the bible that Jesus did not approve of the pharisean who prayed in church, who gave a donation higher than the “lower” perhaps secular woman who gave what she had.Everyone of us is deficient in one thing or another. We all should try to live a good life, be honest, considerate and genuine and help one another. We should not however look down on others who tend to overindulge in some areas and point finger and somehow portray the image that we are more honorable, more of a christian or carry higher moral values than them. All of us should also stop from perpetuating the myth that only we know and follow the words of God and the teachings there in better than everyone else. That itself is wrong and to use the christian term here maybe even very “sinful”.


  17. Muluken is wright!some peoples understood negatively He’s complain he’s complaint is not about definding he’s past albume or”wltunem mewded” but declaring once againe for all It is the work of devil what he did in past were not singing for the God. Glory to God now he is saved & ministiring for the eternal kingdome.


  18. I really, really love Muluken from the bottom of my heart. I have big respect to him as well. I don’t really get the reason behind that makes him so mad. Msr. Muluken said that he is a protestant religion follower a while ago and he let’s go everything what is going on the world. If he really think that the songs or music he sung or made to the pricy people of Ethiopia, He wouldn’t be mad this much on Buzayehu Demesse. Instead of discourage Buzayehu, he should give him a full respect and encourage even to play his other songs beside the one he did play.
    Good job Buzayehu, keep it up !!!
    Kehali B. Haileselassie


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