By Sindiso Dube in Bulawayo
After having a “bitter and sweet” musical year, coupled with awards, massive radio spins and also being pelted on stage on two occasions by her home fans, Bulawayo songstress Novuyo “Seagirl” Dube might have cemented her quest of being the heartbeat and soundtrack of the City of Kings and Queens by winning the Song of the Year award at the recent Roil Bulawayo Arts Awards for her smash hit A E I O U.
On the night of June 29 in the cold Zimbabwe International Trade Fair Hall 4 auditorium, Seagirl bagged two awards — the Outstanding Female Artiste of the Year and the biggest gong of the night, the Song of the Year, a feat worth celebrating. However, those celebrations might have been spoilt for the pint-sized singer by a single tweet from former Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo, also a songwriter and music enthusiast.
On July 1, reacting to a story headlined BAA song of the year: Battle of genre supremacy, published by our sister paper, NewsDay, Moyo, who is in political exile, took to Twitter accusing Seagirl of plagiarising the hit single A E I OU.
“Hopefully Novuyo Seagirl will soon credit the song and studio from which she took the ‘A E I O U’ idea and refrain. The studio guys who worked with her and her twin sister are disappointed!” tweeted Moyo.
This publication understands that the studio in question is Sunshine Studios in Harare, which is owned by Moyo himself. Seagirl and her twin sister Ntombiyolwandle Dube were once signed under the record label in 2013 and that’s where the idea of A E I O U was birthed though it became a refrain in 2018 and this year.
Under Sunshine Studios, the sisters used the moniker “The Twins”.
Gus the Producer, real name Gustav Smythe, who worked with The Twins in 2013, expressed his disappointment saying the studio was supposed to at least get some credit.
“This song [A E I O U] was done without any agreement or acknowledgement. Initially it was done by The Twins whom we had signed on with our company, at the time named Sunshine Studios,” Gus the Producer said.
“Such things happen in the music business, the title of that song is actually, Things You Do For Me, it’s sad to hear that it has been done by The Twins without any agreement.
“The song belongs to Professor Jonathan Moyo who wrote it and A E I O U is the hook line which he came up with.”
Gus the Producer confirmed that the former Tsholotsho North legislator owned Sunshine Studios and that the song was recorded in 2013.
“I still have it in my machine [computer],” Gus the Producer said.
“When we signed the twins the agreement was for them to do an album with us, but we were not satisfied with their vocal delivery on some of the tracks and we terminated the contract. We paid them US$3 000 at the time and we failed to get what we needed out of them, so we parted ways.
“The rights to all the songs belonged and still belong to the company, which is Sunshine Studios, so are the performance rights too. They were not supposed to use the music, words or song idea as the rights belonged to Sunshine Studios. They needed permission to use the rights and to give credit to Sunshine Studios if permission had been granted.”
Guss the Producer refered this publication to Moyo, who he said was in a better position to answer on how they would react to the issue.
Moyo, speaking from his exile base, said Novuyo should not have used the song idea without the studio’s permission.
“I was unaware of the issue until it was brought to my attention by the producers who were concerned about it,” Moyo said.
“The Twins — Novuyo Seagirl and Nomvula Ntombiyolwandle — are exceptional individuals and talented musicians. I remember meeting them at Sunshine Studios in 2013.
“They did not sign contracts with me personally, but with Sunshine Studios.
“Quite clearly, the producers are not happy with what happened and because they manage the studio and the artistes they record, I fully understand where they are coming from.
“Music is a business and a profession, with dos and don’ts, not a charity where anything and everything goes.”
Moyo said although he had not spoken to the twins, he believes there was no malicious intent on Novuyo Seagirl’s part.
“Learning never ends, ukufunda akupheli, and young people learn in different ways at different times,” he said.
“I’m happy to take this as a learning experience for everyone involved. Novuyo Seagirl is a rising star who needs our support for her to shine brighter. She can count on it.
“I wish her well along with her twin sister, Nomvula Ntombiyolwandle. They have a great future in music ahead of them.”
Moyo added: “Meanwhile, the producers at Sunshine Studios will still produce their original song, Things You Do For Me, which has the A E I O U hook. No problem with that. It’s a great Afro-pop gem.”
Seagirl would neither deny nor confirm if she used the A E I O U refrain without Sunshine Studios’ acknowledgement.
“I have no comment. I don’t have anything to say now, you will have to wait for a press statement from my management. For now, I have nothing to say,” Seagirl said.
This publication could not get the response from Seagirl’s management at the time of going to print.
In an interview with this publication last year, Seagirl said the song production was impromptu during a class break at a local higher learning institution.
“The song was produced by Lance Hebron, who is from Gwanda. I met him at my school where the song was birthed. He came with the beat and eventually these amazing lyrics started flowing in my head,” Seagirl said then.
“You won’t believe we recorded the song using a Skype microphone covered with a scarf, making a makeshift condenser microphone.”
“The song is an expression of love, how someone makes you go crazy in translation of the vowels A E I O U, where the chorus is born.
“In the first verse, the letters are broken down, with the letter A translating to Amazing is the way you look, E- Everything that you do just makes me wild,
I- If I lose you I will lose my mind, O-Only you can have me the way you want, U-U give me butterflies and goose bumps.”