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 Mbube - Mickey Mouse Under House Arrest in SAfrica?
Rapper & Dr Robin Goss at the Freemuse Censorship conference, Denmark 2002. Photo by David Marks
Solomon Linda and his Evening Birds 1941. Left to Right: Solomon Linda (Soprano), Gilbert Madondo (Alto), Boy Sibiya (Tenor), Gideon Mkhize (Bass), Samuel Mlangeni (Bass) and Owen Skakane (Bass)

MBUBE – Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck & Goofy under house arrest in SAfrica?

More feedback in the Jungle, The Mighty Jungle where The Lion Will not sleep tonight? as the new the Safari Suits follow on the trail of Solomon Linda’s $15 Million Dollar song; only the law-suits seem to be bagging the trophy & skinning the old copyright act, while the media feeds off the scraps & the Ntsele family get the bones?

----- Original Message -----
To: "[email protected]" 3rd Ear Music Friends
Sent: Wednesday, 07 July, 2004 1:30 PM

Subject: Mbube - Mickey Mouse Under House Arrest in SAfrica? Joke or Justice? Solomon's Song gets Disneyland Attached.

Mickey Mouse, Goofy & Donald Duck under house arrest In The Jungle, The Mighty Jungle Where The Lion King Sleeps Tonight; what can we say? Joke or justice?

What follows is a presser from the office of Dr Dean Owen, leader of this Safari - hot on the trail of the Lion King.  Also, a contact (below) from the son of one of The Tokens in Bushland, Damien Margo, whose father Mitch made a hit out of Mbube / Whim Away / In The Jungle in 1961. (One of the first of over 600 universal covers)

PLEASE NOTE - Mbube Correction: - Francois Verster Director of THE LION'S TRAIL - The Story of Solomon Linda's song based on Rian Malan's story writes: ".... it was actually SABC3 who committed first (and not the BBC - 1999) - the National Film and Video Foundation followed, and BBC4 only came in on the deal later, together with NPS, CBC and others. Technically, the film is a SABC / Lion's Trail / BBC coproduction." Apologies. It took 28 years & not 30 for the National Public Broadcaster to think this Mbube story was fit for the format. And also, apologies for omitting Daisy Duck & Minnie Mouse. The ladies fall under this court order as well.

Mbube - Mickey Mouse Under House Arrest.

Dougie Batterson - 2004
Dougie Batterson - 2004
3rd Ear Music wishes Dr Dean Owen & his team of copyright experts all the very best on their Safari. Will compassion & morality prevail? Will justice be seen to be done down here in the concrete jungle? To quote Dr Dean (full presser below) - We simply want a fair deal for the family. If this can be achieved by negotiation, so much the better.

Sounds good, but somehow, & with the greatest respect, I can't help but wax cynical. King Solomon's Song is generating wealth & creating jobs along the Lion's Trail for many suits & that is wonderful. So what? The Ntsele Family - Solomon Linda's daughters (or the estate as they have now become) - have still not been settled. The Tokens, according to Damien, have also lost out? That's another story - & Rian does try & cover it. Meanwhile, the hunt for the Lion's share of the song's missing $17 Million plus, intensifies. Question: - Does Disney have the rights for the Keystone Cops as well?

Point? Why don't all the safari-suits get together & give the Ntsele Family a portion of their rightful inheritance? It's not an advance, because the money's already banked. Surely the lawyers get some money up front? I sincerely hope that they aren't doing it for royalties. Will they, for the love of their profession perform for their drinks & supper as Solomon Linda & The Evening Birds so often had to do? Always with pleasure & often for free? If they strike it lucky there's always a chance that their families (estates) will inherit a contingency hit.

Many people have been following this Mbube song's trail & the copyright saga that has followed - from the Keith Addison challenge to Gallo (now Johnnic) in the Sunday Tribune of the mid 70’s re: Mbube & Tom Haak (Aaron Big Voice Jake Lerole's missing millions) - to Rian Malan's expose, 30 years later, in 2001 (Where Does The Lion Sleep Tonight? & The BBC TV documentary of The Lion's Trail)
... read also >>
... read the full story by Rian in ColdType >>

It is rather sad that the legal battle for this tune remains in the pockets of the suits, the (selective) media - if it fits the format - & the leisure industry. King Solomon's Song is BIG business & breakings news. Even MNET / Carte Blanche smelt blood last week & decided to air their job-creation version of The Lion's Trail; this despite us trying to interest them in the story years ago. It didn't fit the format back then. And of course the SABC had to wait 30 years for the story to come pre-paid via the BBC before they would venture to squeeze it into their imported top-40 format. Why would the public service want to waste tax-payer's money on a SAfrican story like that?

Dougie Batterson - 2004
Dougie Batterson - 2004
Thank goodness Dr. Dean, a copyright expert, has finally hit on a clever legal lever that will surely hot up the media monster's feeding frenzy. This could be noble prize territory for him & his team; it could drag out for centuries - on Disney's cartune terms of course. Meanwhile, through negotiation, many people are living off the media-bones from Solomon's Song Safari.

Suddenly the focus seems to have shifted away from the source of the original script & scene - from Gallo (now Johnnic) to the bad ol' cowboy plagiarists in the USA. Wasn't it Gallo (now Johnnic) that bought the tune that is reputed to have earned $17 Million plus, for a few Guinness? And if so, was part of their commitment to recording Solomon Linda & The Evening Birds in 1948 not some form of intellectual property protection? Or is this another expensive law-suit diversion, using the 25 year Imperial British copyright clause? Passing the Buck, so to speak. The local record industry escapes once again through smoke & mirrors? Don't miss the exciting sequel. Mickey Mouse & the Keystone Cops meet The Lion King in Disneyland!

Seriously, the directors at Gallo (now Johnnic) are good (record industry) people & it is to their credit that this latest Lion King Song Safari has been arranged. But still, something is not right. Why can't a payment be arranged? Like settling with the family before the rent on their hut is due? Then everybody involved in this drama, ourselves included, can go about living with King Solomon's song from a relatively comfortable position; like on the moral high-ground?

At the moment Mbube / Whim Away / In The Jungle is just one of another bunch of tasty tuneful SAfrican bones lying wasted on our intellectual property landscape. It's sort of embarrassing; watching & waiting while the suits pick at it.

The generation who did the deal at Gallo (now Johnnic) are long gone I was told. Sorry! We are doing our best. And I believe them. But then the architects of apartheid are also decomposing, and that didn't stop the revolution & the TRC.


Grouch Ou Marks
3rd Ear's Hidden Years Music Archive Project, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Dougie Batterson’s African Lion King
Dougie Batterson’s African Lion King
To: "David Marks" [email protected]>
Sent: Tuesday, 22 June, 2004 1:40 AM
Subject: News Forum - Where Does the Lion Sleep Tonight? - Part 3

> comments = My father Mitch and uncle Phil are original members of The Tokens, the group that made the hit The Lion Sleeps Tonight in 1961. They also improvised and created new melodic material on "the Lion", but never got credit for it! For some reason they are not cut into the deal. Sadly, The Tokens do not get publishing credit for this work. Some execs are getting all the money. Its no fair I tell ya! Some lawyer stands to make a bundle to help find justice for my father and uncle. Even a small piece of "the lion" would make such a major difference in my father's life.
> Best,
> Damien Margo
> [email protected]

Adri Malan comments: The latest on the Mbube case - please read press release below (issued on 2 July 2004).

Ace copyright lawyer at Spoor & Fisher, Dr Owen Dean, has been awarded a court order authorizing him to attach legendary Disney trademarks pending resolution of a copyright dispute.  The Disney icons; including Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Winnie the Pooh and many others; will be detained until issues surrounding the earnings of an equally legendary pop song are settled.

Dean's client in this landmark case is the estate of Solomon Linda, composer of a Zulu tune that forms the basis of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, one of the 20th century's most lucrative and enduring pop songs.  Although Linda's contribution to Lion Sleeps Tonight is openly acknowledged, the ill-fated migrant worker never received credit as a co-composer and died a pauper in 1962.  Starting in the early seventies, his destitute family received a trickle of royalties from the American owners of the Lion copyright, but Dean's legal team claims these amounted to a pittance; way under one percent of the song's earnings in the 1992-2002 period, according to attorney Hanro Friedrich.

In 2001, Friedrich arranged for a colleague in Los Angeles to open negotiations on the family's behalf with Abilene Music, the New York-based company that administers the Lion Sleeps Tonight copyright.  Abilene's response gave no comfort to the family.  A subsequent attempt at quiet diplomacy by South African music industry figures came to nothing.

A year later, the case made its way into the hands of Dr Owen Dean, widely regarded as South Africa's foremost copyright lawyer and author of a doctoral thesis on the historical aspects of South African copyright law, including the Imperial Copyright Act of 1911, which was in force throughout the British empire in the year when Linda recorded Mbube, the song in which The Lion Sleeps Tonight's central melody first appears.  Dean immediately realised the implications: in terms of the Imperial Copyright Act, ownership of Mbube reverted to Linda's heirs 25 years after his death, thereby revoking all existing deals and requiring anyone using Linda's music in Commonwealth territories to negotiate new agreements with his estate.  This insight forms the basis for the audacious legal strategy set in motion this week, when a judge authorised Dean to attach Disney's trademarks in South Africa.

I have no axe to grind with Disney itself, Dean explained. In fact, I assume they don't know much about Solomon Linda and the way he and his family have been treated.  But they are using his music in the Lion King musical, which is running to full houses all over the world while Linda's daughters work as domestic servants, live in shacks and struggle to feed their families.  As far as we're concerned, this both illegal and profoundly unfair, so we're detaining Mickey, Donald and all the others until proper justice is done by the Americans.

Gallo Label for King Solomo’s Song 1948
Gallo Label for King Solomo’s Song 1948
As far as Dean is concerned, the provisions of the Imperial Copyright Act apply in all territories that were once part of the British empire.  He is therefore eyeing a similar action in the UK itself, with Australia, New Zealand and Canada likely to follow.  Also in the crosshairs are all record companies and artists who have recorded or plan to record new versions of The Lion Sleeps Tonight without negotiating appropriate permissions with Linda's estate. We simply want a fair deal for the family, said Dean. If this can be achieved by negotiation, so much the better.


For more information, please contact:
Dr Owen Dean
Partner: Spoor & Fisher
Head of trade marks and copyright
Tel.: (012) 673-1269

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