Critical World
Thinking Globalization Through Popular Culture
Copyright Hell
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James Brown: The most sampled man in the universe on The Simpsons

There are many examples of songs that have been copied from artists in developing economies and reworked for significant profits by artists and distributors in markets in the West. Through three examples (Malaika, Guantanamera and Day-O), we can see how popular songs take on lives of their own, providing international pop stars with newfound capital (both cultural and financial) and leaving local artists with virtually nothing to show for their creative energies.


Dr. Francesca Coppa, Associate Professor of English and Film Studies at Muhlenberg College, examines the ways in which remix culture speaks back to mass culture, creating counter-narratives which broaden the relatively limited perspectives of professional mass media content providers. Coppa surveys a broad array of remix genres – image, music, text, video, and code – to talk about how fair use allows amateurs to create culture as well as respond to mass culture in that culture’s own languages (including computer languages.)

Coppa argues that remix culture is in many ways a return to the local, participatory cultures that existed before the relatively rise of the mass culture industries, and argues that we must all continue to see ourselves as makers, doers, and creators rather than, as digital “users” or “customers.”


Welcome to copyright hell

Some comments in response to an article by Wallis and Malm: “Copyright: Where Does All the Money Go?” in Big Sounds from Small Peoples: The Music Industry in Small Countrie , Constable, 1984. Pp. 163-215.’First of all this is a great book. For anyone interested in the politics or economics of poor or small countries, especially with regards to the entertainment industry, this book is a must. It takes us through these several examples of non-Western folk songs which have been picked up and adapted for profit by various types of artists from the West.

· Secrecy and mistrust in the world of copyrights.
· The way that collecting societies are linked to colonial institutions (PRS).
· The flow of royalties.
· Examples of the flows of royalties.



By Bob White

Again Pete Seeger is involved, this time he hears the song from a young Cuban man (Hector Angulos) at an American summer camp. Song was originally written in 1941 by a Cuban singer named Joseito Fernandez, who used to change and add verses as time went on. Angulos added a verse of his own, borrowing from the famous Cuban poet Jose Marti.The credits now read:

“Guantamera”, Original lyrics and music by Joseito Fernandez
Music adapted by Pete Seeger

Lyrics adapated by Hector Angulos based on a poem by Jose Marti.

But before this it was unclear, Seeger was advised to put the song in his name to avoid the song would become public domain, ends up backfiring because the original songwriter never gets anything…

“Guantanamera”-Wyclef Jean

Sony 1997
Audio MP3

“Guantanamera”-Pete Seeger

Sony 2005
Audio MP3

“Guantanamera”-Compay Segundo

Dro East West 2005
Audio MP3




Harry Belafonte and a singer named Lord Burgess claim ownership of the song. Though the research of Wallis and Malm shows that it was recorded and copyrighted under the name of Banana Boat Song by a singer from Trinidad named Edric Connor. Since Belafonte’s main collaborator (Burgess) seems to be quick to claim songs as his own, probably what happened was that he was feeding Belafonte songs that he had lifted from someone else. Belafonte tries to defend himself:”All the calypsoes were very sexist, very anti-black, very anti-women; they were not to the best interests of the people of the West Indies. They put a lot of white peoplel in North America into a wonderfully racist feeling about us; we were happy natives sitting under a coconut tree who were objects of sexuality. I found that concept terribly offensive; I didn’t want to sing songs about what our sexual powers were or were not, no matter who found humour in that…I tried my hardest to show that work on a banana boat was hard…”

Unfortunately the song was already laden with sexual imagery, though he was supportive of various civil rights and liberation movements, he was still accused by many West Indians for stealing their music and making profits from it.

“Day-O”-Harry Belafonte

RCA 1956
Audio MP3

“Day-O”-Rick Maniac & Dr. Loop

Polystar 2003
Audio MP3




A song that was apparently recorded in Kenya by an artist named Fadhili William. Harmony Records in UK gives 50% to Fall River (the publishing company associated with Seeger), Fall River gives 50% to Equator Sound (William’s employer), who split that in half with William, now received 12.5% of the original sales of the album. And according to this account, the owner of Equator has been out of the country for more than ten years! Then in 1981 the song is recorded by a group named Boney M, anyone remember this group? British late disco group. Claimed they had arranged a ‘traditional’ song. No money back to Kenya.


“Malaika”-Helmut Lotti

Piet Roelen 2000
Audio MP3

“Malaika”-Boney M

BMG 1981
Audio MP3 



Fadhili William

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