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'Dodgy DJs' under fire in Zambia

By Musonda Chibamba
BBC News, Lusaka

Zambian musician Maiko Zulu, also known as St Michael
Maiko Zulu, aka St Michael, says mediocre artists are bribing DJs

Zambian radio DJs are coming under attack for not playing the most popular music, but the most lucrative.

The claim is made amongst others by Zambian artist Maiko Zulu, also known as St Michael, who says many musicians have their music blacklisted because they refuse to pay bribes.

St Michael is best known in Zambia for a controversial song entitled Mad President.

It prompted several FM stations to ban it when it was released earlier this year, describing the song as "too radical" for the air waves.

Insulting the president is a criminal offence in Zambia, and carries a prison sentence of up to two years.

'Incentives'

In Mad President, St Michael sings: "I am the police the judge and jury, I hire and fire at my own desire."


Certain DJs have had drinks with me on my deal and the following morning they are playing my music like nobody's business

Musician Maiko Zulu aka St Michael

"I make my own rules and I don't need anyone to give me advice. I know everything. I am reason for your fear," he sings.

But St Michael says it is not just radical messages in music that has led to their absence from the airwaves.

DJs give massive air play to some songs after the singer offers what they commonly refer to as an "incentive", but which in reality is a bribe, he says.

"This has now affected the royalties we earn from the air play because mediocre artists whose songs play more because of corrupt DJs are the ones earning the royalties," he told the BBC.

His proof, he says, is that after a night out buying drinks for DJs, his songs enjoy greater exposure.

"Certain DJs have had drinks with me on my deal and the following morning they are playing my music like nobody's business."

Several radio DJs do acknowledge that corruption has become common in the business.

'Quality control'

But those interviewed by the BBC said would never solicit a bribe to play a tune themselves.

Chazaso Ndhlovu
I don't accept any bribes
DJ Chaza

Chazaso Ndhlovu, better known as DJ Chaza to his fans on Hone FM, is one of many DJs working at nine FM stations in the capital, Lusaka.

He says that as a professional music teacher, his main priority is assessing the quality of the music before playing it.

"I don't accept any bribes," he says.

But he admitted that some musicians had offered him money to play their songs or had offered to pay him after he plays their songs.

Another DJ, Mbachi Nkhata, who also doubles as programmes manager at Q FM, defends the massive air play some songs enjoy on his radio station.

"We have a quality control system in place and DJs cannot just play anything just because it's Zambian," he says

He dismissed allegations of corruption.

If their music is not played, local artists need to face up to the fact that it may not be as good as they think, he says.

The Zambia Music Copyright Protection (Zamcops) attributes the growing cases of corruption in the industry to the tendency by radio DJs to collect the latest music CDs directly from musicians.

"The procedure is that the musician is supposed to leave the CDs with the radio stations' libraries," Mutale Kaemba, Zamcops deputy general manager, says.

"But the problem is that the upcoming radio stations do not have well established libraries."

She added that Zamcops is unable to step in and stop songs being played, even if there is a case of suspected bribery.

But in the end, she said, it came down to quality and the consumer would ultimately reject music not worth paying for.

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SEE ALSO
Country profile: Zambia
29 Feb 08 |  Country profiles

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