Her career as a musician has only just begun but it seems that Noma Khumalo is already learning that the entertainment industry can be tough at times. She took the crowd as the new Idols South Africa winner just a few short weeks ago and has already released her new album ‘Joy’ but now, someone is trying to take credit for a song lyric on the album’s title track.

Disebo Mhlangu contacted Noma’s record label, Gallo Record Company, claiming that she wrote parts of the song and the melody back in 2012 but that the song’s composer Molepo Leclere “Pablo” Serumule “went behind her back to Samro and registered the song as his own”. Disebo admits that she has no problem with Noma singing her song but she wants the credit and fees that come along with it. “I wouldn’t mind if an Idols winner does a cover version of my song, as long as I’m credited and paid royalties for it.”

However, Gallo admits that they acquired the rights to the song via Sheer Publishing legally. In a press release, Sheer Publishing admit that “The song ‘Joy’ was presented by music publishing company, Sheer Publishing, to the Gallo record label as part of a selection of songs deemed suitable for the performer. Sheer was allegedly not aware of the song’s disputed authorship. Allegedly, Fundile Ndinga of Leconelle Music, Ntsolo’s producer, had leaked the damaging statements made about Khumalo and Gallo Music in what David Alexander, the managing director of Sheer described as an opportunistic gesture. He adds that he feels Ndinga has badly advised his client in his matter and has ignored the facts. Sheer Publishing wishes to go on record to correct the perception that Khumalo or her record label has done anything wrong.”

They add that “Amid a flurry of accusations made against the integrity of Khumalo, it emerges that the song was in fact co-written by Disebo Ntsolo, who had recorded it in 2012, with the support of song composer Molepo Leclere “Pablo” Serumule, associated with BantuFro Music, who had been her mentor for a period of a year, and who had helped to shape her as a professional. However, Ntsolo signed an agreement with BantuFro in 2012, which effectively gives BantuFro the rights to this song and any other Ntsolo creates within the contract’s stipulated time frame. Serumule and his publishing company consequently had every right to present the song to Khumalo for her cover.”

“Had we been aware that Disebo had not been credited or was re-recording the song,” says Zweli Sisilana of Sheer Publishing, “We would never have presented this song to Gallo for Noma, to avoid any copyright disputes or discrepancies. We are upset to see all of the misinformation that has been printed in the media and shared on social media labelling Gallo and Noma as having stolen the song, which is untrue.” He added that “While Disebo had a right to be properly credited as a songwriter, Noma and Gallo have every right to record the song and release it on her album.”

The truth is, however, that Disebo did, in fact, write the song alongside Molepo Leclere “Pablo” Serumule and her name should have appeared in the track’s credits. The composer has formally explained his exclusion of Ntsolo’s name as a co-writer for the song, as a misunderstanding and has added that in no way should it reflect on the integrity of Khumalo or Sheer Publishing.

David Alexander, the managing director of Sheer, says that “When we heard Joy for the first time it stood out as a song with potential, it needed the right artist and a label with budget. When Noma won idols we immediately thought that she would give this song her own special feel, her treatment of the song vindicates our opinion. We hope that ‘Joy’ will become a huge hit for Noma and that the South African public will hear her Joy in her holiday offering.”

Unfortunately, this has been quite a turbulent time for Noma who should be celebrating the success of her album instead of dealing with legal issues. However, I think this is a great lesson for artists, labels and publishers to check every aspect of acquiring songs for a potential artist.

Noma’s new album ‘Joy’ is available now on all major digital music platforms and at good music stores around the country.

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