Not every musical idea is wholly original. There, we've said it. We often hear songs that remind us of others we've heard along the way. We suppose it's the fact that the musical scale we work with in the west consists of a limited number of notes and there are only so many ways you can put those notes together before, to borrow a phrase, pop begins to eat itself. We've been working within those western scales for hundreds of years so the repetitions will inevitably become more frequent.
Sometimes however we hear something that goes beyond the realms of coincidence and strays into the realms of, perhaps, tribute to another piece of music or possibly plagiarism, a wholesale lifting of someone else's idea with a slight change to try and justify it being yours.
We have no compunction in proclaiming our admiration for the very first album by Bow Wow Wow "See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang Yeah, City All Over! Go Ape Crazy!" (phew that's a mouthful) released in 1982. The band were originally a line up of Adam & The Ants who were spirited away by one M. McLaren Esq and presented with a 14 year old Anabella Lwin, whom Malcy had discovered in a laundrette, as their new singer. It must be said they had a very similar sound to that which bought great success to Adam Ant replete with Burundi style drumming and chanting backing vocals. The opening track on their album was a tune titled "Jungle Boy", if you're not familiar with it, here it is:
So there we were one day this past week playing though a pile of records we'd just had in when we come to an album by Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens called "Thokozile". Now due to binge listening to recordings of Joe Strummer's World Service radio show in the last year we find ourselves becoming big fans of African music so this along with a compilation called "The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto" were must play recordings.
For those of you that don't know, the Mahotella Queens are something of a supergroup in African music and have been recording since the 1960's in partnership with Mahlathini and the Makgona Tsohle Band. "Thokozile" was recorded in the mid-80's after the group had reformed and features new recordings of some of their older songs. When we get to track 3 on side one we encounter a song called "Sibuyile" and it sounds very, VERY familiar. A little investigation reveals this is a new recording of a song previously titled "Umculo Kawupheli" and originally released in 1973. Here, have a listen:
So whaddya think, tribute or plagiarism ? Discuss...