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Exclusive: International recording label to release C’Zars’ new music

In mid February 2024, the family of renowned Kenyan musician, C’Zars, born Abdulkarim Mohammed, began the process of securing all royalties owed to him for his Amka Ukatike (stand up and dance) hit single. By late March 2024, they collected the first royalties after successfully contacting YouTube and securing the monies in C’Zars’ absence.

By the time of obtaining this money, it had been 18 years since C’Zars disappeared when he left his Bamburi, Mombasa County, home for an afternoon walk and not seen again. Following up on monies owed to C’Zars continues to be done in efforts to secure all that is owed to him by right, and to have finances saved up for his use once he returns home.

Prior to his disappearance, C’Zars won awards and talent shows, and it is along this path that he went on to secure a record deal that would have seen him produce more music. But his mysterious disappearance in 2006 at the peak of his fame and industry domination left his music career up in smoke. Over the years since, his song went from viral to minimal airplay before it completely went off air.

But there is hope. C’Zars’ family intends on releasing his unheard music 18 years on, and the plan is to get in touch with an international recording studio and label with a footprint in Kenya “that produces modern music.”

“Everything will unfold with a plan. Fans should just anticipate the songs and when they are ready for release, they will be told. I don’t want to give you a specific time and then plans change. Its better to be in suspense and when God wills, we will release the songs. There are many unreleased songs. C’Zars was a freelance musician. He was not signed with any stable and we will get in touch with an international music studio to release the songs. It wasn’t easy to get C’Zars to where he was before he disappeared. I spent quite a lot of time walking and travelling everywhere in Mombasa and Nairobi from entertainment joints, studios, radio stations and visited with renowned DJs such as Pinye- all to introduce his music to them,” explained Mzee Makasi.

Plans to work with an international music label emerged after Mr Thomas Mahondo, an official at music publishing company Ngomma, told Nairobi News that the new unheard music would “likely” be released with Calif Records because they have been in good communication with Mzee Makasi. This, however, is contrary to what Mzee Makasi told Nairobi News in a follow up conversation.

“Calif Records never contacted me since Czar disappeared and the song Amka Ukatike made Calif records famous. They never consoled me in all these 18 years. Even Ngomma. They never reached out to help me until now despite their fame being owed to Amka Ukatike. Were it not for Mr John Muchiri, a Kenyan journalist based in the United Kingdom, we would never have known about the money and Calif Records and Ngomma would have continued collecting the royalties and never remitted to us,” revealed Mzee Makasi.

By uploading the song on their channel in 2012, six years since it was first released, Calif Records rekindled the legacy of C’Zars in Kenyan homes. This online publication allowed fans to rediscover his song, evoking nostalgia among millennials who cherished him during their youth. The catchy beats and lively rhythm of Amka Ukatike transported listeners back to the days of school dances, where they couldn’t help but move and groove to the infectious tune with lyrics in Swahili, English and local slang, Sheng.

“In the future, although they did good and gave me the money, Calif Records must ask for consent from musicians before they upload their music on their online platforms,” added Mzee Makasi.

From YouTube, C’Zars’ family collected Sh 71,000 in royalties. The royalties, Mr Makasi explained, would have been much more but two things determined the final amount. The first one was that the song was uploaded on YouTube late- six years since it was first released- and going by YouTube’s data, they could only receive Sh 71,000 for 2.5 million views in the 12 years it has been streaming online. The second one was that those behind the song’s production excised their percentages from the royalties attached to the song.

Contrary to popular perception, Mzee Makasi also clarified that C’Zars had never been exclusively signed with Calif Records, and that he was and remains an independent artiste. He also revealed that he had been the one who had been managing his son’s music career since he started singing at the age of 12.

“I was the one who booked and took C’Zars to all his shows as well as paid for the production of his music. He was a freelancer. He recorded songs with Ogopa DJs, Dutty Studio by Redsan and other songs with Clemmo (Calif Records). Amka Ukatike was paid for by Insyder Magazine after he won the talent show. In winning, he was also to get a three songs record deal, Sh 100,000 cash prize and a trip to South Africa but he only recorded two songs and was given Sh 10,000. The deal was not honored,” explained Mzee Makasi.

In his managerial position, he managed to get C’Zars to share stages with legendary names in the local and international music scene including Redsan, Nameless, Wahu and Nonini from Kenya, TID from Tanzania, Chameleone from Uganda and international superstar singer/rapper, Sean Paul, from Jamaica.

“C’Zars was the only Kenyan artiste who curtain raised for Sean Paul when he came to Mombasa (in 2004). This was after he was chosen by Big Ted who called us to inform us of the news. The sad part was that at the end of the show, he was not paid and since it was an international show, we had hoped he would paid good money but even cab fare that we used to and from the event, we paid out of pocket. We only got the fame,” added Mzee Makasi.

Following their success in obtaining the YouTube royalties, the family now intends on following up with telecommunication company Safaricom’s Skiza Tunes as well as the Music Copyright Society of Kenya whom Mzee Makasi says had been collecting C’Zars’ royalties prior to his disappearance but never remitted them to the family.

In Mzee Makasi’s parting shot to C’Zars’ fans, Mzee Makasi said, “To all fans who loved him, continue praying for him.”

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