The year 2019 ended with one of the leading music labels in Rwanda, The Mane, suffering a major setback with two of its best members departing.
Former Urban Boys member Safi ‘Madiba’ Niyibikora and rapper Jay Polly, real name Joshua Tuyishime, left the label after the former fell out with the owner Ramadhan Mupenda, aka Bad Rama, over what was described as breach of contract, and the latter claiming that the label failed to honour the agreement.
The ‘My Hero’ singer was reprimanded after he reportedly disregarded an existing contract between himself and the label and produced his latest song “Ntimunywa” with DJ Marnaud in a different studio, a claim Safi dismissed, stating that he was free to work with other artistes.
The song produced by Knoxbeat last month in Nukuri Music Label, a move which did not go down well with Mupenda.
The Mane, however, was not taking any of that, putting a caveat on all Safi songs produced under the label being played on any radio stations in the country until the matter is resolved.
It, however, turned out that apart from claiming that the songs were produced under the label, they had not copyrighted them as property of The Mane.
In a smart move, the singer went to Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and effectively put a copyright on all his songs, edging out the label on the ownership of the songs. Safi gave assurances to his fans that the music remains his and will continue to release more music.
The singer, who first denied rumours of parting ways with The Mane last month, in a statement confirmed that he had left the label since they did not agree on the terms—noting, however, that his songs are safe after copyrighting them.
It is not yet clear if The Mane will seek legal action, but clearly there is no turning back for the singer, who left Urban Boys to pursue a solo career.
In a similar development, rapper Jay Polly also announced that he had parted ways with The Mane at the end of the year, following in Safi’s footsteps.
“To all my dear fans and all media institutions in Rwanda, I would like to let you know that I am terminating my business contract with The Mane Music label due to unfulfilled tasks that made our contract,” Jay Poly said, adding that he was not satisfied by the manner in which the agreement was implemented.
It should be remembered that the rapper was received by the label at the beginning of 2019 when he completed serving his prison time— and helped him to organise a number of events, but there was not much to hear musically as the Primus Guma Guma Super Star 4 winner only released not more than four singles in the entire year.
In a competitive rap industry where the likes of Bushali and his Green Ferry Music outfit have taken over, Jay Polly seeks to re-establish himself as one of the country’s best rappers and continue riding the wave like Riderman.
Apart from featuring in tracks like “Nari High” and “Umusaraba wa Joshua” featuring Marina, which he dropped upon being released, Jay Polly remains a shadow of himself, having at one time dominated the airwaves.
His domestic violence shenanigans made him fall out of favour and perhaps though The Mane would push him back to his position of being one of the most revered rappers in Rwanda, but it never happened.
It is not yet clear which music label the “Umwami uganje” rapper will join as he seeks to restore himself back at the top of the hip-hop music perch but clearly it won’t be with the Kicukiro-based label.
Speaking about the matter, Aristide Gahunzire, the manager of the label said: “What I can confirm to the public is that both Safi and Jay Polly are no longer under The Mane. More details about this case will be explained during a news conference that is set to take place next week.”
Both Bad Mane and Safi could not be reached at press time.
What next for The Mane?
The future for the music label is now unclear after the departure of its two prolific artistes, remain with only Marina, Queen Cha and new signing Calvin Mbanda.
Sources say both Marina and Queen Cha, real name Yvonne Mugemana, who is a cousin to Safi, could all depart, given that Safi has influence on the duo.
It is also said that the artistes under the label have been unhappy with the financial gains from their work due to contracts that put The Mane in charge of all revenues generated from their music and the lack of freedom to engage in personal initiatives.
Inside sources say the artistes also felt Mupenda and his team were not doing much to get collaborations, concerts and advertising gigs, with Safi particularly expressing being outspoken on how affairs at the label were run.
Previously, Mupenda told The New Times that his plan was to build something similar to Tanzania-based WCB, Diamond Platnumz’ music powerhouse, which churns out mega stars and content, but now that dream seems to be fading with the departure of Safi and Jay Polly.
Watch this space