Master KG in hot soup for stealing Jerusalema song, sued by real owner Ntimela Chauke


This week, claims of copyright infringement were levelled against Jerusalema hitmaker Master KG.

The matter has now reached the litigatory phase, with a lawsuit opened against Master KG and his label, Open Mic Productions, by two artists who claim to have been primarily responsible for creating the song that has been enjoyed the world over.

Ntimela Chauke (better known as Charmza the DJ) is one of them. The 35-year-old been making music since he was 19, when he used (now obsolete) cassettes to re-record songs into mixes. He has had big hits in Limpopo and was involved in creating numbers such as the idibala song Malwedhe, Benz and Ake Khotsofale.

He said: "I produced those tracks with King Monada. I also produced Manyonyoba by Reece Madlisa and Zuma, as well as Maaka with Master KG before I produced Jerusalema. I did mixing and balancing on the Ska Bhora Moreki [King Monada] album and Be Careful by Double Trouble. I did mixing and balancing on all these albums day and night, without sleeping, in the Open Mic studios with Molau Ramala, the co-owner of Open Mic Productions."

Therein lies the source of his distress, as Chauke claimed to have received no recognition or remuneration for his efforts to create a song that was, to some, the anthem of the Covid-19 lockdown – and not just locally. In fact, Jerusalema was a global sensation.

“It’s not that Master KG used it without my knowledge. He released the song with Bolo House Music and I knew the whole time that he was using it. He and I go back a long way. The first time I saw the video released by Open Mic, I messaged the owner to tell him I had produced the track. I was told that they’d sort out the paperwork for the rights – and I trusted them to do so.

“I saw their video celebrating 100 million views of the track [on YouTube], without telling me or inviting me. People in the company and other artists knew that I’d produced the song, but they all kept quiet. In 2020, I tried again to talk to them about the track. They told me we’d have a meeting. They kept saying that we needed to talk, but they never did.”

Chauke claimed to have been staying at the Open Mic house. Every morning, he would sit across from its owner, Ramala, at the same table, but the matter was never mentioned.

"I finally confronted Ramala in his kitchen, wanting to know what they were doing about my issue. He asked me what I’d done on Jerusalema and I explained everything.”

Chauke claimed that Ramala said it was too late to talk about it and that if Chauke had approached him earlier, they could have done something to resolve the matter. Not long afterwards, he was forced to leave the house because of Covid-19.

“They gave me transport money, but I was never invited back. It was as if I didn’t exist. I’d call them, but they wouldn’t answer or reply. That year was hard for me. I’d hear the song being played everywhere – and it hurt. I could see that my song was going big. Even the president Cyril Ramaphosa mentioned it, while I was struggling to find my next meal. I was forced to sell chips and water to survive, but I kept praying something would happen,” he recalled.

“I was so sad. I felt like a dead man walking. My whole family knew about the track and no one could understand why I had nothing. All I had was my faith.”

However, Chauke chose to exercise patience.

“I had to have faith that something would come – and then it did. Out of nowhere, Biblos – the artist I’d sampled on the track – found me. I told him: ‘You know, your voice is famous.’ He was the one who persuaded me to go to Johannesburg and get the legal help I needed.”


“If they’d just given me the chance to speak earlier and we’d gone through the song properly, they would have known about Biblos’ voice, but how could they know if they weren’t the ones who made the track? If I’d been involved, we would have cleared it up. Instead, Biblos and I are now together in our case against them.”

Anger replaced the despair in his voice as he recalled: “When my lawyers sent Open Mic the first letter in 2021, they began to try talking to me. My phone wouldn’t stop ringing and messages were left continually from them, wanting to meet me. They were refusing to reply to my lawyers.”

This was why he had avoided going public about the issue for so long, said Chauke. He thought Open Mic would want to settle out of court before the matter generated adverse publicity, but claimed they had refused to do so.

"We were forced to go public this year when they were still avoiding replying to my lawyers and the summons. They’d message me on the side. Even Master KG wouldn’t talk about the song – he just kept saying he wanted to take me out. I was very careful with my replies."

Chauke maintained that the situation was not only distressing for him, but damaging for the whole country.

“That song gave hope throughout the heavy pain the world was experiencing. I never wanted to tarnish that. It’s my song, I love it. I just want what’s owed to me. I want to be able to leave something for my children. I can’t tell them I had the biggest song in the world, but I was forced to sell chips in order to feed them. I want them to be proud of me. It’s not me coming for ‘black excellence’, as they keep saying. I’m also black. Doesn’t my excellence deserve to be acknowledged?”


Speaking on behalf of Open Mic, managing director Advocate Nkatelo Maluleke said: “The matter’s being handled by attorneys representing both Master KG and Open Mic Productions. It’s now before the courts.”

As for how much Chauke was demanding from a song that did so spectacularly well, Maluleke replied evasively: “There’s no clear figure being claimed, other than a request in their court papers for details on how much was generated from the song.”

He dismissed the claims of copyright infringement.

“We see this legal action as opportunistic, malicious and defamatory to both Master KG and Open Mic Productions. They’re acquaintances who know each other within the music industry. One wouldn’t necessarily call them friends, though.”

He added that Master KG was doing well and had just returned from a successful tour in Canada alongside Makhadzi and Zanda Zakuza.

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