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‘Million Years ago’: Toninho Geraes vs Adele: The latest plagiarism case in Brazilian music | USA

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Legendary jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny once said that Brazilian pop music “might have been the last in the world to have a sophisticated harmony.” Metheny, the winner of 20 Grammy Awards, is one of many international artists to have fallen in love with the Brazilian music of the 1970s and 1980s and incorporated the sound into his own songs. Another example is Greg Kurstin, an award-winning music producer who studied Música Popular Brasileira (or Brazilian Popular Music) in New York, and now works with superstars such as Paul McCartney, Pink and Adele. Now Kurstin and Adele have been accused of plagiarism: singer-songwriter Toninho Geraes, who has written hits for the likes of Zeca Pagodinho, Diogo Nogueira and Martinho da Vila, among others, has claimed that the producer and the British singer almost completely copied the melody of his song Mulheres (recorded by Martinho da Vila in 1995) on the single Million Years Ago, which was released in 2015 and featured on Adele’s album 25.

This dispute over intellectual property coincides with the pre-launch of Adele’s new album following a six-year hiatus. The singer, whose new album 30 is due for release on November 19, felt compelled to mute comments from fans on social media after being inundated with messages from Brazilians on her publications and live transmissions asking her to respond to the accusations of plagiarism. For the time being, both Adele and Kurstin have made no public comment on the matter.

I only wish to protect my musical legacy

Brazilian singer-songwriter Toninho Geraes

“This silence is an evasive strategy,” says Fredímio Biasotto Trotta, Toninho Geraes’s lawyer, who last February sent two extrajudicial notifications to Adele, the British record label XL Recording, Sony Music and Kurstin. In a press release, Sony stated “the matter is currently in the hands of XL Recordings [which owns the rights to the record] and of Adele herself,” explaining that it had only been responsible for the distribution of the single in Brazil and that its contract had expired. XL Recording, for its part, has not made any statement. “We are gathering evidence to file a claim in the British courts, where judges tend to be meticulous in cases like this,” says Trotta, who has been working in the industry for three decades and has been a musician since the age of 11.

What has not yet been revealed, however, is the amount of compensation the lawsuit is seeking. The documents from Trotta ask Adele and Kurstin to provide details of the income derived from album sales of 25 and the profit generated by Million Years Ago on streaming platforms. Martinho da Vila’s album Tá Delícia, Tá Gostoso, on which the single Mulheres is included, was a hit in Brazil and sold 1.5 million copies, according to data from Columbia Records. Toninho Geraes, however, does not want to take legal action and will settle for his name appearing on the writing credits for Million Years Ago, his lawyer has stated. “I only wish to protect my musical legacy,” Geraes says.

Geraes found out about the surprising similarity between the two songs through Misael da Hora, the son of Rildo Hora, who wrote the arrangement for Mulheres and who has worked with the greatest Brazilian samba composers. “He told me about it, thinking it was an authorized version in English, and I was stunned,” says Geraes. The expert analysis requested by his lawyer identified 88 identical, similar or slightly varying bars in the two songs, as well as identical parts in the intro, chorus and endings.

“Brazilian music is very well known, it is a reference point and it is studied wildly everywhere in the world, especially that of the 1960 and 1970s, but generally all of the melodies up to the beginning of the 1990s,” says Trotta. Perhaps one of the most famous cases in this sense was that of Brazilian singer Jorge Ben Jor, who in 1979 sought compensation from British rock singer Rod Stewart for plagiarism of his song Taj Mahal (released five years earlier) in the chorus of the star’s hit single Da You Think I’m Sexy? Stewart publicly admitted the plagiarism in 2012, describing it as “overstepping the boundary” in his autobiography.

In keeping with Trotta’s claim, bossa nova musician and multi-instrumentalist Edu Lobo filed at least two international claims for plagiarism of songs he wrote in the 1960s: one against a French songwriter whose name was never revealed and another, in 1994, against Japanese songwriting trio Tsukasa Yamaguchi, Eiji Takehana and Yasuhiro Nara, who copied his song Ponteio Numa Outra and rebaptized it as Beatitude on their compilation album Multidirection. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

More recently, the heirs of songwriter Luiz Bonfá, who died in 2001, accused Belgian-Australian artist Gotye of plagiarizing a small part of Bonfá’s instrumental Seville on the hit single Somebody That I Used to Know, which won two Grammy Awards for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Record of the Year. Gotye reached an agreement to credit Bonfá as a co-writer of the song, a credit that has even been registered with the Australian Copyright Council.

Lawyer Caio Mariano, a specialist in copyright and intellectual property, says though that cases like this are not that common. “At the end of the day, there are also coincidences in music, so it is necessary to prove mens rea – the will and the intention to copy something – to be able to accuse someone of plagiarism. Something that happens a lot is the unauthorized use of musicians such as Tim Maia and Arthur Verocai, among others, who have a rich body of work. In the genesis of genres like hip-hop and rap, for example, there was the culture of sampling in songs. The problems arise when it is done without proper authorization, without worrying about whether it is a violation of copyright,” Mariano explains.

On the dispute between Toninho Geraes and Adele, Mariano opines: “There is a very striking similarity in the harmony, tempo and structure of the songs.” The lawyer points out that Brazilian legislation follows international copyright conventions and that cases such as this one tend to be resolved out of court, via agreements and negotiations. It remains to be seen if this is the path Adele and Kurstin choose when they decide to break their silence.

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Teenage girl travelling on scooter seriously injured in collision

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A teenage girl was seriously injured after she was struck by a van while she was travelling on a push scooter in Dublin, gardaí have said.

The collision happened on Walkinstown Avenue in Dublin 12 shortly after 6pm on Wednesday.

The teenager is being treated for serious injuries at Children’s Health Ireland Hospital in Crumlin. No other injuries were reported from the incident.

The scene was preserved for technical examination, and investigations are continuing.

Gardaí are appealing to anyone with information on the incident to contact them at Crumlin Garda station on 01-666-6200, the Garda confidential line on 1800-666-111 or any Garda station.

Any person, whether a motorist or pedestrian, who was travelling along Walkinstown Avenue on Wednesday between 5.45pm and 6.30pm is also asked to come forward.

Gardaí have asked that any camera footage is made available to them.

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Preparation for next winter’s wave of pandemic already under way, says Tánaiste

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic could continue into next winter saying we need to “seize the summer” while preparing for a possible resurgence.

It comes as the Government announced new restrictions in response to the continued high level of cases of the virus and the threat of the new Omicron variant.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin listed the new restrictions on the hospitality and entertainment sectors in a televised address where he told the country he shares “the disappointment and frustration that this will cause”.

Mr Martin said it is “not about going back to the days of lockdowns” but about adjusting the guidelines to the current threat from the virus.

The Government has accepted recommendations made by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) which will be in place from next Tuesday, December 7th until January 9th.

Under the new measures nightclubs will closed and there will be tighter measures adopted again in bars, restaurants and hotels.

Tables will be limited to six individuals and no multiple bookings will be allowed though closing time remains at midnight.

There is to be a maximum of 50 per cent capacity at indoor entertainment and sporting events.

Covid passes will be required for gyms, leisure centres, and hotel bars and restaurants.

Mr Martin confirmed the Government has adopted Nphet’s advice on household visits and limiting them to three other households, while acknowledging the need for flexibility.

Mr Varadkar said this will be advice and it won’t be enforced by gardaí. The Government is not telling people what they can and can’t do in their own homes, he said.

The current rules for weddings remain unchanged.

At a press conference on Friday evening it was put to Mr Martin that he had previously said that once a sector was opened it would not close again and the new measures amounted to an admission of failure.

He replied: “Not at all. I don’t think that’s a fair assessment… the threats with the virus change and I think the vast bulk of society is open and remains open.”

Strong seasonal component

Mr Varadkar conceded that the pandemic could still be around next winter.

He said some experts have suggested the pandemic could last five years adding: “I certainly hope that’s not the case.”

Mr Varadkar said it is clear there is a strong seasonal component and that means two things have to be done.

Firstly he said “we need to seize the summer”.

“The last two summers we had the toughest restrictions in Europe… I’m determined that will not be the case next summer. We should open safely if we can”.

Secondly, he said: “We also need to prepare for next winter while dealing with this winter because there will be new variants”.

That includes building up the capacity of our health service and in the test, trace and isolate system, which he said the Government has been doing.

Mr Varadkar did say that scientists believe they can tweak vaccines for new variants within three months and there will new anti-viral tablets available next year and “that will help too”.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said one thing that gives him confidence is the booster vaccine campaign and indications that the jabs will still provide protection from the Omicron variant.

The Government announced a series of expanded financial supports for the hospitality and entertainment sectors and workers who may lose their jobs.

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) will be temporarily reopened to new entrants in order to cater for people who lose their jobs as a result of the restrictions. Further details are to be announced in the coming days.

There is to be an extra €25 million to support the live entertainment sector.

Mr Varadkar said that the Covid Response Support Scheme (CRSS) will be reformed to help more businesses.

Up until now it was only paid to businesses that had to close or saw a 75 per cent reduction in turnover. It will now apply to businesses like restaurants, pubs, theatres and nightclubs who are impacted by the restrictions though there will be terms and conditions involved. Minister Paschal Donohoe is looking at raising the weekly €5,000 cap.

The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) – the rates of which were cut this week – will stay at the new reduced rates.

Mr Varadkar said this is because the majority of businesses and jobs supported by the EWSS are not in sectors affected by the new restrictions.

He said the Government want to make sure EWSS is targeted at those that need it the most.

There will be a €62.3 million targeted commercial rates waiver for the first three months of 2022 for businesses in the hospitality and entertainment sector that are impacted by the restrictions.

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Nphet proposes cap on households mixing over Christmas period

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The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommended that no more than four households should mix over the Christmas period.

Nphet met on Thursday to consider advice for the Government on the latest pandemic situation, at a time when Covid-19 case numbers have stabilised at a high level and further information on the Omicron variant is being awaited.

It last night sent a letter to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly which recommends a maximum of six people at a table in bars and restaurants, the closure of nightclubs and limits on households mixing.

The contents of the letter are expected to be discussed by Ministers and senior officials at a Cabinet sub-committee meeting on Friday.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the Government would move “as quickly as it can” to examine the latest recommendations from Nphet and to decide if further restrictions will be introduced. She said the Cabinet would need to be given time to “look at this advice and take it on board”.

During an interview on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Ms McEntee said the Government had to ensure it was clear about about what it would do in terms of restrictions and why before anything was announced.

“Of course if there are impacts on businesses at any stage of this…I hope people would agree that we haven’t left people wanting,” she said. “We have always responded where business has needed additional income. Where individuals have lost their jobs. We have always provided that support. This won’t be any different.”

Tests for travellers

Separately, the Government has notified airlines that the introduction of a system of PCR and antigen testing for passengers arriving into Ireland has been delayed by 48 hours.





Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU


545


117

The measure was due to come into force on Friday, but Aer Lingus said airlines had been informed on Thursday night that the regulations would now begin on Sunday. All arrivals into the State – whether vaccinated or not – will need a negative Covid-19 test result from then onwards.

Those travelling with an antigen test result will need to have obtained it within 48 hours of arrival into Ireland, and it will have to be a professionally administered test.

No self-administered tests will be accepted under rules approved by Cabinet. Those with a PCR test result will have a longer pre-travel window of 72 hours before arrival. Persons arriving into the State from overseas who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 will be required also to have a certified negative test.

Hospitality sector meeting

Meanwhile, Government members are due to meet representatives of the hospitality industry on Friday. Ministers have said there will be supports for the sector if new pandemic measures will impact on their ability to trade.

Ms McEntee said she was particularly conscious that people had been asked to pull back and to reduce their social contacts.

“I am talking to businesses particularly in the hospitality sector and I know the impact that is having on them. This should be their busiest time and it’s not. We are taking this on board. We are going to support all of these businesses as we have always done during the pandemic,” she said.

The Minister dismissed suggestions that the Government was flip flopping or that there was confusion behind the scenes, saying the State is in a “fluid situation” because of the nature of Covid-19.

“What we have seen with the antigen test is that the market has corrected itself. That wasn’t a matter of flip flops or changing. We simply saw the market adjust itself. It is not about Government changing direction. We have to change direction sometimes because of the nature of this pandemic. Everybody is doing their best here,” she said.

‘Random and arbitrary’

Earlier, Maynooth University professor of immunology Paul Moynagh said the latest restrictions reportedly proposed by Nphet could lead to some benefits but seem ed “random and arbitrary”.

He told Newstalk Breakfast that “big mistakes” have been made with regard to messaging to the public.

“Back in September contact tracing was stood down the reason being that children were missing too much school. But we had the option of keeping contact tracing and using antigen testing. And there has been a resistance over the last year from Nphet in terms of using antigen testing,” he said.

“We saw over the last number of days the reluctance of Nphet again to impress advice from experts in the area of ventilation and air filtration. There seems to be this reluctance to accept scientific advice from outside.”

Prof Moynagh said there was a need to look at this reluctance and “learn from our mistakes”.

“Whereas at the moment it seems that mistakes are made and that narrative is defended. And again we end up now with new restrictions that I am not convinced are going to be very impactful,” he said.

“We know they are going to be highly impactful in terms of the sectors for example. I am not convinced by the strategy that is being used at the moment.”


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