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Pilgrims Choir Leaders Differ on Controversial Sale of Church Music

The hymns are being advertised by Painters Records, a Kampala-based music-recording studio, on their Facebook page, where links are availed to those who want to download or listen to them at a cost. The links lead to online music-streaming platforms that include iTunes, Deezer, Tidal, Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon.
05 Oct 2020 13:19
The music album is going for 18,000 shillings online but the choir or church has never received the money.
The leaders of Pilgrims Choir of St John’s Cathedral in Kabarole have given varying statements on how their music album ended up for sale online.  

A week ago, Monica Rubombora , one of the members of the Ruwenzori Diocese Global Zoom Service informed their online forum that she had come across digital platforms where an album of 15 recently recorded hymns of Pilgrims Choir were being sold.  

Pilgrims is the main choir of St John’s Cathedral in Ruwenzori Diocese. The hymns are being advertised by Painters Records, a Kampala-based music-recording studio on their Facebook page where links are availed to those who want to download or listen to them at a cost. The links lead to online music-streaming platforms that include iTunes, Deezer, Tidal, Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon.   To access them, one needs to download and signup with any of the audio streaming platforms.

Some platforms like Deezer charge up to USD 7.49 (Shillings 27,000) monthly for one to be able to listen to millions of songs they have stored. The monthly charge is exclusive of the cost of downloading a single song whose price also varies with the platform used but on Apple Music, the whole album goes for Shillings 18,000 and a single hymn costs Shillings 1,700.

Rubombora wondered whether the church was benefiting financially from the sale of the songs since they have financial constraints and are in need of securing better machines like recorders and high-definition cameras worth millions of money.  A number of members of St John’s Cathedral then tasked the choir leader, Benjamin Rwabwogo, to explain the issue given the fact that they have held fundraisers to meet the choir’s financial needs.  

Rwabwogo issued a statement saying that even though they contracted Painters Records in 2018 to produce the “Tulisemererwa Obutilihikayo” album and fully paid for it, they never authorized them to sell it let alone publish it anywhere.   He also said that during the same period, they, as Cathedral choir administration discussed how the music can be marketed within and outside the diocese but didn’t arrive at a conclusion.  

“Therefore, I wish to state that the release of this music for commercial markets was done in error by Painters Records. Painters Records has no rights to publish anything on our behalf without our permission and or agreement,” reads part of Rwabwogo’s statement.  

He also states that he has found out that the music has been on sale since July 13, 2020 and over 300 people have either listened or subscribed to the audio-streaming platforms, adding that the choir and church leadership will sit with the music, studio to resolve the matter.  



However, the Choir treasurer, James Obo Katenta, says Painters Records was authorized to market the hymns. He says in February this year, he went with Rwabwogo to Painters Records and verbally agreed with them to upload the music for sale. They also agreed that the choir can always get some money every three months.  Katenta, however, says that they never received any money from the sale of their music. 



Daniel Mwesigye, who is advertising the music on Painters Records Facebook page told our reporter in a phone interview that Rwabwogo and Katenta authorized them to sell the music on behalf of the choir despite the fact that they didn’t write an agreement. Mwesigye declined to reveal how much they have made from selling the music.  We have also established that even though Pilgrims Choir has its own administration, it is still under the church and all its dealings must be well documented and known to the cathedral administration.   

The Chairperson of Association of Audio Producers in Uganda, David Luutu, says that if the choir wants to benefit from its music maximally, its administration should be the one in charge of selling and advertising the hymns because the proceeds will keep coming as long as the music is still online. 

Luutu advises that to avoid financial loss that comes with having intermediaries in the selling and advertising process, the choir can create its own account with different audio-streaming platforms and put the choir bank account number so that the money can directly go to them at full percentage. 

Rev Ezra Musobozi, the Sub Dean of St John’s Cathedral says they are going to meet as church leaders to resolve the matter that has since sparked a controversy.