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SA music industry mourns music lawyer Graeme

Johannesburg – Renowned music and copyright lawyer Graeme Gilfillan has reportedly died.

According to media reports, Gilfillan was found dead by his driver, who had come to pick him up from his Yeoville home on Sunday.

Gilfillan is the founder of Siyandisa Music and a copyright lawyer who gained notoriety as a lawyer after taking the late Miriam Makeba’s two grandchildren, Lumumba and Zenzile Lee, to court in an attempt to block their access to her intellectual property and the rights to her legacy.

Speaking to The Star, music manager and music publisher Sakhele Mzalazala said he was shocked to learn of the passing of his mentor.

‘’I just learnt of his passing now and am shocked by his death because this is the man who mentored me when I was starting my career in the music industry. Everything I know today was mostly contributed by him when I came into the industry. I also attended his general music business course alongside Thabo Mokwele and Dj Cleo, where I learnt a lot about legalities in the industry.’’

‘’I also worked with him back when I was at SARRAL and dealt with so many cases, including the back then copyright infringement case of the Mafikizolo Ndihamba Nawe song, which was taken from Mama Sophie Mgcina’s melody of the song. I remember Squire also suggesting me when Ghetto Ruff wanted a publishing administrator, and I took the job,” Mzalazala said.

Mzalazala said that even though he had a fallout with his mentor, he will forever remember him as a fierce fighter.

‘’He has worked with many artists, including Revolution, Dj Cleo, Mama Miriam Makeba, Dj Fresh, and many other big names. Our fallout was when we did the Sister Bettina case, and I left Jozi and went back home. Squire was a fighter who never wanted to lose in all his cases. The SA music industry knows him as a fighter and a very good teacher. That is one thing I’ll never forget about him. I am a proud student of his teachings,” Mzalazala said.

His death was confirmed by his niece, Jessica Gilfillan, who said his contribution to the music industry was invaluable.

‘’Miriam Makeba was one of the artists my uncle helped get royalties for after unfair treatment due to her race. Rest in peace, Graeme.’’

And colleague and friend Vanessa Perumal, also shared the news: ‘’I know lots of my peers and music industry networks have crossed paths. #RIPGraeme.”

According to media reports, it has been suspected that Gilfillan could have died due to a heart attack following the shocking discovery by his driver.

‘’The driver had been calling him, but he could not reach him. He then showed up at his home on Sunday, only to find him dead. His family and close friends have been informed, and an official statement will be made later today. But this is sad; he was all alone, and no one deserves that kind of departure,’’ one of the witnesses said.

In 2010, Gilfillan and music producer Chicco Twala engaged in a public spat following accusations that Gilfillan was trying to swindle money out of Brenda Fassie’s estate.

Twala threatened Gilfillan with physical violence after challenging an order that he pays R3 million into Fassie’s estate after the executor had filed a lawsuit against him, and Gilfillan was the business investigator in the case.

He allegedly worked with Brenda since 1997, when she approached him to help investigate her history in the music industry.

Twala also accused Gilfillan of soliciting R50 000 a month from Brenda’s estate while her son Bongani was not getting anything and was homeless.


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