Did Gloria Muliro Steal Chris Tomlin’s Song?

Controversy seems to follow Gloria Muliro wherever she turns, like an unshakable stalker.

Gloria-Muliro-px

The latest has to do with her song, Follow You. The singer has been accused of stealing/plagiarizing/sampling (whichever term seems most appropriate), not only the words, but also the tune to the chorus/verse from Chris Tomlin’s song, I Will Follow You.

Now, people will throw out accusations all the time at celebrities. What matters is whether those accusations are true, reasonable, justifiable or simply unfounded. What makes Gloria Muliro’s case even more noteworthy is the fact that she responded, by denying all charges of stealing/sampling/plagiarizing the song [both consciously or sub-consciously].

She further added that the contentious lyrics were inspired by the Bible and any similarity with Chris Tomlin’s song is purely coincidental.

It is this denial that makes her case worth examining, especially if you’ve listened to the two songs. Here are the links to the two songs: Gloria Muliro and Chris Tomlin. Give them a listen before you proceed. The first 30 seconds should do it.

Now, a few details concerning the controversy:

FIRST, the words in the contentious verse in both songs are [almost] exactly the same. The only difference is that Chris Tomlin uses the word “when” instead of “where” in the second to last part of the verse [underlined]:

Muliro: “where you go I’ll go, where you stay I’ll stay, where you move I’ll move I’ll move, I will follow you”

Tomlin: “where you go I’ll go, where you stay I’ll stay, when you move I’ll move, I will follow you”

SECONDLY, Gloria Muliro was recently interviewed by Buzz concerning the controversial song. This was her explanation for the apparent similarity between the songs:

Buzz: Okay, make us understand why you are accused of stealing the song ‘Follow You’ by American singer Chris Tomlin word by word.

Muliro: Let me make it very clear. My music is inspired by the Bible. The words in ‘Follow Me’ are in the book of Ruth 1:16. Check and you will see. If today I preach the sermon from John 3:16, that will not prevent somebody else to preach the same verse in Russia. We are all guided and inspired by the same Bible.

THIRDLY, if you’ve listened to the choruses in both songs, the tune is more or less the same. But I will leave that one up for the reader’s/listener’s determination. It could be that all songs sound the same to me. I’m a lyrics guy, after all  🙂

Anyway, my focus in bringing this controversy to light is not to determine whether Gloria Muliro did sample Chris Tomlin’s song (though I feel like that’s exactly what I’m doing). My major concern is in the way she responded to the accusations, considering her claim to be a Christian, and therefore expected to live (or at least speak) according to certain standards.

In the excerpt above, she told Buzz that the words in the song are in Ruth 1:16. This could be true. Ruth 1:16 says, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” However, the verse does not have the “where you move, I’ll move” part. I could be splitting hairs here, but it seems Gloria Muliro’s song has more in common with Chris Tomlin’s song than with the Bible (her alleged sole inspiration).

I have tried to give her the benefit of doubt. I have even considered what a friend suggested on Facebook, that this could be a case of Cryptomnesia (This is when “a forgotten memory returns without it being recognised as such by the subject, who believes it is something new and original. It is a memory bias whereby a person may falsely recall generating a thought, an idea, a song, or a joke…” ) I was willing to grant that, but upon closer examination of the song, I realized that the similarities are too detailed to be merely incidental.

Some similarities in the internal message in both songs is striking. Yes, a person may sub-consciously sample a chorus and plagiarize a few lyrics, but is it possible for one to subconsciously translate those lyrics into Swahili? That seems a little bit hard to pull off.

In the first verse, Chris Tomlin says, “All your ways are good, All your ways are sure….” and in her first verse, Gloria Muliro says, “….Njia zako hakika (all your ways are good), Mambo yako sambamba (all your ways are sure)…” Maybe I am just cherry-picking lines to prove a point. So, let’s go all the way to the last verse and see what we can find there. In Chris Tomlin’s song, there are phrases such as, “…In you there’s joy, unending joy…” and in Gloria Muliro’s song, “…kuna upendo tele kwako (in you there’s unending joy), furaha kwako (in you there’s joy).” Is this still a coincidence inspired by the story of Ruth and Naomi? Maybe it is. Who knows? God works in mysterious ways.

But an even more important question is this, do you think those are sufficient reasons to make people think that Gloria stole/sampled Chris Tomlin’s song? I think they are. Gloria Muliro doesn’t seem to think so. When asked whether the accusations against her were unfounded, this was her disturbing response:

Buzz: So why would people think that you stole the song, in your opinion?

Muliro: People are just jealous of my success.

Dear Christian artistes, we are called to be above reproach. This does not necessarily mean that we will never fail or try to cover up our failures. It means that we should always be ready (and willing) to bring those failures to the cross. It doesn’t help anyone to keep holding onto our “righteousness” when it is clear before God and before men that there is reason and cause for repentance.

Christianity is not about never falling, it is about always rising up after the fall. Our faith is best displayed in our admission of our falleness (and in our proclamation of Christ’s sufficiency to forgive and raise us up again). No, the world will not be won by our outward cloaks of perfection and self-righteousness, it will be won by the display of our utter dependency, for therein lies the reality of the Gospel in our lives. We are all desperate beggars before God’s throne of grace.

It is my prayer that Gloria Muliro will come to the realization that Christian artistes are not saints misunderstood, but sinners forgiven.

Soli Deo Gloria

My Father

Have you ever thought about the meaning of the word Father?

You’ve probably never needed to, because it seems so obvious… so self-evident. I used to think so too, until recently.

I was going through a “dark-night-of-the-soul” period where I found it difficult to pray. For some reason, it just stopped making sense speaking to a God that was invisible and immaterial. Whenever I closed my eye to pray, I was overwhelmed by the whole absurdity of the act. It just felt like talking into the air, into nothingness.

That’s when someone suggested a rather cliche solution: that I read the Bible and look at the way the people in there addressed God. Most specifically, how Jesus prayed and taught his disciples to address God.

Jesus called God His Father.

“Our father who is in heaven,” he taught us to pray. It sounded straightforward enough, except my main challenge was in conceptualizing God as a Father.

Many Christian counselors suggest that people who have difficulties thinking of God as a Father usually had a bad experience with their earthly fathers. They don’t know what is so good about having a father, and so they struggle to embrace a God who approaches them as one.

But the situation seemed different for me. This wasn’t about my earthly father. Growing up, my relationship with dad was more or less “normal.” My problem was a more philosophical one: How can I address God as “father” with a straight face when I know that God is Spirit and not human. Isn’t the word “Father” just an anthropomorphism of a being that is beyond our comprehension?

Well, I was in for a great (and pleasant) surprise.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word father as: “a male parent” or “a man who is thought of as being like a father.” Another alternative definition is: “one related to another in a way suggesting that of father to child.”

Beyond these surface definitions, Mr Charles and George Merriam and Mr Noah Webster don’t tell us much about what is actually involved in “being a father”, or what qualifies a man to be one.

Stay with me now. When you consider every aspect of what it means to be a father, you will quickly realize tat no single human being perfectly fits the description.

Does biology make one a father?

It is obvious that many who have contributed the Y chromosome to the existence of a child cannot quite be called the fathers of the child. This is especially if they have not contributed in any way to the raising of the child. These men fail to fit the “father” description because something, a relationship, is missing.

Does nurture make one a father?

In fact, there are many children being raised by men who are not related to them biologically, men who are married to their mothers, men that they call fathers. Even so, many who have been raised by men who were not their biological parents often say of these men, “he is like a father to me” as if he is not quite a father. Something is missing in the picture.

Does the law make one a father?

Or is it the law? Does legal adoption qualify one to be defined as a true father? And if so, why do we still feel the need to qualify the father title with an adjective such as “my adoptive father”. Somehow, we instinctively know that they are not quite the true definition of father.

Is it all three?

But even in the now increasingly rare case where one is raised up by the father who shares the same genes, these fathers still fall short. You may be biologically related to your father, he may be the one that raised you and his name may even be in your legal birth certificate, but he still falls short.

Earthly fathers don’t always love their children and when they do it is never a perfect love. Earthly fathers don’t always provide and when they do it may not be the best kind of provision. Even when they try their best, their humanity is a guarantee that they will never be the 100% father.

The fact that they are fallen human beings means that they will inevitably not measure up at being fathers.

The True Father

So who is the true father? Who fits the bill? Who meets all the criteria? Who is the one we can look at for any idea of what it means to be a perfect father? In other words, where do we get the idea that there is something like a 100 per cent father and yet no single human being has ever fit the mold? How do we know that the kind of fathers we have here on earth are less than ideal?

I found the answer when I went back to the Bible with my struggle. In the Words of scripture, I encountered a Father who fit the description, who met the criteria, and never disappointed. In the God of the Bible, I found not just the true definition of a perfect Father, I found the embodiment of that Father.

In my confusion, I thought it more realistic to address a human father than to address an invisible spiritual father. Yet the reality is that the human father was a false reality. No human being deserves to be called father. Not the man who contributed to your genes, and not even the man who raised you up. Only God fits the bill.

In fact, our earthly fathers are poor imitations of the true Father. Even the best of human fathers are mere glimpses of the perfection that is in our glorious heavenly Father. In other words, there is no truer and realer illustration of a human being talking to his father than that of a man praying to his God.

I am no longer struggling to pray. In fact, it is becoming more absurd to take my troubles to human beings instead of to God. I have learnt that prayer is the realest and truest form of communication I could ever take part in. Because in prayer, I am speaking to the only one who not only hears my words, but perfectly understands my words and perfectly responds to those words.

Through prayer, I can, for the first time in my life, talk to my real Father.

Lights, Camera, Action!

In a way, we are all Public Relations officers.

We spend most of our time managing and manipulating appearances. We care too much what people think about us. And of course it is not wrong to care what people think of us. Jesus calls us to be a light to the world. The salt of the earth. It matters what people think of us and see in us.

But sadly, for many of us, what people think of us is not what God thinks of us. The image we present to people is not an image formed and informed by our Faith. We care too much about looking good than actually being good. We worry too much about looking righteous instead of confessing the righteousness of Christ.

We are actors on a stage. Characters on a page. But God is seldom the author of the story. We are acting off a different script, our own script. Our friends barely know the real us, because we have bought them tickets and they are sitting in the theater, watching the edited movie of us. Our colleagues at work only get to see the rehearsed version of us.

But the backstage is empty. We don’t allow people there. The changing room is out of bounds. We don’t want them to see the skeletons in our closets and realize we are human like them. We are sinners like them. We are foolish. Like them.

We don’t want them to see that we too get lost, that we get confused about life and we often don’t have clue about what we are doing or what we want in life. We don’t want our friends to see that we follow our feelings more than our minds. We don’t want them to know that we often make decisions putting our own selfish interests first. No. We feign selflessness. We fake compassion. We manufacture charity.

But this does not have to be. It is hard to change. But God does not call us to change. He calls us to Himself. he calls us to believe and trust, AND THEN He will change us. He bids us to come, and then He makes us want to come and then He gives us the strength to come. It is all of grace because it is all of God.

May God redeem our story. May He re-write the script and yank us off that director’s chair. May we release our grip on the manuscript of our lives and let God’s Word be the script we rehearse and act out. May God’s story become our story and may Jesus be the star of the show.

And when the CREDITS go up at the end of our lives, may the name of Christ be the only name on that list.

Because He alone deserves the glory.

 

For the fame of His name.

Cornell

A Public Apology to My Followers

I did something wrong a few minutes ago, no, two things. Well, I actually don’t think what I did was wrong, but most of my readers do, and that is why I felt I should do (say) something about it.

First things first, what did I do? 1. I clicked RT on a tweet by Joel Osteen and I clicked “share” on a status update linking to a blog-post by Rob Bell. The truth is, I really liked the tweet and the post. I thought they were inspiring, creative, and most importantly, I thought they spoke the truth. I thought what I was doing was perfectly innocent and even commendable — I was passing on the truth to the masses.

rob bell

Well, not everyone agrees. Though nobody said anything, I could virtually see the shock in the hundreds of eyes that saw the Joel Osteen Retweet on my Twitter Feed. I could hear the astonished gasps from the dozens of “reformed” friends who were unlucky enough to see the shared Rob Bell post on my Facebook Timeline.

The problem was not the tweet, or the post, the problem was the people who authored them. Continue reading

Why I No Longer Believe in Angels

I was 17, she was 16, and her smile drove me crazy. Every moment spent with her was magical, even the mundane was memorable. She meant the world to me. We delighted in the most insignificant things; a replied letter; a wink across the classroom; even an insult was considered a tease – romantic.

angelShe was an angel, and I would find myself floating on cloud nine just thinking about her. I knew she was the girl of my dreams because she was the girl I always dreamt about.

She was the girl he dreamed about too. He was 21 and in college. He had money and I didn’t even own a wallet. But it wasn’t his money, but his charm, that made her stop replying my letters. It was his stubble-stained chin that made her start shunning my once cherished embrace.

I cried unashamedly when she told me we could no longer be. That she no longer felt the same. That the dream was over and it was time to wake up.

“I just can’t go on being with you. I am sorry,” she told me with the casualness of someone who has just stepped on a friend’s toe. It wasn’t me, it was her.

She left me a casualty. I could no longer see her, and that blow sent me to love’s ICU. She had trampled on my heart left it cynical. What happened to the promises we made? The names we carved on the bark of that tree by the river? What happened to forever?

That fateful night, I fell asleep on a tear-soaked pillow, to the background tune of Toni Braxton’s “How Could an Angel Break My Heart?”

Ten years down the calendar, I have had my share of broken hearts; some of them my own; most of them casualties of my callous and careless heart. I have learnt that there is no such thing as an angel. That, as C.S. Lewis once put it, “to love at all is to be vulnerable.” I have learned that a broken heart is not a risk to take but a guarantee.

I have learnt that forever is a choice made, not after finding the perfect lover, but through loving the imperfect one. Love is a choice with consequences, painful ones. I have learnt that trust is a gamble, and that while we always expect the best of others, we should not be too blind that we don’t prepare for the worst. This is not cynicism, it is realism. A realism tempered by a truth that transcends all age and culture: that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All have sinned and fallen short of our fanciful expectations.

How could an angel break my heart? Because I believed there was such a thing as an angel. How do I know this? Because I have been an angel, countless times, all along knowing that the person looking back at me in the mirror is no angel. I don’t believe in angels, maybe fallen angels. Angels like me; born blind, faltering and damaged. Angels like me; trust-breaking, broken-winged and diseased.

But broken wings lead to broken hearts.

I don’t believe in angels. But I believe in the one who makes angels. I believe in the one who takes my broken wings and patches me up again to fly another day. I believe in the one who has promised me that one day I will fly without faltering. One day I will be like Him, because I shall see Him as he is — my perfect reflection.

The Superpowerful Prayer of Jabez

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. [1 Chronicles 4:10]

If God did it for Jabez, God will do it for you.

All you have to do is make sure you say the prayer exactly the way Jabez said it; Word for Word. Miss or mispronounce a word and God will not answer your prayer. Never mind that Jabez said his prayer in Hebrew. Just make sure you remain faithful to your KJV, NIV, ESV… translation. Because, you know, the people who translated the Bible were anointed men, men who had the gift of tongues and “wrote in tongues” like English.

Better yet, grab a copy of Bruce Wilkinson’s 2000 book: The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life. Read and meditate and apply the book and your life will never be the same.

Don’t believe me? Ask the author himself. This is what he says in the preface:

“I want to teach you how to pray a daring prayer that God always answers. It is brief—only one sentence with four parts—and tucked away in the Bible, but I believe it contains they key to a life of extraordinary favor with God. This petition has radically changed what I expect from God and what I experience every day by His power. In fact, thousands of believers who are applying its truths are seeing miracles happen on a regular basis.” (bold emphases mine)

JI03Still don’t buy it? Then you should check out how many people have bought and continue buying the book. I could be lying, but numbers don’t. The Prayer of Jabez has topped the New York Times Bestsellers’ list and sold more than nine million copies. Surely, 9 million people cannot all be wrong! New York Times knows better than to allow a lying book at the top of their list. Come on, it is New York Times!

And if you still don’t believe me, just visit the book website and marvel at the amazing testimonies of people whose lives have been transformed after they prayed this prayer every day for two weeks, exactly as the book prescribed.

But seriously, guys, why is the prayer of Jabez so popular? Because it is a prayer about blessings, enrichment, protection and gladness. It is a prayer for prosperity. And who doesn’t want to prosper? Even God wants us to prosper and promises us as much — of course, we must first meet certain conditions, such as invoking the prayer of Jabez correctly, the way Jabez did it. There is nothing wrong with prosperity or asking God for it. There is nothing sinful with wanting and being drawn to wealth and health.

And here is biblical proof: God answered the prayer of Jabez.

And He will answer your prayer of Jabez. The guarantee is in the Bible. Be careful not to pray for other things such as to be holy, or to be more forgiving, or to be more generous and loving. Don’t pray for the will to persevere hard times. Nobody wants to suffer. Jabez didn’t. And Jabez did not pray about such things. If anything, those are wimpy prayers. Stick to the script(ure): stick to the answered prayers.

Do this, and you will break through all the barriers standing between you and your blessings. Pray the prayer of Jabez, not the prayer of (insert_your_name_here). Your name is not in the Bible, and you are not even sure God will answer your customized prayers. Stick to the prayers with guaranteed answers, like the prayer of great Men of God such as Jabez.

How Many Stars Would You Give this Book?

How do you decide what books to read and which ones to avoid? With so many stories written and so little time to read, how do you know which book is worth your time? For some of us, we have a few trusted “followees” on Twitter whose book recommendations act as our guides. At other times, some books receive great acclaim and mention in the public sphere and this draws our interest. We read them to be in on the fuss or the buzz. And sometimes, we simply skim through reviews, checking out what the reviewers say about the book, who the reviewers are and how many stars the book gets on Goodreads.

ANewKindofChristianIt is this last form of ranking books – the “starring” – that had me stumped after I finished reading Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian. The book is well written, in fact, it is superbly written. McLaren has a way with words and a way with the hearts of the people that read them. He knows how to tug at our human insecurities and manipulate our emotions. He is a master at appealing to our human need for belonging, justice, fairness, equality and freedom. He may not categorize himself as a liberal (since he avoids all categories), but his messages always have that air of being “liberating”.

After I finished the book and marked it “read” on Goodreads, I was prompted, as usual, to review it and rate it. But I suddenly found myself in a dilemma. It is not a new dilemma, but this book made it even more prominent this time around.

So, how many stars would I give this book?

If I was only looking at the way the story is written, the way the narrative unfolds and the way ideas are weaved, I would give the story 5 stars, hands down. Brian McLaren is an excellent communicator. His sincerity and intellectual honestly flows easily throughout the book. You don’t struggle to believe him. He is convincing because he is not trying to be convincing. He is sincere.

What about his message? His claims? His theology? Continue reading