UB40 have sensationally distanced themselves from a show that took place in Harare last week, saying singer Ali Campbell, who performed in the Zimbabwean capital, is no longer part of the group so cannot use its name.
The English songwriter, who was UB40’s lead singer before leaving the British pop and reggae band in 2007, performed at Old Hararians Sports Club on Africa Day.
The show, which drew a cosmopolitan multi-racial crowd, was “dubbed UB40 featuring Ali Campbell,” which has infuriated the 64-year-old composer, once the face of the globally popular outfit.
Matt Campbell, part of UB40’s management and son of Ali’s brother Robin Campbell, came out guns blazing in messages seen by The NewsHawks this week.
Three brothers – Ali, Robin and Duncan – are founding members of UB40.
Ali and Robin do not see eye-to-eye, and the sour relationship has been adapted by Ali’s nephew Matt.
“I’m writing to you because it has come to my attention that the article that your publication has published is full of inaccuracies and misleading information,” wrote Matt Campbell.
“The article in question refers to a UB40 concert that is due to take place in a matter of weeks, which in fact is a concert by Ali Campbell who’s an ex-member of UB40, a band he left 15 years ago. He legally cannot be referred to as simply UB40 as the band UB40 still exists.
“There is several references to the original band UB40 which states the dates when the band first appeared in Zimbabwe back in the early 80s . . . again, this has nothing to do with Ali Campbell’s band who doesn’t feature a single member of UB40. Just the title of the article ‘UB40 breath of fresh air’ is completely misleading.
“I ask that swift action be taken on the matter, or we will be forced to react legally. I hope this matter can be resolved amicably.”
Reached for comment on whether the show promoter deliberately used the name UB40 via billboards to dupe or mislead Zimbabwean fans, Walter Wanyanya said they were clear from the outset that it was Ali Campbell coming to Harare.
“Yes, from the outset, we have been saying UB40 featuring Ali Campbell because we were fully aware of the split and also this happened not a week or month before the show but 15 years ago. This is why we never said UB40 was coming,” Wanyanya explained.
The issue of UB40 is a bit complex but largely a question of huge egos.
Almost like a family institution, UB40 was formed with brothers Ali, Robin and Duncan as its founding members.
As UB40 the group was so solid to the point that everyone could sing, play instruments and compose songs.
Ali left the group to pursue a solo career but then it turned out that one of the reasons for his departure was the management and of course, remuneration.
He then left together with Astro ( now late), while the other members remained.
The problem came when Ali started using the name UB40 for his shows.
A court case was opened and it was then agreed that both groups had a right to use the name UB40.
So, Ali would use “UB40 featuring Ali Campbell” while the other group identified itself as simply UB40, with Duncan at the helm.
When it comes to sound and instrumentation, Ali falls short, but since he used to lead in vocals for the original UB40, his vocals are on point while the other UB40 is a bit compromised on vocals but good on sound.
The last time UB40 performed as a solid group in Zimbabwe it was in 1982, just two years after attaining Independence on 18 April 1980.
Back then, UB40 was still intact, with Ali and Robin Campbell, Earl Falconer, Mickey Virtue, Brian Travers, Jim Brown, Norman Hassan and Astro as its original members.
So, when news that UB40 was coming back to Zimbabwe spread all over the internet, it sort of ignited an old grudge between the two warring groups.
For those not in the know, Robin had a fallout with Ali and the two’s beef played out during the Africa Day Old Hararians Show.
And this is not the first time the splinter groups have fought over the use of the name UB40 by Ali Campbell.
In a video posted by Matt titled: “Ali Campbell Exposed on His Lies on leaving UB40”, Robin said they were disappointed about the split but wished Ali well, adding that “UB40 has always been a band not individuals.”
In the video, Robin said Ali had been unhappy for long and it was also said Ali without the name UB40 was finding it hard to go it alone.