Difference Dey: Sampling and Interpolation

Big Spice
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A lot of music listeners who fancy themselves as music critics often make the mistake of shooting down an artiste for frequently sampling songs of other artistes on their own songs. They say this like it’s a bad, criminal thing – the truth is that, it’s not.

The “criminalisation” of sampling and interpolation is rampant in the Nigerian music industry, particularly among fans or stans of an artiste, seeking to “one-up” their opponents in a music argument –

“your fave only remixes other people’s songs. He’s unoriginal/a remix merchant/a fraud/a fake”.

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However, almost every artiste currently existing today has sampled some other existing musical piece. Pick a name, any name, and a cursory search of their discography is sure to unearth a few songs they sampled.

The above is because sampling and interpolation are as old as music itself. They are legitimate elements of music and are used frequently by artistes and composers all over the world. While the words “sampling” and “interpolation” are commonly used interchangeably, they are quite different.

What is Sampling?

Sampling is the practice of using a piece or snippet of an already existing song in a new song. Simply put, it means taking part of an artist song and using it in a new music composition. It is literally the “Ctrl + C” and “Ctrl + V” part of music. It is important to note that sampling without permission can infringe copyright, therefore, before releasing a record or a sample of another artiste’s work, permission must be sought from the artiste of (or whichever legal entity holds the masters) the song that is being sampled as well the composer or publisher of the melody. The process of obtaining permission to use a sample is known as clearance, and it is often a complicated and costly process.

A popular example of sampling is Odunsi The Engine ‘’Wetin dey’’ released in 2019, which sampled Ruff, Rugged and Raw’s “wetin dey’’ released in the year 2000.

What is Interpolation?

Interpolation is more prevalent in the industry, and it involves taking part of a record and recreating it in another record. Imagine it like seeing a chair you like and getting someone to make a similar chair for you to put in your living room, instead of buying that exact chair for your living room. Since clearing samples is quite expensive and takes a lot of process, artists have taken to interpolating records, which obtaining permission for is quite easier. For interpolation, you only need to get permission from the original composer of the melody you are interpolating.

A popular example of interpolation is Lady Donli ‘’Suffer Suffer’’ which interpolates a part of Mama G’s smash hit ‘’National Moi Moi’’.

Though rare, the owner of the record may refuse to grant permission for you to sample or interpolate their records. It is important to note that sampling or interpolating without express permission from the owner is intellectual property theft and could result in a major lawsuit against you or the artiste sampling a record.

Big Spice

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Writer|Curator|A&R|Bearded Genius

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