Zahara’s songs of hope

2011-10-01 00:00

SAYING that Zahara is sensational is an understatement: at the age of 23 and within less than a month of entering the SA music industry she has sold a record-breaking 200 000 units. Her acoustic and songwriting skills have seen Zahara’s talent being mentioned in the same breath as noted American artist Tracy Chapman — a comparison she finds amusing.

“The fact that people compare me to Tracy Chapman with a hint of Siphokazi and Simphiwe Dana shows that they cannot put me in a box, which is great. I am original and my mission is to write inspiring songs that speak of hope,” she says.

Who exactly is this rural Xhosa girl, Bulelwa Mkutukana, and why does she sing such inspiring songs of hope? I caught up with the musician while she was touring her home province, the Eastern Cape.

“I come from a musical family with a Christian background, my mom was the leader of the church choir and I followed in her footsteps,” she says.

“At the age of six I became the leader of our Sunday school choir and I was soon told that my voice is too big and had to join the worship team.

“Then at the age of 10 I became the leader of the worship team. That is when my love of music really started developing as I started playing the piano.

“Then in 2005 my dad bought a guitar for my sister and I fell in love with the instrument. I would pick it up and try to imitate songs by stringing the chords. I did not even know what the chords were called, but I could play them,” said Zahara.

The singer claims that she is not taken in by the glitz and glamour that come with success and enjoys a quiet day at home with her family and watching TV when she’s not writing songs.

“I have been writing songs for four years now, so my book is full of songs about life. The inspiration behind Loliwe came after observing that most of my friends grew up without their fathers. The fathers would leave on a train to Johannesburg to seek work and never come back. If they came back [it would be] with a new family or they would be sick. The song just tells them to be strong, pray and believe that they were not a mistake …

“I was a girl who always had a guitar on her back and everyone thought that I was wasting my time with this music thing, but I believed in it and it has led me here,” she said.

Catch Zahara’s performance at the Demo Garden in Alexandra Park on October 12.

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