Zahara on being named in BBC’s top 100 phenomenal women list: “Maybe my country will start to appreciate me more…”

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Zahara believes that being recognised by BBC means her music has the ability to change lives across the world
Zahara believes that being recognised by BBC means her music has the ability to change lives across the world
Oupa Bopape/GalloImages

She is Mzansi’s golden girl.

Now the rest of the world has begun to acknowledge the power and influence of her unique voice in music.

Multi-award-winning singer and songwriter Bulelwa “Zahara” Mkutukana (33) has over 10 awards, all stacked up in a rack at her Little Falls, Johannesburg home.

Adding to her wall of achievements, the BBC revealed that she is among the trailblazing women on this year’s 100 Women List of phenomenal women who have had a great influence from across the globe.  


In a year of unprecedented turbulence, this year’s theme is ‘How Women-Led Change in 2020’.

According to the BBC, it celebrates some of the scientists, public health experts, and healthcare workers who have helped us weather the storm of the global pandemic, as well as women from other industries who have all been leaders of change in their own way.

It includes politicians, lawyers and architects to actors, writers, athletes, singers and those who have sought to improve the lives of others in their community.

 “I am truly honoured and humbled,” Zahara tells Drum.

“I have not released an album since Mgodi in 2017, but for my work to still have an impact on people across the world means a great deal to me.”  


Zahara adds that she does not do music for recognition but to bring comfort to broken souls that need healing. 

“I am happy that the rest of the world is acknowledging my impact through my small musical contribution.

“Maybe my country will start to appreciate me more when they see how other countries appreciate the work,” she adds.

Zahara says at times she feels unappreciated.

“But that’s normal. But I know my music changes lives and it heals many broken souls. This is my calling. As long as I heal people, I am happy,” she adds.  

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Zahara came from humble beginnings in the village of Phumlani in East London.

She realised her musical gift at a young age, busking at clubs and singing in church with her sister and in the school choir.

“Music is all I know. I was born to sing and write about my experiences to help others,” she says. 

Her debut album Loliwe went double-platinum in less than three weeks. 

Some of the names on this year’s list include US actor Jane Fonda, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, Malaysian actor Michelle Yeoh, Belarusian Politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and Pakistani actor Mahira Khan.

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