People thought she was stretching it when she announced that she will be dabbling in the Amapiano genre.
Afro-pop singer and songwriter Bulelwa “Zahara” Mutukana (33) received all sorts of backlash. But she says it was all for a good cause.
“It was to fulfill the dream of a young man who approached me, wanting to work with me,” she tells Drum.
“I can do any sound I like because I am versatile, but I wanted to do this for Thabo Jama, who is a former street kid but made something out of himself and now wants to inspire others,” she says.
“I have always been about healing people and my music is not just something I do for myself but to heal people and inspire people,” she says.
Thabo Jama (33), who is now a trauma counsellor who helps young people deal with an emotional response to a terrible event in their lives such as accidents, rape, or natural disaster, reached out to and informed her about his work as a community developer.
“I have a talk show called Black Triple 888 TV on YouTube that brings light to those who are in dark. I took a chance and invited Zahara as a guest and she showed up. We had an amazing interview ad after we spoke about life, in general, and we found we had a lot in common,” Thabo says.
“Two days later, I approached her about my music dream and my organization which helps the youth. I gave her a brief history of my childhood and upbringing and she found my story intriguing,” he adds.
“She invited me to her place, I played her my tracks and she loved them, and that is how a feature came about,” Thabo adds.
Zahara and Thabo made two songs, the first was Thandaza Wena and that is when he believed he won her over.
“We then decided to make an Amapiano song titled Shapa Phala. Ever since we have been very good friends and I respect this woman’s talent, her thinking, and her outlook on life,” he says.
“She gave me an opportunity to be able to express my talent when no one else believed in me.” Thabo approached some well-known faces, but they rejected him.
“Zahara did not expect a cent from me because she believed in the dream of helping others,” he says. “That showed me how much humility she has. She has not let fame get in the way of seeing a dream come to life."
Thabo’s life has not been easy. He was orphaned at age 16 years old after his domestic worker mother Jane Marreiki Jama died from HIV-related illnesses. He took over heading the household, taking care of his six-year-old brother Seun Rapule Jama (26).
“When my mom passed away on my brother’s birthday, life became a challenge; family members were not there to assist and I started going around trying to find a place for me and my brother to live,” he says.
They lived with different people; friends, extended family members but never had a home of their own.
“I spoke to my younger brothers’ teachers about finding him a place to stay because he was young and one of the white parents at his school took him in and I was left to find myself a place.”
While moving around, Thabo would meet people and some would help him.
“I ended up in the streets begging with no food and begging people for money,” he says.
For years, he lived on handouts and knocked on doors asking for work, food, and anything people could offer.
While hustling in the streets, he never gave up trying to find a job and eventually got lucky and was hired as a sales assistant.
“I was being given an opportunity to be a sales assistant and casual till operator where I was allocated a few hours a week,” Thabo says.
In 2021, he wrote and published the book Light to the Darkness, about his life from the age of 16 years old to help motivate people who feel hopeless, alone, and who have suffered trauma.
“I chose that title because I wish for my words to bring light to those who feel like they are symbolically in the dark. It is a short but reflective read which aims to inspire people to take the necessary steps to live a more content and fulfilled life.
“With the salary; I managed to pay rent for a small backyard room in Kagiso,” he says.
“Being clean, having a roof over my head, and waking up with a purpose opened more opportunities for me.”
Thabo has always had a passion for music and started singing R&B at a young age. He believes this is the perfect opportunity to explore his music.
“I am now ready to share y talent while helping the youth,” he adds.