Zolani Mahola on her latest single and upcoming solo album

Zolani Mahola is set to release her first solo album early in the new year. Image: supplied
Zolani Mahola is set to release her first solo album early in the new year. Image: supplied

Musician Zolani Mahola has one of the most recognisable voices in the country. The sounds of Doo Be Doo, I'd Like and Nomvula - songs released with pan-African supergroup Freshlyground - still pull at the heart strings of South Africans today... and that's just to name a few. 

This year, Zolani is back with new music of her own. She recently released her first single, Remember Who You Are, from her forthcoming solo album towards the end of November; fans can expect Zolani's album release early in 2021. 

After 17 successful years with Freshlyground, Zolani says that she’s looking forward to releasing her own music and that fans can expect to be held and inspired by the sounds of the album.

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We recently caught up with her to find out more. 

Please tell us a bit about your new single?

Remember Who You Are is a call for every one of us to see ourselves as an integral and perfect part of the whole of Creation. It further invites us to value the young and to nurture in them a sense of intrinsic worth and value that they may grow to be whole people.

What inspired the song? 

The song was inspired by my ambassadorship of the #GiveHerACrown campaign which aims to change the narrative of women in South Africa through celebrating the many women in our society who inspire us. The public is invited to share stories of women in their lives or women they look up to on their social media platforms and to celebrate them using the hashtag #GiveHerACrown.

Further to that, 16 artists have created 16 bespoke crowns which are being auctioned off during the 16 days of activism against GBV. The proceeds are going towards a transformational educational programme empowering teachers to artistically approach engaging with learners around gender equality.

How would you describe your musical journey in the last 5 years?

In the last five years my journey in music has reflected my journey in life. I’ve gone through huge internal transitions which have been at times completely unconfident; to emerging to a truly authentic sense of who I am and a greater belief in my creative output. Which is to say that it’s getting better all the time!

The music will make people feel held and will inspire them to dream

You haven't released a lot of music on your own - is this something we can expect to see more of going forward?

Yes definitely. Remember Who You Are is the first single off my upcoming solo debut album set for release in March 2021.

What can people expect to hear from your forthcoming album?

People can expect songs which are inspiring to listen to, themes which really hit home to the experience of being alive in the world today. Particularly being alive with a really curious mind; the wish to see a further improved society and sense of well-being in individuals and for our planet alike.

This release will be your first solo album - how are you feeling about about that? 

I’m feeling tremendously excited as I have been working on this music for over a year and really crafting it with my producer Mr Sakitumi. We made sure that the music will be beneficial to all who listen to it.

How would you describe the mood of the album? How will it make a listener feel?

The music will make people feel held and will inspire them to dream. I really wanted to include elements of a real depth of experience including sounds of nature, as well as Eastern influences found in a lot of meditation music. Mr Sakitumi’s specialty is that his musicality is such that he is able to take all the themes and initial inspirations of my songwriting and add movement to it. The sound is rich and it frees the body, mind and soul.

Zolani Mahola

Would you say your sound has evolved? If yes, in what ways? 

My sound is continuously evolving because I have always enjoyed a diverse range of genres. This was also reflected in my near two decade journey with Freshlyground as we all had that trait in common. I love music and the thing with songs is that, like children, they must be encouraged to form themselves into whatever they want to be.

How has this evolution translated into your album? 

The album is diverse but thematically it is held together by story, the emphasis on our connection to nature and a kind of deep joy.

What advice do you have for upcoming artists that look up to you and your sound?

My advice always to artists is to be so curious about their art and the world so that every discovery is a joy. Maintain a love of play and don’t lock yourself down to one genre, look or style. Instead make the music that makes you happy and feels like the truest expression of yourself.

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