Zahara now sings for the village in the sky

By Anita Dangazele

LOVED AND LOST: Zahara (1987 – 2023)

The village girl, full of life, with a strong voice and a guitar, has taken her final bow. 

The 36-year-old Bulelwa Mkutukana known as Zahara, passed away on Monday evening after a short illness. Her husband, Mpho Xaba was by her side.

The multi-award-winning singer had been admitted to hospital due to liver complications just a few days after celebrating her 36th birthday two weeks ago. 

Zahara is the fifth child in a family of six children. She grew up in the village of Phumlani outside East London.

Like so many musicians, Zahara began her singing career in the school choir at the age of six. Her talent immediately apparent to anybody who heard her, she began performing as a solo act at her local primary school. By the age of nine, she was asked to join the school’s senior choir because of her powerful voice. 

Throughout her musical journey as a young artist, Zahara continued to be a fundamental part of the church choir, where she was taught by a member to play the piano. 

After high school, she started listening to musicians Tracy Chapman and India Arie who inspired her to play the guitar. Coming from a modest family, she could not afford to go to university and would use her free time to teach herself how to play the guitar.

A year later, her parents were able to raise enough money to send her to college. She began performing her songs in public spaces around East London, where she was spotted by record label executives DJ Sbu and TK Nciza of TS Records.

Zahara broke into the music industry in 2011 with the debut album titled Loliwe. The first issue of the album sold out in just 72 hours and reached double platinum status in less than a month. 

She won the hearts of many Mzansi music lovers, with her well-written songs with crafted narratives that touched souls.

Scores of music lovers on social media shared how many of the songs saw them through the toughest times of their lives.

One social media user wrote: “I was rejected by NSFAS during my first year at university. I sang this whole week about God phendula and after a few days I was funded by a service set without applying. We loved your music #RipZahara”

The Afro-soul singer has won 17 awards. She has recorded six albums which have done well with her last album Nqabayomzi peaking at number 1 on iTunes. 

Popularly known as Spinach, Zahara did not have an easy life. Her departure from TS Records was followed by a whirlwind period of depression and alcohol abuse. She almost lost her home in 2022 but her legion of fans came to her rescue and helped pay off her debt. 

In the end, she found love. She married the love of her life, Mpho Xaba, shortly before she passed on. 

Rest in Power “Spinach”. Your music will live on. 

Pictured above: Zahara. 

Image source: File


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