Based: Johannesburg

The first album from South Africa’s new singing sensation, Bulelwa “Zahara” Mkutukana, has sold out in only 72 hours.
This certainly doesn’t come as a surprise to those familiar with the songstress’s impeccable musical abilities. Hailing from a rural town called Phumlani in the Eastern Cape, the 23-year old acoustic guitarist, singer-songwriter and poet is so talented that some industry professionals are already seeing her as the answer to the late great Miriam Makheba.

Only a few months after signing a recording deal with Jo’burg-based record company, TS Records, the singer is making significant contributions to the local music industry. In addition to numerous hits and selling out of units, she has numerous performances lined up across America and Amsterdam, as well as all corners of South Africa.
But where has she been all these years? “I grew up in rural East London and I have been performing around the Eastern Cape since I was in primary school,” she said in an exclusive interview with MIO. Zahara went on to say that she has never had any formal lessons in music, and does not even know the names of the chords she plays on her acoustic guitar. “It’s funny because I only started to know that I was playing chord ‘A’ or ‘B’ when I got to Jo’burg. All along I was just using my ears.”

A born-again Christian, Zahara wants to touch people with her music. “All my songs reflect on what I believe in as a Christian and there is a “God” in almost every one of my songs. I really want my music to touch lives and inspire people,” she said.
Her album, performed in isiXhosa and English, features a series of hits, from the highly popular ‘Loliwe’ to spiritually uplifting ballads such as ‘Destiny’ and ‘Ndiza’. A music video for ‘Loliwe’ has since been released to critical acclaim on YouTube. This month, she will kick off a nation-wide tour, promoting the album with performances in Cape Town, Joburg, Durban, East London and Mpumalanga. She also recently performed with Judith Sephuma and American star, Shante Moore, in Johannesburg.

But Zahara’s success story should be an inspiration to all up-and-coming musicians. She says her recent exploits mask the challenges she faced a few years back when she was still a rural girl trying to make it in the industry. “I can’t remember how many of my demos were rejected by major record labels. Even radio stations didn’t want to play my music, and as a young artist that really set me back, but I guess God has his own time,” she said.
Her prayers were answered in March last year when TS Records co-founder Thembinkosi “TK” Nciza saw her performing at a club in East London. He instantly like her, proposed a deal and late last year she made her debut live DVD appearance on Nhlanhla Nciza’s DVD, performing her hit song ‘Loliwe’. Who knows where she will be next year?