Zahara: A Musical Journey of Resilience and Inspiration

Zahara: A Musical Journey of Resilience and Inspiration

Zahara, whose real name was Bulelwa Mkutukana, was a remarkable South African singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Her music, often described as “Afro-soul,” blended beautiful melodies with heartfelt lyrics, sung in both her native language, Xhosa, and English.


Birth name Bulelwa Mkutukana
Also known as Zahara
Born 9 November 1987
East London, South Africa
Died 11 December 2023 (aged 36)
Johannesburg, South Africa
Genres Afro-soul
  • Musician
  • singer
  • Vocals
  • acoustic guitar
Years active 2009–2023
  • TS
  • EMI
  • Music Lives Here
  • Warner

Early life

Born on November 9, 1987, in the Phumlani Informal Settlement of East London, Zahara’s love for music blossomed from a young age. Raised by her parents Nokhaya and Mlamli Mkutukana, she was the sixth of seven children. Even as a child, Zahara’s voice stood out, leading her to become the lead singer in her school choir at the tender age of six. Her strong voice earned her a spot in the senior choir by the age of nine.


Zahara’s music is a beautiful blend of Afro-soul, where she sings in both her native language, Xhosa, and English. Her songs have been likened to the styles of renowned artists like Tracy Chapman and India Arie.

Her journey in the music industry began humbly, as she started her career by singing on the streets of East London. Her exceptional talent caught the attention of TK Nciza, who signed her to TS Records. In 2011, Zahara released her debut album, “Loliwe,” which became an instant sensation. Within just 72 hours of its release, the album sold out, and within nineteen days, it reached double platinum status in South Africa. This remarkable achievement made her the second artist, after Brenda Fassie, to accomplish such a feat in record time.

Zahara’s success continued to soar with her second studio album, “Phendula,” released in 2013. The album garnered widespread acclaim and earned Zahara three South African Music Awards, including Best Selling Album and Best Female Artist of the Year. Her music even reached the ears of the late Nelson Mandela, who invited her to perform a private concert in his honor.

Despite facing personal challenges, such as the tragic loss of her younger brother in 2014, Zahara persevered and released her fourth studio album, “Mgodi,” in 2017. The album achieved gold status within just six hours of its release, showcasing Zahara’s enduring popularity and talent.

In 2021, after a four-year hiatus, Zahara returned with her fifth studio album, “Nqaba Yam,” which featured the lead singles “Nyamezela” and “Nqaba Yam.” She continued to explore new musical styles, teasing her first Amapiano single on social media.

In addition to her music career, Zahara made her mark on television as a guest judge on Idols South Africa in 2021. Her impact on the music industry and television screens alike cemented her status as one of South Africa’s most beloved and influential artists.

Her success continued with subsequent albums like “Phendula” (2013) and “Country Girl” (2015), both of which received critical acclaim and commercial success. Zahara’s music touched the hearts of many, earning her numerous awards, including seventeen South African Music Awards and three Metro FM Awards.


Beyond her music career, Zahara made waves in television, serving as a guest judge on “Idols South Africa” in 2021. However, tragedy struck in December 2023 when Zahara passed away at the age of 36 due to liver complications exacerbated by alcoholism.\

  • Loliwe (2011)
  • The Beginning Live (2012)
  • Phendula (2013)
  • Country Girl (2015)
  • Mgodi (2017)
  • Nqaba Yam (2021)

Zahara Top  Songs

1. Con Las Ganas
2. Merezco
3. berlin U5
4. Domingo Astromantico
6. Tuyo
7. El Frío
8. En La Habitación
9. Tú me llevas
10. Hoy la Bestia Cena en Casa – Radio Edit
11. Photofinish
12. Olor A Mandarinas
13. Chico Fabuloso
14. Chica Pop
15. La canción más fea del mundo
16. Funeral
17. Guerra y Paz
19. Caída Libre
20. flotante
21. canción de muerte y salvación
22. El deshielo
23. Leñador y la mujer América
24. Del invierno
25. Con las Ganas – Versión 2019
26. berlin U5 (REPUTA)
28. El universo
30. Crash
31. El lugar donde viene a morir el amor
32. La mujer mayúscula y el mar
33. negronis y martinis
34. médula
36. joker
37. Mariposas
38. Frágiles
40. Camino A L.A.
41. El caso de emergencia
42. Oh, Salvaje
43. La Gracia
44. Adiós
45. Camino
46. El Fango
47. Hágase tu voluntad
48. Inmaculada Decepción
49. Lucha De Gigantes
50. médula (REPUTA)

Despite her untimely passing, Zahara’s legacy lives on through her timeless music and the impact she made on the South African music industry. Her soulful voice and heartfelt lyrics continue to inspire and uplift listeners around the world, ensuring that she will always be remembered as one of South Africa’s musical icons.

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