Zahara (South African musician)

Bulelwa Mkutukana (born 9 November 1987), best known by her stage name Zahara, is a South African singer and songwriter. She started singing in her school's choir when she was six years old, and at the age of nine she was told to join the senior choir because of her strong voice.

Zahara Nairobi.JPG
Zahara performing in Nairobi, Kenya
Bulelwa Mkutukana

(1987-11-09) 9 November 1987 (age 33)[1]
East London, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Parent(s)Nokhaya Mkutukana (mother)
Mlamli Mkutukana (father)
Musical career
InstrumentsVocals, acoustic guitar
Years active2011–present
  • TS Records
  • EMI South Africa
  • Music Lives Here Records
  • Warner Music Group
Associated acts

In 2011 Zahara released her debut album Loliwe, which went platinum in 13 days and double platinum after 17 days, selling over 100,000 copies in South Africa. The music video for her debut single, Loliwe, has surpassed the 5 million views mark on YouTube. On 30 April 2012, at the annual South African Music Awards, Zahara won eight awards, including "Best Female Artist" and "Album of the Year" Zahara has also managed to get all her albums nominated for Album of the year and Female artist of the year.Also received Best Produced Album award for her "Country Girl" album.[2]

Early lifeEdit

Zahara was born as 'Bulelwa Mkutukana' in the Phumlani Informal Settlement outside of East London in Eastern Cape, South Africa, where she lived with her parents Nokhaya and Mlamli Mkutukana. She is the sixth of seven children. She displayed her love for singing at age 6. She first came to wider attention when she was appointed the lead singer of a local Sunday school choir in Phumlani. Her stage name means "blooming flower"; as a child she was known by the nickname "Spinach".

Music careerEdit

Her music is classified loosely as "Afrosoul" and she sings in her native language, Xhosa, as well as in English.[3] Her music has been described as a mixture of styles that have been popularized by Tracy Chapman and India.Arie.[4]

Zahara started her career busking on the streets of East London. She was spotted by TK Nciza of TS Records, who signed her to his label.[5]

Zahara's debut album Loliwe was released in 2011. The first issue sold out within 72 hours,[3] and 19 days later, the album reached double platinum status in South Africa by surpassing the 100,000 sales mark.[6] This made her the second musician after Brenda Fassie, who was also a Xhosa native, to reach this figure in such record time. Zahara released her first live DVD which featured X-Factor USA contestant LeRoy Bell. The DVD reached platinum (according to the standards set by the Recording Industry of South Africa) in one day.

On 1 May 2012, at the annual South African Music Awards, Zahara won eight awards, including "Best Female Artist" and "Album of the Year".

In 2013, Zahara released her second studio album, Phendula. Phendula won three South African Music Awards for Best Selling Album, Best R&B, Soul and Reggae Album and Best Female Artist of the Year. The same year, Nelson Mandela invited her to his home to perform a private bedside concert. She then composed "Nelson Mandela" in his honor and released it as an EP.[7]

In July 2014, Zahara's younger brother was murdered in East London. According to Zahara, she went through a period of depression after his death, but recovered enough for the 2015 release of Country Girl.[8]

In 2017, Zahara signed with Warner Music South Africa and released Mgodi, her fourth studio album. The album went gold after only six hours.[9]

Her fifth album titled Nqaba Yam is set to be released on July 9, 2021.[10]


Awards and nominationsEdit

List of awards and nominations received by Zahara
Year Event Prize Nominated work Result Ref
2014 African Muzik Magazine Awards Best Female Southern Africa Won [11]
20th Annual South African Music Awards Best Selling Album Phendula Won [12]
Female Artist of the Year Won
Best RnB, Soul and Reggae Nominated [13]
Metro FM Music Awards Best African Pop Album Nominated [14]
Best Female Artist Nominated
Song of the Year "Phendula" Nominated
2013 Nigeria Entertainment Awards Southern African Artist of the Year Won [15]
19th Annual South African Music Awards Best Collaboration "Thetha Nami"
(Riot featuring Zahara)
Won [16]
"Hold On (Bambelela)"
(Zahara featuring LeRoy Bell and the Soweto Gospel Choir)
Nominated [17]
Best Live DVD The Beginning Live Nominated
MTN SAMA Record of the Year "Umthwalo" Nominated
Best Selling Ring-Back-Tone "Loliwe" Won [16]
2012 Kora Awards Best Female Artist from Southern Africa Won [18]
Channel O Music Video Awards Best Female Video Won [19]
18th Annual South African Music Awards Best Smooth Urban Music Album Loliwe Won [20]
Best Collaboration "Incwad' Encane"
(Zahara featuring Georgie Munetsi)
Best Selling Album Loliwe Won
Newcomer of the Year "Loliwe" Won
Female Artist of the Year Won
Album of the Year Loliwe Won
Best Selling Full-Track Download of the Year "Loliwe" Won [21]
Remix of the Year "Lengoma"
(DJ Sbu featuring Zahara)
The Headies African Artist of the Year "Loliwe" Nominated [22]
2011 Metro FM Music Awards [A] Best Produced Album Loliwe Nominated [23][24]
Best Female Album Won
Best Newcomer Nominated
Song of the Year "Loliwe" Won
Hit Single of the Year "Lengoma"
(DJ Sbu featuring Zahara)
Feather Awards Musician
(Zakes Bantwini and Zahara)
Won [25]
2019 Eastern Cape Music Awards Best EC National Recognised Artist Herself Nominated [26]
  • A ^ The Metro FM Music Awards did not hold in 2012 due to re-positioning. The award ceremony was held in 2013.[27]


  1. ^ "Zahara Mkutukane". Smartcape. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  2. ^ Koyana, Xolani (1 May 2012). "Newcomer Zahara blows away opposition at SAMA awards". Cape Times. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Zahara Sells Out In 72 Hours". MIO. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  4. ^ "Zahara is going places real fast". Sowetan. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  5. ^ Mayne, Jane (7 December 2017). "Zahara Mgodi interview: Fun things about Zahara". Weekend Special.
  6. ^ "Zahara's CD flies off shelves". Sowetan. Archived from the original on 15 March 2019. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  7. ^ "Zahara releases touching tribute to Mandela". News24. 7 April 2013.
  8. ^ Thakurdin, Karishma (25 May 2015). "Zahara again denies 'alcoholism' and 'broke' reports". News24.
  9. ^ Herimbi, Helen (1 November 2017). "Zahara – 'Mgodi' is all about my journey". Independent Online.
  10. ^ "Zahara puts troll in its place after questioning her popularity". Independent Online. Retrieved 19 June 2021.
  11. ^ "Sarkodie, Fuse ODG, DJ Black, others win at AFRIMMA Awards". Ghana Web. 27 July 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  12. ^ "Mafikizolo Dominates SAMA 20 With Eight Awards". Rolling Stone, South Africa. Retrieved 30 April 2014.
  13. ^ "A full list of all the 2014 SAMA nominees". Channel24. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  14. ^ Boshomane, Lebogang (17 January 2014). "13th Metro FM Music Awards nominees announced". Sowetan Live. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  15. ^ "Olamide emerges biggest winner at NEA 2013 [Full Winners List]". The Net Nigeria. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  16. ^ a b "WINNERS". SAMA. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  18. ^ "Full List: All The Winners From the KORA Awards". Ghafla. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  19. ^ "Full list of winners at the 2012 Channel O Music Video Awards". ModernGhana. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  21. ^ "Full List Of Winners: 2012 MTN SA Music Awards". justcurious. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  22. ^ "THE HEADIES (HIP HOP WORLD AWARDS 2012) WINNERS LIST". Hip Hop World Magazine. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  23. ^ "2011 Metro FM Music Awards – all the winners". TVSA. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  24. ^ "AKA Dominates Metro FM Awards". MIO. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  25. ^ "Feather Awards 2011". YWorld. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  26. ^ Seroto, Butchie (20 September 2019). "SA Eastern Cape Music Awards: All the nominees". Music In Africa.
  27. ^ "SABC Announces Plans For 12th MMA". Metrofm. Retrieved 29 September 2013.