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Tuesday, 12 December 2023 08:06

South Africa mourns the death of musician Zahara.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Multi-award winning musician Zahara (real name Bulelwa Mkutukana) has passed away at the age of 36.

Zahara was admitted to hospital following complaints about physical pain. 

Her family issued a statement last month thanking the public for their outpouring of love and support while they asked for privacy.

Zizi Kodwa, the minister of sport, arts and culture, posted on X: "I am very saddened by the passing of @ZaharaSA. My deepest condolences to the Mkutukana family and the South African music industry.

"Government has been with the family for some time now. Zahara and her guitar made an incredible and lasting impact in South African music," said Kodwa.

Zahara's debut album Loliwe was released in 2011. The first issue sold out within 72 hours.

Her debut album made a clean sweep at the South African Music Awards (SAMA) in 2012 where she won Best Smooth Urban Music Album; Best Collaboration; Best Selling Album; Newcomer of the Year; Female Artist of the Year; Album of the Year; Best Selling Full-Track Download of the Year and Best remix of the year.

Two years later, her second album Phendula also rocked the charts, producing three top singles – PhendulaImpilo and Stay.

And she did it again in 2015, with Country Girl, which went triple platinum, and then Nqaba Yam – her fifth album which hit number one on iTunes.

Zahara was remembered on social media for her music and the impact it had on people's lives.

Singer-songwriter, Lady Zamar, tweeted: "She did a lot for the music industry in South Africa – paving the way for so many others with her iconic presence and guitar in hand. She will be missed."

SAFTU spokesperson Trevor Shaku says Zahara was a musical genius who produced music that echoed the reality, struggles and hopes of the working-class people.

"Her song, Loliwe, is historical. It highlights the mode of passenger transport that transported the working class from labour reserves to the working centres in mines and factories.

"Excerpts of her song, Imali, are true to our situation in many senses, including that many political killings are motivated by a contest for money in tendering corruption, killings during robberies and even at a macro level, imperialist induced wars and killings are motivated by a contest for money and power.

"In Phendula, she conveys the hopes of the working people who wish their situations of destitution to change. Underlying all the problems she highlights is the capitalist mode of production and capitalist social relations that continue to reproduce multiple crises of unemployment, poverty, inequality, crime and wars."

Parliament's portfolio committee on sports, arts and culture chairperson Beauty Dlulane says the 36-year-old produced music that was fit for all, regardless of race and age.

"This is sad news for the music industry and is a massive blow for her Afro-pop genre. Zahara's music did not matter if you were old or young, black or white, or whether you spoke her native isiXhosa or not. It was good music.

"Zahara could easily have become the Brenda Fassie of her time, but she just chose to be Bulelwa from Phumlani. This is one loss that, as a country, we will not easily recover from. We have lost as a country."

The self-taught guitarist scooped 17 SAMusic awards, three Metro FM awards and a Nigeria Entertainment award.