Ever since stepping into the spotlight, Zahara has made a name for herself as one of the most recognizable voices of South Africa. Her career has had ups and downs: awards, sales records, controversies, and more. This biography takes a dive into the woman behind the name.
Zahara has one of the strongest and most well-regarded voices. She makes Afro-soul music in English and her native Xhosa, but her music reaches an audience beyond people who speak those languages.
- Full name: Bulelwa Mkutukana
- Nicknames: Zahara, Spinach
- Date of birth: 9th November 1988
- Occupation: Singer, songwriter
- Place of birth: East London
- Nationality: South African
- Years active: 2011 to present
- Zahara Instagram: @zaharasa
What is Zahara’s real name?
Her real name is Bulelwa Mkutukana.
Where was Zahara born?
She was born in the Phumlani Informal Settlement, located just outside of Eastern Cape’s East London region on 9th November 1988. This means Zahara age is 31 going on 32 later this year.
Her parents’ names are Nokhaya and Mlamli Mkutukana. Out of seven total children, she is the sixth. Unfortunately, the seventh child, Mbuyiseli, was murdered in East London in 2014. She began expressing her singing talent at the age of 6. At the age of 9, she was allowed to join the senior church choir since they considered her vocally gifted enough for the position.
As for her guitar skills, she said in an interview that a Scottish missionary named Lorette Mkafi who had been in their village since around 1986 took her sister to music school. The sister returned with a guitar which Zahara used to teach herself to play. She has been writing songs about her life since she was 12.
What is Zahara?
Her stage name has meanings in different languages and is sometimes spelt as Zahra or Zahrah. In Persian, it means sparklingly bright and beautiful. In Arabic, it means beautiful, bright, shining and brilliant. In Egyptian, it means flower, blossom, or beauty.
She started as a street performer in East London for change (busking) before being discovered and subsequently signed by TS Records’ Thembinkosi "TK" Nciza.
She released her debut album, Loliwe, in 2011. The album was a massive success on both commercial and critical fronts. The original issue sold out within a span of 72 hours. The Zahara Loliwe album attained Gold certification after 13 days, Platinum certification after 17 days, and Double Platinum certification after 19 days.
In 2012, she swept 8 awards at the South African Music Awards (SAMA) including Album of the Year and Best Female Artist. The title track, Loliwe, is the most popular of all Zahara songs. The album also contains Zahara Ndiza and Zahara Umthwalo. Her next project was a live DVD titled The Beginning Live which went Platinum in 1 day.
In 2013, she released Phendula which went double platinum in 2 weeks. Zahara Phendula was followed by the Nelson Mandela EP in 2013 after the former president requested to see her prior to his passing. She dedicated it to his honour.
2015 brought the release of Country Girl. It is the project that contains Zahara Inameva. It was the first project following her brother’s murder, and the tabloids were running headlines alleging that she was addicted to alcohol and broke, which she denied.
In 2016, she left TS Records and signed to Warner Music South Africa. The following year, she released Mgodi (Xhosa for “hole”) inspired by the change in labels as well as the intense public scrutiny she faced from the country’s tabloids. Zahara Mgodi was a runaway success. It is the project that contains Zahara Umfazi where she featured Kirk Whalum.
The major Zahara awards won so far include:
- 2011 Best Female Album at the Metro FM Music Awards for Loliwe
- 2011 Hit Single of the Year at the Metro FM Music Awards for Lengome with DJ Sbu
- 2011 Musician at the Feather Awards
- 2011 Song of the Year at the Metro FM Music Awards for Loliwe
- 2012 Album of the Year at the South African Music Awards for Loliwe
- 2012 Best Collaboration at the South African Music Awards for Incwad Encane with George Munetsi
- 2012 Best Female Artist from Southern Africa at the Kora Awards for Loliwe
- 2012 Best Female Video at the Channel O Music Video Awards for Loliwe
- 2012 Best Selling Album at the South African Music Awards for Loliwe
- 2012 Best Selling Full-Track Download of the Year at the South African Music Awards for Loliwe
- 2012 Best Smooth Urban Music Album at the South African Music Awards for Loliwe
- 2012 Female Artist of the Year at the South African Music Awards for Loliwe
- 2012 Newcomer of the Year at the South African Music Awards for Loliwe
- 2012 Remix of the Year at the South African Music Awards for Lengoma with DJ Sbu
- 2013 Best Collaboration at the South African Music Awards for Thetha Nami with Riot
- 2013 Best Selling Ring-Back-Tone at the South African Music Awards for Loliwe
- 2013 Southern African Artist of the Year at the Nigerian Entertainment Awards
- 2014 Best Female Southern Africa at the African Muzik Magazine Awards
- 2014 Best Selling Album at the South African Music Awards for Phendula
- 2014 Female Artist of the Year at the South African Music Awards for Phendula
How many kids does Zahara have?
She has no children now.
What is Zahara worth?
Zahara net worth is unknown at this time, but she has had some financial trouble in the past, especially her ZAR2 million home.
Debt and financial troubles
She reportedly received a mortgage worth ZAR1.9 million from Nedbank to finance a home in Johannesburg’s Roodepoort neighbourhood. The expected monthly payments of ZAR19,481.06 on the mortgage stopped flowing to the bank in July 2017 when she still owed ZAR1,731,684.62. At the time the bank moved to pursue the late payments, the arrears were at ZAR22,153.96.
Furthermore, she still owed payments on a loan she got for a 2014 Range Rover Evoque SUV worth ZAR400,000. This item would not fall under Nedbank repossessed cars since the loan was from Standard Bank.
There was also a different car in contention, an Audi A5 drop-top coupe worth over ZAR620,000 bought in 2012. Its monthly payments were supposed to be ZAR12,000.
That concludes our biography of Zahara. Do you think her next album, if released, will be as successful as her other projects? Do you think Zahara songs download and streams would be enough to settle her debts? Let us know in the comments section below.