Zahara (born 9 November 1988) is a South African singer-songwriter, poet, and brand ambassador for the Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital. 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.
In 2011 Zahara released her debut album Loliwe, which proved to be a big success; it went platinum in 13 days and went double platinum after just 17 days, selling over 100,000 copies in South Africa. The music video for her debut single, "Loliwe", has eclipsed the 1.3 million views mark on YouTube. On 1 May 2012, at the annual South African Music Awards, Zahara won eight awards, including "Best Female Artist" and "Album of the Year". Prior to the awards, a media storm broke out about the state of her finances which were allegedly being poorly handled by her record company. Her record company, TS records, vehemently denied the allegations.
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.
Her music is classified loosely as "Afrosoul" and she sings in her native language, Xhosa, as well as in English. Her music has been described as a mixture between the styles that have been popularized by Tracy Chapman, and India.Arie.
Zahara's debut album Loliwe was released in 2011. The first issue sold out within 72 hours, and 19 days later, the album reached double platinum status in South Africa by surpassing the 100,000 sales mark. This made her the second musician after Brenda Fassie, who was also interestingly 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.