She is up there with the most talented musicians in Africa and is now making a name for herself abroad, but for 25 year-old Bulelwa Mkutukane or Zahara to her millions of fans across Africa, it is just the beginning of a dream.
The village girl from the Eastern Cape saw her fortunes change in just one week after the release of her debut album Loliwe in 2011 that went platinum in just 13 days.
South Africa’s new singing sensation’s album sold over 100 000 copies in just 19 days; making her the second musician after Brenda Fassie to reach this fi gure in such record time.
Due to release her second album any day now she has a host of new songs to showcase as she embarks on a short tour of Zimbabwe and Botswana.
With two shows in Francistown and one in Maun scheduled for March, local fans can look forward to a rare musical treat. Voice reporter KABELO DIPHOLO was granted a 15 minute chat with the ‘Afrosoul’ singer songwriter from Johannesburg as she took a break from the studio.
Q. You have been compared to some of the world’s acclaimed music divas such as Joan Armatrading, Tracy Chapman, India Arie and Nigerian songstress Asa. Which of these great artists have influenced you?
To be honest I don’t know much about these artists. I think I only know one Armatrading song and a couple of songs from Tracy, but that’s it. I started to listen to more of their music after all these comparisons and I now do understand why people make them.
I however listen to India, and I see some similarities in the way she strums and projects her voice. So if anyone I would say India Arie….(laughs).
Q. When you came out with your debut album Loliwe last year many music critics predicted the fall of adult contemporary artist Lira. Why do you think that was the case and do you see any similarities between the two of you?
I have no idea why people said stuff like that, I’m very fond of Lira; she is a great artist and has been in the industry for a long time now.
Q. Are you friends?
We don’t see each other that often but if it happens that we meet I always greet her; I treat her just like any other artist.
Q. You were in great demand last year, and still are this year. Are you rich?
(Laughs). Why would you ask a question like that? I don’t know, I guess it depends on how you look at it. Before the release of my album I had no bank account, no in fact I did but it was closed because I could not aff ord the R50 to keep it active.
But now I can afford to take care of myself, my parents and do other things that a couple of months away were a farfetched dream. Is that rich? I don’t know; all I know is that I can now afford stuff .
Q. You shattered South Africa’s sales records set years ago by some of the most prominent artists like Brenda Fassie. How did you feel about that?
Wow! When I was told that I just could not believe it, everything happened so fast and I’m still shocked to this day!
Q. You and DJ S’bu had a successful collaboration, who else do you wish to collaborate with in your next project?
The collaboration with S’bu was very successful, but I would like to work with Tshepo Tshola or Thandiswa.
Q. Are you dating anyone?
Not yet. It can happen tomorrow but for now no.
Q. When can your fans expect your next album?
My current album is relatively new, but if they were to ask me to record tomorrow I would because I have been writing songs for a very long time. I have a book full of songs.
Q. How do you compose your songs? Do you dream melodies or hear voices at night?
Well sometimes I wake up with a melody in my head, but most of the time I write stuff from the experiences I got as I grew up. I come from a very rural area so there is always something to write about. I try by all means to write inspirational songs.
Q. What is the story behind your hit song Loliwe?
Loliwe means a train. My parents told me that when they grew up it was the only mode of transport to get to Johannesburg and other big cities. So some men left their wives and children behind to work in the city and took long to return back home. So the song simply captures the mood of the people who always looked at the train with expectant eyes each time it arrived.
The arrival of the train always brought hope to the people, some expecting to see their loved ones. This is a song that I have been singing for the past two years but most of the people including Batswana only heard the song late last year.
Q. How many times have you been to Botswana and how would you describe the experience?
I have been to Botswana twice, and this would be my third time. The people are just amazing and I knew when I was there the first time that I had to come back to perform there, and I’m looking forward to touring the country.
Q. What is the most embarrassing thing you have ever done?
It was not what I did, but what happened to me. I sat on a gum a few minutes before I was supposed to make a speech and as you know it could not come off, that was embarrassing.