Nandipha Pantsi
2 minute read
25 Sep 2015
9:54 am

‘Zahara is not perfect’ – Robbie Malinga

Nandipha Pantsi

Things have not been easy for Zahara (Bulelwa Mkutukana) over the past couple of years.

After her brother was murdered last year, the award-winning musician turned to alcohol to numb the pain and made headlines for all the wrong reasons. But now she’s back with a new album in which she sings about some of her troubles.

“Zahara is not perfect,” says Robbie Malinga, who produced the album and co-wrote many of the songs. “She is just a kid who wants to make a living out of music.”

Zahara and Malinga recently hosted a listening session of the album, Country Girl, at the Universal Music Studios in Johannesburg. Some of the stand-out songs include Ubomi Bam (My Life), Ameva (Thorns) and Izintaba (Mountains).

“Zahara came to me after she had written Izintaba and I nearly cried after hearing it,” said Malinga. “She was just so frustrated with life.”

“There was a time in my life when it was so hard for me to get up and go outside because of all the bad things that were being said about me,” says Zahara. “But I realised that maybe people talking about me was not such a bad thing. It means I’m relevant.”

Although the musician has managed to create a very distinct Zahara sound – with the help of Malinga – the album lacks variety. Many of the songs sound too similar to the songs in her second album, Phendula.

Zahara became one of our country’s fastest-selling female artists when her debut album, Loliwe, went double platinum last year. The album was popular years after its release.

But her new album has struggled to have the same appeal and this could be because music is changing at a faster pace than ever before. Zahara’s music is still in the same place.

Yes, she writes about love for the first time, but this is not enough of a surprise to pull our attention away from other up-and-coming musicians like Nathi Mankayi, who is a favourite in the Afro-soul genre.

Zahara’s biggest asset is her soulful voice – she’s one of the few artists who don’t need to dance or wear crazy stage costumes to get attention. But she needs to shake things up. Perhaps it’s time to work with a different producer, or collaborate with artists from other genres?

Speaking about the album’s title, Country Girl, Zahara says it’s got nothing to do with traditional country music.

“The title reflects me and where I come from. No matter where I go, I will always be a girl from the rural areas. My soul will always be there.”