Sandisiwe Mbhele
Lifestyle Journalist
3 minute read
19 Oct 2021
3:06 pm

Zolani Mahola talks new music and changing her stage name

Sandisiwe Mbhele

The former lead singer of Freshlyground is releasing her first ever solo album this November.

Zolani Mahola is excited to share that her first solo album is coming out this November. Picture: Supplied

After what feels like a lifetime of helping shape and define South Africa’s music scene, Zolani Mahola is making another step in her ever-evolving music career.

Popularly known as the former lead singer of the internationally acclaimed band Freshlyground, she parted ways with the group in 2019. Mahola is now solely focused on her solo career.

The Citizen got the chance to chat with Mahola about her new name and music.

The Citizen’s Q&A with Zolani Mahola:

Q: Your new artist name ‘The One who Sings’ – what was the reason for this change and was there a deeper meaning behind the change?

A: I have been writing from a very different new perspective and it feels as though that perspective is almost a higher self within me. I call that “The One Who Sings”. Funnily enough, this is a name that people have been calling me for over a decade … “lo uculayo”. I have taken this name on and wear it like a well-fitting simple beautiful crown on my head. 

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Q: Tell us a bit more of the single Wawundithembisile featuring Sun El Musician and DJ Kenza. How it was like working with them both?

A: Wawundithembisile means “You Promised Me” and it is a metaphor for the dissatisfaction so many of us feel with old-world ideas around race, gender, patriarchy, religion and governance. I have placed the central character in dialogue with Mary, the mother of Jesus and this is loosely based on my experience with Catholicism. 

Zolani Mahola, also known as ‘The One Who Sings’. Picture: Supplied

I have laid out the lyrics and the translation on my website It’s quite harrowing, despite the smooth sounds of the track. It’s worth checking out the translation if you don’t understand the language. 

Follow up: Q: Are there plans for an album?

A: Absolutely! I am releasing my very first solo album this coming November. It is a terribly exciting time for me. 

Q: You’re going abroad soon, is the trip about the new music and a possible tour? 

A: The trip is a three-week solo holiday to Mexico and at the end of the trip I am attending a women’s retreat in a town called Sayulita. I will be travelling sober, doing dives in the sea and sharing my insights on my social media. 

Q: You have gone solo for several years but officially parting ways with Freshlyground in 2019, how have you found this transition in your career?

A: I have really enjoyed my time of exploration outside of the group because it’s given me the opportunity to keep fine-tuning my individual “voice” as an artist. I have placed zero pressure on myself to be any kind of success or to pinpoint any specific genre or pigeonhole. I just love to follow the inspiration as it comes. 

Q: Digital music streaming has changed the way artists release new music, has this helped artists for the better in terms of revenue and ownership? 

A:  No I wouldn’t say so at all…gosh the revenue is [minimal] unless you have thousands of downloads! However, it’s impossible to turn the tide against the democratisation of music – it needs to be as accessible as it is today. We roll with it. 

Q: Are there any artists on your bucket list, local and abroad you would still like to work with?

A: I would love to work with CKay, Msaki, Dave Matthews and Beautiful Chorus! But really I just love to play, play and play.