The purest of gold is the one that has undergone too much heat in the furnace, the same applied to singer Zahara, after some tough times and hard lessons, she came out stronger, better and raring to go.
Looking at herself in reflection, she sees a strong battle hardened lioness whose battles have taught her the law of the jungle, her scars symbols of her strength.
It’s a new season and Zahara is making her intentions and plans known she’s starting the on a clean sheet, single, independent and ready to take on the world.
“I love the woman I’ve become,” she told DRUM.
“Nothing really bothers me. I have been criticised, hurt and labelled all sorts of things but I continue to stand firm because I know my purpose – to heal people through my music. That makes me sleep at night.”
Zahara, whose real name is Bulelwa Mkutukana, was relaxing with her manager and cousin, Oyama Dyosiba, at her modest home in Little Falls, Johannesburg, when the magazine caught up with her.
They were watching music videos that the Loliwe hit-maker released in the early days of her career.
Meanwhile it wasn’t an easy road for her, there was a time when she was bankrupt and bullied for everything, from boozing to her looks. In a turn of fate, she is smiling all the way to the bank, she became the first South African musician to sign a concert residency deal with Emperors Palace hotel.
“With Emperors, I basically do what Celine Dion did in Las Vegas,” said Zahara, who started her residency in November 2019.
The coveted deal will witness her having gigs at the luxury resort’s outlets all over the world for the next five years. “I’m sorted for many years to come, darling,” she said.
While she is living the high life, she pointed out that it can get lonely there at the top. “Dating hasn’t been easy. I’m Zahara, for crying out loud.”
In the just ended 2019, the 31-year old broke up with her boyfriend
Ian Sihle ( 25). However, she could not divulge more into the matter, but revealed their relationship taught her one or two hard lessons.
“He was a lovely guy, but that’s not enough.
“I won’t explain too much but love alone was just not enough. To say, ‘I love you’ does not matter, I need actions show me.
“A guy doesn’t have to show me with money. I never needed anything from anyone. I don’t need a holiday, just show me you love me,” she said.
She had hoped to marry Ian, a motivational speaker she met through her cousin at a New Year’s Eve braai in 2017. But the Afropop sensation called it off after realising he wasn’t the man for her. “I realised I was dating a fan,” Zahara said.
She handled the break-up professionally, with elements of maturity and dignity, removing photos of her ex-boyfriend from her social-media platforms while nursing her broken heart in silence.
“I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I don’t cheat; I am respectful.
“As I grow older, I’m learning more about what I want in a relationship. I’m looking for a king to balance me,” she added.
Now that she’s back in the dating folds she hopes to find someone who accepts her as she is. “I am Zahara, a creative, a healer through music and no one can change that. It’s God’s purpose for me,” she said.
Her manager nodded in agreement, adding that he warned her regarding certain relationships. “At the beginning of last year, I told her to get rid of any toxic relationships. She’s now a lioness on the loose, looking for a prince or a king,” Oyama said.
“And I won’t settle for less than what I deserve.
“Many kings want me, but I am weighing my options. I’d rather wait for Mr Right because I’ve been burnt dating fans,” she said.
She’s a person who understands what she wants and deserves. Sometime in 2019, Zahara dragged TS Records to court for allegedly underpaying her for record sales, performances and royalties.
She claimed she was virtually suffered bankruptcy while working with her former record company, but the owners denied the allegations in a statement (Setting the record straight, 25 April 2019).
“The case is still pending. I’m not backing down. Record labels create their own laws that favour them. I’m not going to let people stop me from fulfilling my purpose. I’m not going to be yet another statistic who dies a pauper.
“I write my own songs and play my own guitar, but I wasn’t making money. So I decided to take them on. Some of the people, whose names I won’t mention, have come and apologised. I forgave them but I still want my money,” she said.
Zahara has taken full control of her career as an independent artist under her own record label Zahara Army.
“As soon as people heard I was independent, they started approaching me. Oyama manages my bookings and travel but I negotiate my own deals now,” she added.
She has encountered one or two raw deals in the past, but she took it into her own hands, doing it for herself now.
“At the height of my career I was willing to give it all up and go home because I thought I wasn’t good enough. My mother told me to hang in there. My family supported me all the way,” she said.
“Today I don’t ask myself what my purpose is. It hurts when people say negative things because I am human, but my purpose is bigger than their opinions on my hair or my dress code,” she went on.
When Zahara set her legal battle in motion against her old record label, at first she was worried she’d be labelled a troublemaker.
She also thought the battle would affect her getting bookings and that her music may not receive any airplay.
“But I soldiered on. I had to make peace so I can move on. Other artists fall into depression, others take drugs. I’d finish a bottle of red wine. But I realised that’s not a way to solve problems.
“That is when I decided to speak up . . . After the drama, it’s like all the doors opened. I got the biggest deal of my life and bookings flooded in,” she said.
Zahara had to stop drinking for a few months “after realising I was drinking for the wrong reason, but I do enjoy a glass of champagne now and then”, she said.
She has enough on her plate. The award-winning singer toured New York and the UK last year and spent three months living in Canada.
“Sometimes all one needs is to speak up and be healed,” she said.
Besides her lucrative residency deal, she has big plans to shake stages in the UK, Canada and the US.
“I’ll also be collaborating with one of the biggest international artists from Canada. I can’t say who now, but it will be the biggest surprise.
“2020 is mine, honey. I’m responsible for my talent. I’ve I also learnt a good lesson with love because maybe I started dating late and was inexperienced.
Now I know to put my needs first,” Zahara said.