When I heard that Zahara’s album had sold out within three days, I was sceptical and didn’t take the press release seriously. When her producer Robbie Malinga said she had sold 50 000 copies in less than two weeks, and then subsequently 100 000 copies in three weeks, I knew a star had been born.

In less than a month, her hit singles Loliwe and Lengoma have been played in most urban radio stations.

She has opened for Chante Moore and performed alongside Simphiwe Dana, Judith Sephuma and Hugh Masekela. At her album listening session at Cappello on Florida Road last week, she wooed everyone in the room.

“It’s unreal how everything has just happened so fast, I actually have to keep pinching myself every time to check if I’m dreaming,” she said.

“I remember when they told me that I acted cool, but when I went to my room I was jumping up and down and kept asking myself ‘who am I that my music is loved by so many people’.

I am so grateful to God because he has shown time and time again that he is good to me.”

How does she explain the hype? “I credit it on great marketing,” she said jokely “No, seriously, marketing played a big part in my success, but without a voice, hard work and presenting something new, this wouldn’t have been possible.”

Zahara is actually my stage name, she added.

“My real name is Bulelwa Mtukutane. We decided that we needed a name that will fit with the sound and after a hectic Google search we came across Zahara.”

The name means “blooming flower” in Arabic.

She was discovered in a club in her home town East London.

“I was reciting one of my poems at Talamanka and it just happened that TK Nciza (co-owner of record label TS Records) was there.”

“I performed Loliwe with my guitar and afterwards he approached me and said he’d like to sign me to his label.

“I didn’t believe him because many had promised to sign me before, and nothing happened.” However, when TK returned with his wife, singer Nhlanhla Nciza, a week later she knew he meant business. “Nhlanhla came to me after performing and told me that they were not leaving me behind and next thing I knew I was on my way to Joburg with them.”

That was August last year and a year later she released Loliwe.

“I’ve performed alongside some of South Africa’s most gifted and talented musicians, like Lira, Simphiwe Dana, Hugh Masekela and Judith Sephuma. They all embraced me, she said.

“It’s unreal, I always pinch myself to check whether I am dreaming.”

She realises that the hype will increase and expectations from people, but she knows that her album has good music.

“I haven’t met someone who told me that they skipped some songs on my CD. They could be lying to make me feel better, but I worked hard to make sure that Loliwe is a quality album with songs that will make everyone think and make them feel good. And that’s what the song Loliwe is about. It’s about hope and trusting in a higher power.”

She’s currently preparing for her album launch party in East London before she goes to France. “It’s great that I am already going overseas and I hope people will receive the album well.” She’s also going to Amsterdam and the US early next year. “It’s all about being patient and when you’ve achieved your goal, going all the way with it.” - Sunday Independent