Zahara remembered for her gift of music that touched and healed many lives

Published Dec 15, 2023


Family, friends, and colleagues converged on Rhema Bible Church in Johannesburg to honour the life of songbird Bulelwa “Zahara” Mkutukana, whose spiritual music had a meaningful influence in South Africa and beyond.

As many people paid emotional respects to Zahara, her life story has been cited as an inspiration, as she beat all odds to use her musical gift to become well known globally.

Prince Mlimandlela Ndamase, who had worked closely with the musician, said Zahara was extraordinary, and this encouraged her to go further in her passion for music and make a name for herself with the multi-award-winning popular song “Loliwe”.

Having worked with Zahara for years, he said one of her biggest milestones was singing for former president Nelson Mandela.

Lumka Mkutukana, her sister, recalled the events leading up to her death, stating it had been difficult for the family to accept their loss.

She was reminiscent of the days when they sang together as a family with their mother who taught them well about the importance of being rooted in prayer.

The life of Bulelwa Mkutukana was celebrated at a memorial service held at Rhema Bible Church yesterday afternoon. The songstress, professionally known as Zahara, died this week following an illness. In a tribute by Somizi Mhlongo he says 'Sorry Zahara we failed you’. | Timothy Bernard Independent Newspapers

“We grew up singing as a family in church. We were raised by a mother who loves God. That’s why she stood strong in everything she went through. She stood still even when the odds were against her,” she said.

One of her industry friends, Somizi spoke fondly about Zahara, highlighting how most people who knew her failed her in many ways.

“When are we even going to learn to say what we feel when we feel it at that time? Chances are 80% of the people in this room have not seen Zahara in months, but we flew and drove from everywhere in the world and made the effort because she is gone. And it is not because we didn’t know what she was going through. Even before she went to the hospital. So for me, I am big on telling the person how I feel at the time. And I never run out of I love you, I care. Are you okay?

“The other day I posted something about how we have failed her as an industry, as friends. We have failed her and we owe her an apology. And I am one of the people that owe her an apology.”

Somizi described a controversial episode in which he made a public joke about her “drinking” while hosting the SA Music Awards.

He spoke frankly about it, emphasising that he realised later how he made her feel and that he learnt his lesson from the suffering.

“I took it for granted as a joke, you don’t know how you hurt people and I realised later that I hurt her. And luckily we had time on Earth to reconcile and become friends again. But she went through a rough time, where was Somizi? Nowhere. Where were we? Nowhere. When we could have helped her,” said Somizi.

Many of her friends remembered her for her affection, as she was considered to be a loving individual.

Judith Sephuma, Ringo Madlingozi, and Brenda Mtambo, among others, paid heartfelt tributes to the musician.

Zahara, who died on Monday surrounded by family, will be buried on December 23 in East London, Eastern Cape.

The Star