Just a village girl
Born Bulelwa Mkutukana in the Phumlani settlement outside East London, Zahara’s story is one of shooting to fame with her fresh voice and guitar, and heartfelt songs of truth. She’s been crowned Best Female Artist by the SAMA, Channel O and Kora All-Africa Awards, and has sold more than half a million records – but she still calls herself a village girl, and is thankful every day for the chance she’s been given to live her dream.
What was it like working with [US saxophonist] Kirk Whalum?
Warner Records told me that he wanted to tour in Africa, and to write songs with me. It felt like a dream. This man, who has worked with people such as Whitney Houston, wanted to work with me! We met and he told me that my voice touched his heart – he was so generous. We prayed together before we recorded the songs. It was humbling and uplifting.
You’ve been asked to speak about Tata Madiba at the Nelson Mandela centenary celebration concert in London. How do you feel?
I’m so excited to be performing at the concert in August. I’ve also been asked to speak about his legacy. As a South African woman performing at the show, I will share both his and Ma Winnie’s legacies with the world. I plan to speak of the difference they made in all of our lives. It was unbelievable for me to meet Tata when he was still with us, and be asked to give my CDs to him. Now I can share some of that with the other people who loved him.
Your debut, Loliwe, went gold in under two weeks. Now Mgodi has gone double platinum in just two days. How does this success change the ‘village girl’?
I make music to share my stories, and Mgodi is more of my story. I am happy that people want to hear that story, and that if I can reach my dream, then others can also live their dreams.
By Zandie Khumalo
You know her as Kelly Khumalo’s little sister, but this jazzy Afro-soul debut proves that Zandie is putting her own weight behind the Khumalo surname. The album name literally translates
as ‘weapons of the maNtungwa’ (her clan name) and the 13 tracks comprise smooth jams and a voice like honey. Gems include ‘Nangu Makoti’, with a makossa-inspired lick guaranteed to make it a step-dance hit, and ‘Ubedlula Bonke’, featuring a gospel cameo from ‘Igama Lhako’ star Lindani. Zandie has come a long way from trying her luck in SABC1’s national gospel search, Crux, but not making the final cut. It was only after her husband (an ex-music industry man), heard her singing that she was convinced to go into studio and record. Love is at the heart of these songs; a love that marks the beginning of a long career.
Pray For The Wicked
By Panic! At The Disco
This is big-stage pop at its grandest. Panic! At The Disco now has just one official member, founder Brendon Urie, but the album’s sound is bigger and richer than ever. Huge stabs of brass and swathes of sweeping keyboard make a tsunami of celebratory sound, over which Brendon sings about everything being ‘just cherries on top’, toasts his success on ‘Hey Look Ma, I Made It’, and shoots for even higher stars on ‘High Hopes’. It’s not just for the post-emo glam-pop singer himself, either: P!ATD formed the Highest Hopes Foundation, which donates a dollar for every ticket sold to NGOs that combat discrimination against race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity.
By Charlie Puth
Charlie shot to fame with YouTube cover versions, a feature on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and the Paul Walker dedication ‘See You Again’ from Furious 7. His new album samples rock riffs and pop beats, with high-octave choruses over slick pop production. The twenty-something sensation even has Boyz II Men backing him on ‘If You Leave Me Now’, and it’s a perfect match midway through this R & B-influenced album of danceable tunes. Voicenotes was famously recorded from ideas on Charlie’s phone and a little home studio. ‘I’mma tell ’em/You could either hate me or love me/But that’s just the way I am’ he sings – and the world has sat up to listen. ‘Through It All’ is a sure-fire slow-dance ballad, and the duet, ‘Change’ with James Taylor is bliss. Charlie writes all of his own songs, his love of music evident in every track