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JOHANNESBURG — Zahara, a multi-award-winning South African musician who enchanted audiences with her soulful voice and acoustic guitar, died at a Johannesburg hospital on Monday night. She was 35.
The cause of death was not immediately disclosed. Officials and fans said they were devastated by the loss of the musician,whose real name was Bulelwa Mkutukana.
Zahara rose to fame in 2011 with her debut album Loliwe, which sold over 100,000 copies in 19 days and earned her eight South African Music Awards, including best female artist and album of the year. She went on to release four more albums, the latest being Nqaba Yam in 2021.
She was praised for her authentic and heartfelt lyrics, often sung in her native Xhosa language, and her distinctive style of blending folk, pop and Afro-soul elements.
Her death sparked an outpouring of tributes from fans, fellow artists and public figures, who hailed her as a musical icon and a national treasure.
Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Zizi Kodwa said he was saddened by Zahara’s passing and sent his condolences to the Mkutukana family.
“Zahara and her guitar made an incredible and lasting impact in South African music,” he tweeted.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions and the African Transformation Movement also expressed their sympathies, describing Zahara as an illustrious and influential musical star.
Among the celebrities who mourned Zahara was Yamikani Janet Banda, also known as Lady Zamar, a popular singer and songwriter.
On social media, Zahara’s fans shared their memories and favorite songs of the singer, using the hashtags #RIPZahara and #ZaharaForever.
Zahara was hospitalized last week after her condition worsened and she became unresponsive, according to local media reports. She was transferred to the intensive care unit of a private hospital, where she died.