South Africa pop sensation Zahara dies aged 36Tue, 12 Dec 2023 13:28:13 GMT

The family of award-winning singer Zahara on Tuesday led tributes to the Afro-pop star who has died at the age of 36.Zahara’s debut album Loliwe turned her into an overnight sensation but she had also told in recent years of her struggle with alcohol.Zahara, born Bulelwa Mkutukana, had been in hospital since last month and her family said in a statement on Instagram that she died on Monday night “surrounded by family and loved ones”.”Zahara remarkably touched millions of people’s lives with her extraordinary gift and passion for music,” the statement added.”A life so beautifully lived deserves to be beautifully remembered. May we remember Zahara not with sorrow, but with stories of healing, joy, kindness, and inspiration she brought to us through her life and her music.” Zahara, known for her trademark guitar and Afro hairstyle, was born in a poor village near East London.She sang in choirs as a child and taught herself guitar. Her voice drew comparisons to Tracy Chapman, Joan Armatrading and India Arie.Zahara’s debut album in 2011 sold out in 72 hours and quickly turned her into a pan-African star.She was billed alongside Hugh Masekela, James Ingram and Lauryn Hill at Africa’s biggest jazz festival in 2012. Five album releases brought Zahara 17 South African Music Awards, the country’s top accolade, in all.In a 2012 interview with AFP Zahara told how she had sung for South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela at his home.”That was emotional for me. I remember I cried when I started singing to the finish and I even messed up my song,” she recalled.In later years she told of her struggle with alcohol and spoke out on violence against women.Sports, arts and culture minister Zizi Kodwa wrote on X, the former Twitter, that “Zahara and her guitar made an incredible and lasting impact in South African music.”Warner Music Africa, her record company, also said it was “mourning” the death.”Her lasting memory in our hearts and mind must be her ability to bring comfort and resonate with the struggles of the poorest of the poor,” the radical Economic Freedom Fighters opposition party said in a statement. No cause of death has been announced but Zahara was admitted to hospital last month “following complaints about physical pains”, according to a family statement at the time. In 2019, her manager revealed she was battling liver disease./pvh