Zahara : Album Review


She burst into the industry and turned it upside down with just a blink of an eye. Effortlessly “slaying” and snatching weaves with her raw talent. It comes as no surprise that Zahara’s debut album is doing well. I’m sure you have heard a lot of people saying nothing but good things about her music. Well I reluctantly listened to Zahara’s album due to peer pressure and endless compliments to her.

The album starts with a country music influenced track called “Destiny”. An English track that sees the culture-influenced Zahara throwing her Siphiwe Dana-esque vocals in a Tracy Chapman-esque country sound. I must say it is a very good track and I actually love it. I overheard my friends laughing at her accent in all the English song, calling it “Xhosa”. Well, that’s what sets this track apart from her influences. The African feel that it proudly possesses despite being a little “white”.

The second track of the album, “Umthwalo” is a guitar and piano driven ballad that is accompanied by her mature voice. It carries empowering lyrics, which seems to be a popular theme of the album. It is one of those tracks that you find yourself harming to, even though you are listening to it for the first time. This song has a very good advantage of a wider audience because of it’s  chorus that sticks to your mind. A good track that proves that effort can make an enormous difference to one’s work.

Loliwe, the title track and her first single that made her mark is the third track of the album. This track gave me a first impression of Zahara. Before I got to know her music style, I found it very annoying because I thought it had too much Simphiwe Dana in it. Despite creating a good platform for Zahara to proceed her journey to a more successful path, this track is one of my least favorites  I know a lot of people would cook me for dinner for saying this about “Loliwe”. I still haven’t changed my mind about my first impression – Simphiwe Dana heavily influences this song.

Xabendingena Mama, the forth song on the track list is heavily influenced by Xhosa traditional songs. That actually makes it very mature for some of Zahara’s audience, because the genre is not exactly youth-friendly even though it is impressively written. The maturity of this song is going to work as an advantage when it widens her audience to older people. The traditional beat will leave you wet from all the involuntary dancing that comes with the track.

When I turned to the fifth track, Ndiza featuring Georgy I immediately thought, “Wow, this is a very good song” before I could even hear the lyrics! Zahara masters the art of singing emotionally, and that makes the song more enjoyable and easy to relate to or feel the message the lyrics convey. Now I don’t blame all the people that call her the Adele of South Africa. She has that golden touch.

Incawadi Encane , the sixth track of the set, is a mid-tempo love song that has the popular sound of the album (guitar). It is going to get you moving with its rhythm, but the lyrics contain a little bit of cheese here and there, without  being prevented by that, it is an OK track.

It is followed by Lengoma  which happens to be one of my favorites of the album because of its simplicity. Over-producing a song  can get annoying and Lengoma is anything but that. It incorporates what seems to be her favorite musical instrument – a guitar.

What I like about the concept of this album is that it incorporates vernacular and English. And the 8th track “My Guitar  is an English filler. It is only there to  increase the number of tracks, instead of making a difference or maintaining the high level that the first few tracks set. Saying it is a filler does not necessarily mean that it is bad. It only means that it is not in the same standard of the other tracks.

Track nine is Thekwane. It comes when one starts to get a little bored. It comes to the rescue with political lyrics and a Kwela beat that sounds like a Sophia Town era song. I personally do not like politics, which makes the lyrics useless to me. The production direction is what gets my attention more because of its retro nature. It is quite safe to say that it is a well planned piece of art that won’t catch your love by listening to it once.

The tenth track starts revealing surprises like the reggae influence which is evident in the song titled “Away”. She hits high notes and features breezy backing vocals. Her Xhosa accent that invades her English songs is less recognizable and it makes it easier to focus on what she is singing about, rather than how she sings it.

“Brand New Day” , the eleventh track of the album is an up-tempo number that is catchy enough to win Zahara a few pop lovers into her already high number of supporters and fans. I had to play it more than once because the empowerment lyrics and beat show a totally different side of Zahara that no one could have ever foreseen.

Continuing in the same footsteps of motivational lyrical content is “Shine”, a great way to close the album. “Shine” is similar to the opening track of the album, “Destiny”.  None of that matters because the songs are just art on their own.

The album actually proves the opinions I’ve been hearing about it. And it serves as one of the most powerful debuts by a South African woman. She certainly possesses the golden touch because her talent is enough to make her shine and reach for her destiny. No booty-hopping or weave-fleaking required. Now I’m starting to regret my ignorance of taking my own sweet time to give her a chance. The album is a fair 8/10.