Album Review: Zahara – Nqaba Yam

Written by on August 16, 2021

By Manna Maurice

Zahara during cover art photoshoot
Image source: Twitter @ZaharaSA

Who said anything about Friday the 13th being unlucky? With Zahara dropping her 7th studio album, all the spooky & unlucky shenanigans had to take a backseat. Even if you were a victim of the cursed day, a full listen to Nqaba Yam is sure to put a smile on your face & pep in your step.

Zahara (real name Bulelwa Mtutukana) is back with her latest album, Nqaba Yam a 12 track musical journey that was headed by its lead-single, IzoloNqaba Yam sees Zahara performing possibly at her most transparent and personal, each song is a glimpse into what the 33-year-old multi-award winner has been dealing with in her personal life.

When it comes to the music, there isn’t much that Zahara hasn’t done. For a decade, the Eastern Cape songstress has been capturing the hearts of South Africans and Afro-soul music lovers around the world. There is an air of maturing in her latest project, a feel of making the music that she wants to make and this is evident upon listening to Nqaba Yam.

Zahara gained popularity upon release of her debut album Loliwe that was released in 2011
Image source: Twitter @ZaharaSA

Zahara’s entire discography could be described as looking outside a bus window on the long ride home (or going somewhere else either way). There has always been a soulful feel to Zahara’s music that serves the needs of music lovers, as there is always something for everyone. Nqaba Yam translated means “Endure”, which is essentially the theme of this album, pushing forward no matter the odds.

Zahara partners with veteran producer Mojalefa “Mjakes” Thebe to provide listeners with a mollifying afro-soul listening experience. The album is laced with the country, guitar, drum soul sound that has been associated with Zahara though the production especially deserves recognition, especially on the tracks; SenzeniNtak’enciane, & the leading single, Izolo.

Zahara goes into a variety of topics on this album ranging from; her struggles, persevering through challenges, her relationship with God and even social issues. Zahara with this album still gives listeners the feel that she is still just the country girl next door, despite her massive commercial success. This is made clear on the closing track Iphupho Lam’. This track along with Nyamezela serves as a great example of the message of endurance that Zahara is trying to convey with this album.

The title track Nqaba Yam is a strong intro to the album and sets the tone off well, Zahara’s vocal performance is particularly impressive on this song. The songstress addresses issues of gender-based violence in South Africa on the track Senzeni, a heartfelt tribute to the South African women that deal with atrocious abuse at the hands of their male counterparts. The song is fitting since August is women’s month. Zahara also addresses issues that surround black people on the song Systems (I particularly loved the adlibs on this one), which will strike chords of relatability to the applicable listeners.

She started singing in her school’s choir when she was six years old; at the age of nine she was told to join the senior choir because of her strong voice
Image source: Twitter @ZaharaSA

Additional notable tracks include; NdikhonaNdincede & once again Ntak’ enciane, which feels like a trip to 1950s Sophiatown and is bound to get your hips swaying. All in all, this project is another solid offering from Zahara, with quality production, soulful vocals as well as inspirational and relatable lyrics, Nqaba Yam is worth a listen.

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