Review: Zahara – Loliwe

In a nutshell, this album is universal, persuasive and necessary.

Artist Name: Zahara
Album Name: Loliwe
Year: 2011
Genre: Afrosoul/pop
Label: TS records

With the history of success of Loliwe (which sold out in 72 hours, reaching double platinum status in record time), it is not really essential for tell me to tell you how wonderful it is. In a nutshell, this album is universal, persuasive and necessary. As music lovers reading this, you will understand that, occasionally, an album can simply be a “keeper”, regardless of genre. It’s the type of album which is really different to the rest of your collection, which gets hauled out when you require a break, or some romance or a little discernment. Just like all metal heads have an Eric Clapton album proudly displayed, so I think Zahara’s debut will hold the same value for me. I am not ashamed to adore an album that is so obviously pop.

It is interesting for me to experience a dearth of South African music which is sung in languages I know so little about. My experience is based purely on the atmosphere of the song and how well I can connect to it on a musical or emotional level. Loliwe is an embracing album, with the title track taking melody to a new level. The captivating voice of Zahara is the thread that binds the songs together. You can easily feel the honesty and passion pouring out of Zahara as she sings, something which I think defines the best of singer-songwriters.

Set against the strumming of her guitar and the infusion of African-style beats, the music tends towards simplicity and integrity. Her lyrics flow like poetry. This is going back to the nuts and bolts of music and creating something of substance from the rawness. Few musicians can do this and still create a product as powerful as Loliwe. Having said that, the album is not perfect. I thought the song “My Guitar” was her weakest offering and inappropriately placed. I also felt like the first part of album is stronger than the rest, “Umthwalo” and “Loliwe” being the pinnacle, throwing the rest of the album off kilter. Bar this, Loliwe comes close to perfection.

Rating: 92/100

Best tracks: “Umthwalo”; “Loliwe”; “Thekwana”

- Claire Martens

Written by Claire Martens

Claire has been a music writer and reviewer for five years after discovering that music might just be the reason for all existence. Unfortunately, music doesn't solve the world's problems and so she chose a job in the non-profit sector. She hopes to do her bit for the local music scene and for everyone living in crazy-beautiful South Africa