The 40-year-old released her new single
Johannesburg – Award-winning musician Zolani Mahola has opened up about the reasons behind the change in her performing name.
The former lead singer for one of South Africa’s most-loved Afrofusion band Freshly Ground has rebranded and is now known as The One Who Sings.
While Mahola had the new name for some time now, news of her re-branding is fairly new to most South Africans.
“So the name actually was given to me unintentionally by my fellow South Africans particularly those who speak vernacular languages,” Mahola told the Saturday Star.
“I have heard the phrase lo uculayo for about 15 years now when people refer to me.
“This of course is the Xhosa version of “the one who sings” and it is a name I have grown used to.
“There are a few elements to do with the name change and one of them is the fact that it makes me feel more connected.
“There is a strange thing with being a celebrated person or someone who is in the public eye like I have been for about twenty years now.
“That thing is that people think there is a separation between myself and them.
“What my embracing of the name The One Who Sings does for me is that it closes that gap… it makes me as familiar as the baker or the spaza shop owner or the dressmaker or the one who sings.”
She says her re-branding has also allowed her to detach from her persona as the lead singer of Freshly Ground.
“It was not a driving force but it’s a happy by-product to being seen as a completely new entity,” she says.
“I feel that I have evolved so much as a human being first that it just naturally felt that a new name was a good start to a new chapter.”
The singer has been living with her new identity for the last two years.
“I have lived with this identity personally for a couple of years now ever since I wrote and produced my award-winning play by the same name in 2019.
“So it’s not as new for me as it is for the general public.
“It’s also not new for people who follow me on social media as I have been signing my posts and addressing my fans as The One Who Sings for nearly two years now.
“It just feels right to me.”
While changing a performing name could come with risks such as losing popularity, the singer says she isn’t too concerned about that.
“I cannot hope for that but I can trust that the universe rewards efforts that come from an authentic place.
“Whether that reward comes in the form of greater popularity or greater satisfaction within myself…
“I’m happy with either but if I had to choose between them I would choose my own satisfaction.”
Asked if The One Who Sings was anything like the Zolani Mahola of Freshly Ground that millions around the world knew, she says: “I’m the same person but there is more of me. I’ve gained more experience as a human and as an artist.
“The world of The One Who Sings is quite specific though.
“It’s about storytelling and the aim is to highlight our connection to nature and also to express how sacred the time of childhood is.”
The singer credits her connection to nature to naturalist and documentary filmmaker Craig Foster (My Octopus Teacher, The Sea Change Project) .
She says Foster, who she met in 2020, helped her connect with herself and her ancestry – her deep Xhosa heritage, and with her paternal and maternal lineage.
“Craig Foster took me for my first underwater immersion in early 2020.
“After that snorkelling session, my eyes were open to the wonder of the natural world and in particular for me the ocean.
“I began diving with him and the Sea Change crew and became their ambassador later that year.”
“I dive a lot on my own and a curious thing happened earlier this year in that I began to organically start communicating with the kelp as though I was talking to my grandmothers and grandfathers.
“I started leaving offerings at the sea and speaking to my ancestors when I was far out to sea.
“The journey only widened from there.”
She says connecting with her ancestors has helped her grow as an individual.
“It’s been lovely for me in a very non-threatening way.
“I have learned to just open my heart even more than ever before.
“It’s just about tapping into a greater re-source.
“I have been meditating most days for a few years now and adding connecting to ancestry has been a widening experience for me in terms of an expansion of intuition and access to more moments of synchronicity in my life.
“I have learned that I am supported unquestioningly.
“I have learned that the more I acknowledge and interact with the underground gang and ask for an abundance of light and good then the more I put that vibration out into the world.
“We don’t walk alone … there are resources that we can tap into for our highest good and for that of the planet at large.”
Connecting with her ancestors, she says has also played a role in her new solo album entitled Thetha Mama.
“Connecting with my ancestors and Xhosa heritage has influenced my well-being as I have been writing and producing the album.”
Under her new performing name The One Who Sings has released her new single Wawundithembisele off her debut solo album Thetha Mama.
The song features Sun El, one of the most celebrated urban producers in South Africa, and Kenza; a dynamic producer from the El World music stable.
The melodic single was released last week, and the 40 year old says she cannot wait for music lovers to hear it.
“I was inspired by my experience of Catholicism and I used the lens of a supplicant appealing to Mother Mary saying Wawundithembisile or You Promised Me.
“I’ve used the disappointment and despair of the character as a microcosm for the lack of faith so many of us have experienced in the wake of the pandemic in terms of old-world ideas around gender, race, and patriarchy among many.”
She says she also loved collaborating with Sun-El Musician on her new track.
“I love collaborating with Sanele.
“I released a track with him last year on his album called Call Me.
“It’s just exquisite. Working with him is easy and the experience is full of grace.”
She says music lovers can expect a wider vocal range in her debut solo album.
“They can expect to hear a wider vocal range than they have heard from Zolani Mahola.
“They can expect to hear my deepest feelings and to know my heart as it stands at this point.”