Wawundithembisele is the first single off the debut solo album by The One Who Sings. Announced as the new performing name of Zolani Mahola, The One Who Sings is excited to release the first single on 8 October 2021.

formerly, as Zolani Mahola, she was the lead-singer of award-winning Freshlyground, winning several SAMAs, an MTV Europe VMA and performing with Shakira on Waka Waka for the 2010 World Cup. Wawundithembesile is the lead single off the new album entitled Thetha Mama. The song features Sun El, one of the most celebrated urban producers in SA (Into Ingawe, Akanamali feat. Samthing Soweto, Sonini feat. Simmy & Lelo Kamau) and Kenza; a dynamic producer from the El World music stable.

What is the single, Wawundithembisile about? “Wawundithembisile means “you promised me” in isiXhosa. The song is inspired by my own experience of Catholicism but also of old world structures and beliefs that no longer hold relevance for myself and millions across the globe. The pandemic has seen the fall or at least the questioning of old world ideas to do with race, patriarchy, sexuality, religion as well as faith in our leaders and governments.

What can we expect from the album when it releases later in the year?

I don’t want to give away too much, other than to say it’s a fresh, contemporary body of work that I have literally poured my soul into. It’s the exciting start to the next chapter of my life!.

Why did she change her name to The One Who Sings?

I’ve been a recognizable face in the South African entertainment scene since my first appearance in 2002 on a Xhosa drama series called Tsha Tsha. Thereafter Freshlyground’s early success with the release of our second album Nomvula in 2003 catapulted me into a greater sphere of fame. Still there was always confusion around my name. To this day people refer to me as Boniswa (from Tsha Tsha) or they’ll call me Nomvula. Often they will call me the girl from Freshlyground or mistake me for a range of Xhosa singers from Thandiswa Mazwai to Zahara.  Rarely do they refer to me as Zolani Mahola. In fact the most common name people give me when they encounter me is “Lo uculayo” translated in English as “The One Who Sings”. I must confess I have struggled with this nameless lack of positive identification with my given name.

Now, however; two decades after my career in the public eye began, I have come to embrace, internalize and treasure the name “The One Who Sings” and am taking the bold step to take it on fully as my artistic identity.  I wrote and executive-produced a play based on my life story and I called it The One Who Sings. Through this play I explored the effect of the stories I perceived about myself in childhood – how these played out in my adult life. The One Who Sings I would say is the Higher Self part of me – it is the part which articulates deep and sacred joy. The One Who Sings in fact rejoices in sacred spaces such as forests, oceans and deserts – places which call for a sense of stillness and peace.

When I met the naturalist and documentary filmmaker Craig Foster (My Octopus Teacher, The Sea Change Project) in January 2020 and he took me for my first ever dive into the ocean I knew I had unwrapped another layer to my story. The more I dove and connected with the water and underwater life the more I connected with myself and just reverently with my ancestry – with my deep Xhosa heritage, with my paternal and maternal lineage.

We are being called to re-member ourselves and to choose our real names. To choose who we really are as individuals, as citizens and as a species. We must reverse the legacy of separatism and disconnection that has been our human story for so long. It begins with the stories we tell the children and by listening to the stories they shine back to us.

The artist formerly known as Zoli Mahola now known as The One Who Sings, joins us on Employee Holla…