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Zolani Mahola

Zolani MaholaZolani Mahola, born on the 19th of July, 1981 is a South African singer and actress. Since the year 2002, she has been the lead singer of the South African music group Freshlyground.

Zolani Mahola was born in Bhisho, the capital of the province of Eastern Cape, South Africa and grew up near the city of Port Elizabeth. She attended Trinity High School - which later amalgamated into St Dominic's Priory School.

She worked as receptionist at Makro on the weekends and during school holidays. She grew up on Ntshekisa Street, a long and busy street in New Brighton, a township on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth.

She stayed with her father and younger sister between 1999 and 2001. In 2011, Zolani and Freshlyground gave a free concert on Ntshekisa Street as part of their 10th birthday tour.

After studying drama at the University of Cape Town, she was cast in the lead role in the television drama Tsha-Tsha, which aired on SABC 1.

Mahola voiced the character of Zoë in the animated feature film, Zambezia in 2012, and also recorded the song "Get Up" for the original motion picture soundtrack.

Zolani MaholaIn March of 2013, Mahola announced her first pregnancy.

On the 8th of August 2013 Mahola gave birth to a son she named Zazi Bastion Mahola-Klemp with Nicholas.

Mahola and six other musicians formed the band Freshlyground in Cape Town in 2002.

After Freshlyground published their second album, Nomvula, in 2004, The Sunday Times described Mahola as one of South Africa's best and most inspiring young singers.

She traveled to Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria with English pop singer Robbie Williams in 2006, with Freshlyground performing as Williams' opening act.

She sang on The Parlotones' third studio album, Stardust Galaxies in 2009 and at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Mahola, with Freshlyground and Shakira, performed "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)" during the opening and closing ceremonies. "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)" was the official song of FIFA World Cup in 2010.

At the Glamour Women of the Year Awards, held on the 25th of July, 2011 in Johannesburg, Mahola was among eight women honoured by the South African division of Glamour Magazine.

Glamour declared both her and her bandmate Kyla-Rose Smith "The Icons" of South African women in 2011

Zolani MaholaZolani Mahola is an actress and composer, known for Elysium in 2013, Zambezia in 2012 and Cold Harbour during 2013.

Earlier this year they were chosen by the South African government to perform at the unveiling of Parliament's new logo.

Freshlyground hs been doing gigs for their local fans and travelling the road from Joburg to Japan, performing in Belgium, France, Zimbabwe, Holland, Italy, Mozambique, Germany, Namibia and Mauritius along the way.

As to why the band is such a hit with the global audience, Mahola states modestly:

"I think that it is the same reason non-South Africans have fallen in love with Bongo Maffin, Johnny Clegg, Bayethe and Simphiwe Dana, just to name a few."

"There is life in our music! There is a depth of feeling in the expression, a certain joy that many other cultures have perhaps lost."

Their sound is distinctively southern African, yet defies classification, combining elements of kwela, folk, jazz, indie rock and Afro pop.

Its eclectic nature gives their music broad appeal, enabling them to cross cultural boundaries.

The way the band members, coming from contrasting musical and racial backgrounds, seem to blend so effortlessly has also caught the attention of the international media.

Zolani MaholaBoth Time magazine and The Washington Post have labelled Freshlyground the personification of South Africa's "rainbow nation" ideal.

"It's something to be proud of, for sure, although it also feels very normal," she says.

"It feels to me like people should be in harmony with each other."

"We don't have to all be friends, but I think there is a basic humanity we all share that is unlearned as we grow up."

"The illusion of separatism is a human construct, I think - of course we are different, but that difference is something to celebrate; not to use to keep us apart."

Each of the band members – who came together from South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe – contributes something different to the sound.

The Eastern Cape's Mahola attributes her own musical style to the traditional Xhosa ceremonies she took part in.

"There is a lot of theatre and music involved in many if not all of the Xhosa rituals", she explains.

"I try to bring a celebratory quality to my style of singing and to the lyrics, of course."

Zolani MaholaBorn in Port Elizabeth on the 19th of July 1981, Mahola was raised in the townships of Kwazakhele and New Brighton. She believes it is the heart of the people that is the Eastern Cape's most valuable asset.

Some of her favourite memories are of her childhood at Christmas.

"The family coming to PE [Port Elizabeth] from all over the country, all the kids in the family playing together. I remember being taken to the beach around those times, braais, Happy Valley … fun times."

Mahola first attended Kama Primary and later St Dominic's Priory and Trinity High School. It was at Trinity that she first got involved with a drama group and realized that "being onstage was a very comfortable and energizing space.

About her road to success, Mahola says: "It started with someone having faith in me, which gave me the courage to believe I stood a chance in this field. That first someone was my drama teacher Isobel van der Linde."

Given new confidence and a firm foundation in her performance art, she left Port Elizabeth to study drama at the University of Cape Town.

It was from her work as an actress that many South Africans first got to know Mahola. She starred in the series Tsha Tsha as Boniswa, a character from rural Peddie in the Amathole district.

Zolani Mahola"I really enjoyed playing that character because she was so strong and self aware," Mahola says.

“She was a good example to girls and young women growing up in an environment that often does not give value to their emotional well-being or to their dreams.

She was able to show girls around the country that actually it is possible and necessary to put themselves first, whether it be in terms of a sexual relationship, career-wise or even in a family setting."

The role of Boniswa also drew on her own experiences - "There is a certain strength or toughness in the personality of the character which I think that perhaps most township girls share."

Despite losing her mother at a very young age, Mahola had an excellent role model in her father.

"My father did the best he could under very difficult circumstances. I love him. Nomvula (the title track from her band's current album) is indeed a tribute. It is a 'thank you' to the people who brought me into this world."

"That said, I think it is a universal song, even though it contains very specific details about my life. There is something in the mood of the song that people really connect with, regardless of whether they speak isiXhosa or not."

Sung in isiXhosa and English, the lyrics of Mahola’s songs range across the emotional spectrum, but they are always relevant to people's lives. Zithande, for example, tackles relationships and HIV/Aids. And it's something that Mahola feels very strongly about.

Zolani Mahola"It hurts that people are disappearing. It hurts that kids cant be kids any more in many situations - that they have to take on and see things that no child should be exposed to. It hurts that a woman can be faithful all her life and be infected by a husband who clandestinely has multiple partners.

"A lot of it is sore," says Mahola, "but I believe that people are becoming more aware, and with the greater availability of anti-retroviral medication, we can only hope for the best."

"The Treatment Action Campaign is one organisation that has done a lot of work on destigmatising HIV/Aids, on gender relations and on challenging government to make treatment more available to our people."

"It is important that all of us get involved, from government to businesses to the entertainment industry to mothers taking care of children orphaned because their parents were infected and died."

The reality of South Africa, its sorrows as well as its joys, infuses the music of Freshlyground – and that is what has earned the Mahola and the rest of the band their loyal fanbase.

"I take a lot from people,” Mahola says. "As Brenda [Fassie] once sang, umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu, we learn humanity from those around us, they help to make us real in a way."

In 2015 Mahola decided she wanted to get in better shape.

Zolani Mahola"I've always had a strange disconnected feeling with my body," Zolani admitted.

Since the death of her mother, Zolani put on weight and somehow never felt the excess kilos.

"I kind of felt like a teenage boy most of my life while looking like a roly-poly tomboy," she says.

Then, there came a point where she started to feel the weight she was carrying around, and she decided to take some serious action.

"I felt like my outer should reflect my inner for a change."

Zolani made some drastic changes to her diet before taking on any serious exercise.

"I went on a radical diet, cutting out heavy carbs, fats, wheat, sugar – all the good stuff – and ate lean natural foods steamed or grilled," she says.

She also had a ton of help from the Internet.

"I did consult weight-loss sites a lot on my journey. I got quite obsessed. I guess I had to," she says.

Zolani MaholaZolani works out regularly – three or four times a week, with a combination of running and boot camp. But, starting out, she needed to phase in her workouts gently.

"I upped the exercise gradually as I felt stronger and lighter," says Zolani.

"My favourite thing is combining cardio and weights because it's a complex workout," she says.

All in all, Zolani says she dropped the first 20 kilos relatively painlessly.

"I had a lot of weight to lose and when you have a lot to lose like that it actually goes quite quickly in the beginning."

"So the first 20 kilos went by joyfully and I loved jumping in the scale and seeing my progress," she says.

In the final analysis, she lost a total of 25 kilos.

Mahola and her husband, Nicholas, have two kids together - a 4-year-old and a one-year-old.

She and Nicholas had known each other since their varsity years in school. She recently shared how weird things became in her relationship when she started to become famous.

Zolani Mahola"I became famous while we were together in varsity, we went through that and it was very weird. And I must confess I didn't really know how to manage that initially. When people came up to me in the streets I would be like 'Woah! this is crazy'. And then people would want to have like a half hour conversation with me and Nicholas would be with me and I would just have those conversations and he would like just slowly walk away after a while." said Mahola.

So after a year, Zolani stopped engaging for long periods of time with strangers when she was with her husband.

Mahola also shared how she was the one who pursued her husband at first. She explained that she and her husband were part of a group of friends in school and for her, it was love at first sight, but not necessarily for him.

The actress/singer explained that her husband took a bit of a long time to warm up to her. She was the one who initially pursued him first but then let it go.

Mahola then managed to get her husband's attention again after they kissed one night.

"I sort of got him in a position, then he got away. We kissed one night and then the next day I was going to film Tsha Tsha, so I had to leave early in the morning but I was really excited 'cause I had kissed this dude whom I'd been after for all this time.

So when I got to the Eastern Cape I phoned him and he couldn't say a word on the phone, he could not say one single word, after that I thought well then, that's that."

Mahola then moved and dated another guy, when that ended, the two managed to find each other again and the rest is history!

She and Nicholas got married at a farm and they eloped when she was 8 months pregnant.

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Freshlyground - Nomvula (After The Rain)


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