The first thing you notice about Elo Zar is her big and bold hairdo, which she wears like a pink crown.
“I admire the character in the colour pink. It’s bold and soft, all at the same time,” she explains. Her music is pure quality with a touch of class, and she’s carved out a lane for herself with her debut album Surreal So Real.
The tracks are easy to get into and quirky enough for you to remember – it’s timeless-sounding pop. She might not be the strongest vocalist around, but her sensitive approach to her music more than balances that out. Elo Zar seems to be an artist who contemplates life.
The Soweto-born-and-raised singer grew up with the sound of music in the air. “I was exposed to jazz, R&B, House music and kwaito.” At church and school she was part of the choir. “Music was also freeing and allowed me to escape from daily troubles, so it had my heart. I started singing and writing songs in high school with my friends and I was inspired to perform by Relo [Refiloe “Relo” Makhubo] of Skwatta [Kamp], who was my senior in school.
“Music nagged my soul when I was studying and working a nine-to-five job. I was a backup vocalist for Vusi Nova and I just got to a point where enough was enough, I had to take a leap of faith.”
Elo Zar has been at it for more than five years and she says this journey of living her dream has taken time and a lot of money. One of the biggest obstacles she’s had to overcome was “getting over myself. Self doesn’t play a big role when serving people and I’d like to do that – serve.”
She describes her music as being an eclectic crossover. “On paper, it’s alternative and electronic, but I hate choosing a genre because I believe I can do whatever I want. My sound is evolving all the time.” Her visuals are edgy, with the video for Be It being particularly provocative. “It’s interesting that the world tends to define who and what African artists should sound like – I don’t like stereotypes. Africa gets art and we too can do whatever we want. No need to prove how African I am, my birth certificate is evidence enough. Music is a world and it’s adventurous.”
She says she draws inspiration from life and her desire to remind people that they are lovable. “Self-love is a struggle for all of us at some point and I believe we should be reminded and supported to be different and to stay different. Identity is, after all, a journey.”
Among her musical muses are artists such as Thandiswa Mazwai, Lira, Crash Car Burn, Chianosky, Major Lazer, Laura Mvula, Petite Noir and Nakhane. She has also collaborated with indie heavyweight Petite Noir, Solo and a producer called Laco. “I’d like to write music for other artists and work with Nakhane and Bongiziwe Mabandla.”
*Elo Zar’s music is available on Google Play, iTunes, Apple Music and Spotify.