Yup, another article kicking off with a 'Game of Thrones' reference. In this case, though, it’s completely justified. The gulf between the youngster who debuted on the music scene in 2009 and the Zahara of today is as wide as that between a traditional Disney princess and the 'Khaleesi' of George R. R. Martin’s imaginary world.
Zahara, who was born in Jaen but has been based in Madrid since 2012, has stealthily become something approaching a real pop star here in Spain. And she’s done so without resorting to family connections, despite the fact that she is Joaquín Sabina’s niece.
Nope, it’s all down to her maturing the bright, somewhat cutesy pop of 'La fabulosa historia de…', which even included the theme song for Spain’s 2009 'Vuelta Ciclista a España'. This freewheeling ditty featured the line “I’ve only seen planes leaving, I trust I’ll fly in them, some day…” A 26-year-old slip of a thing, but one boasting ambition and personality, not to mention a carefully curated look. These first numbers sounded fine, but Zahara seemed to be in search of a voice that was (more) her own. One that was heard to thundering effect in her second album, 'La pareja tóxica' (2012). Less flowery, bright and sweet and much bitterer, rawer and more honest: all about relationships, obviously. This journey to the dark side of love immediately won her a broader following, happy to sing along to lines like “Your amazing nights go hand-in-hand with my bleak ones, there’s no dignity in the way you look at me”, (from 'Camino a L.A.'). The (apparently delicate) Zahara took a step forward and, in her live performances, backed up her acoustic guitar with the support of a band. She was almost, almost a 'Khaleesi'. But the last stage of her transformation was yet to come. This would take place in Madrid, a city that welcomed her with open arms.
Her shows soon began to sell out at benchmark venues like But and Galileo Galilei. Her rise to the top was completed in 2015, when she released her third LP, 'Santa', under her own label, G.O.Z.Z Records, and it’s quite a declaration of intent. Zahara thus concluded her definitive transformation, delicately balancing the light and darkness of her previous albums, the result of her steely determination and self-confidence. Present and correct are both the poppy brightness of her beginnings and the indie darkness she acquired along the way, now joined by electronic arrangements and hints of the 80s. So, now the Mother of Dragons has well and truly arrived. She jokes with the audience (a sense of humour can be a powerful weapon, and she possesses a well-stocked arsenal) and leads her band masterfully, whilst her fans scream, get pumped up and go wild for her and her snapshots of love for the Snapchat generation. “It was no sin to kiss without knowing each other, it was a miracle they’ll never recognise”, she claims in Inmaculada decepción, one of the tracks on this “holy” album. This new Zahara, with her image more carefully-honed and powerful than ever, is even capable of organising her very own autumn mini-festival, 'La Santísima Trinidad': three different concerts in the same city, on three different dates, ranging from solo performances, accompanied just by her own guitar, to being backed by a full rock band. Asked about her influences, she lets rip a string of names that could make for a tasty Spotify playlist: Death Cab for Cutie, Beach House, Wilco… Go to any of her concerts, and you’ll see how see takes them in, embraces them and reflects them, all from the standpoint of her very personal sensibility.
So, is Zahara the great female star the current Spanish music scene needs? If you ask the legion of 'zaharers' crowding her concerts, the answer’s clear. And, best of all, she’s done so without following a predetermined, set script, but by simply being herself: a different woman at every point in time. “We not going to stop dancing, you’ll dance, blondie, for me. You’ve saved my life, again, today, without knowing it, without knowing it, without knowing it…” ('Caída libre'). Zahara/Khaleesi leads and her dragons follow.