Selected by: James Keith

Name: Zakhar

Where He’s From: North London

Genre: R&B/Alt-Soul

File Next To: Nino Uptown, Kamal., SIPHO., wewantwraiths

When He Started: “I made my first song when I was, like, 9 years old with my brother at home, but I was just a kid at that point. But in terms of when I made my first song, when I told myself I was going to take it seriously, that was in 2019 when I was around 14. It was an Instagram rap freestyle that I posted about my ex-girlfriend at the time and how I missed her and stuff.”

Sounds Like: “I feel like my sound is very authentic. It’s real. A lot of people tell me that I have a certain tone to my voice when I sing that really sticks to them. I’m not even sure I’m able to describe what genre of music I do because my songs can range from a ballad, Adele and Justin Bieber-type song to an Afro/NSG-type song.”

First Music That Inspired Him: “To be honest, I don’t even remember what the one song was that made me want to make my own music, but I remember in Year 9, one of my favorite songs at the time was Pressa’s “Canada Goose”. From there, I kind of embarked properly on my journey.”

Strictly speaking, Zakhar’s melodious, unassuming songs would best described as R&B or maybe alt-soul, but his knack for big, heart-melting hooks (e.g. latest jam “Lights Out”) betray an artist who’s studied the classics and understands the nuts and bolts that make an infectious hook stay with you. That, he tells us, comes from an early and comprehensive education at home, where genre boundaries were roundly ignored. “Growing up, I used to listen to a lot of pop music because all of my aunties have good voices so I was always around very musical people,” he says. “My memory is bad so I don’t remember what songs I used to listen back in the day, let alone what song I listened to this morning, but I used to be a crazy Justin Bieber fan and I remember always hearing some JLS around the house.”

While all this was going on, Zakhar had a somewhat distant relationship with his brother, that is until they discovered they’d been making music separately and decided to join up in their makeshift bedroom studio. Soon, he was harnessing the power of Instagram (and later TikTok): “I posted a little snippet of me rapping, just before I was about to leave my house, ready to get on the coach to Italy for a school trip. I remember the excitement I felt when people were sharing it around on their stories.” Emboldened, he started booking time at a studio in Wood Green, and before long he was enjoying the viral success that brought him to a lot of people’s attention.

Zakhar’s reluctant to describe himself as a “TikTok artist”, but he wouldn’t deny that the famed TikTok of him dueting with a girl holding a wooden spoon is where a lot of us first saw him. His apprehension when it comes to that label is understandable; there’s definitely a stigma surrounding artists who came up via the app and, most importantly, he’s done quite a bit more besides creations and duets. This year alone he made his debut with “Never Hiding”, and then with “Lights Out” he hit even bigger. A soaring epic that should have, by rights, smashed the charts up, you can be sure there’ll be a long line of artists and labels queuing up for a guest verse, a hook, or some of that magic penmanship to guild their next hit.

Still, the 17-year-old is only two singles deep, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Impressively, he seems more keenly aware of that than anyone else. “The journey of my career has only just started and I’m a million miles off the end goal,” he says. “I think the proudest achievement I’ve had this year is just being being thankful for where I am right now. A lot of people dream of the stuff I’m doing right now and it’s truly an honour to sit in a room full of incredible creatives and watch them all create in their own unique way.”

For now, to Zakhar’s credit, he’s managing his expectations and keeping the goals sensible. Success is no doubt on the horizon, so he’s smart to keep a level head. “My next big goal for this year especially is to do at least one headline show,” he adds. “I think the biggest blessing in music is to be able to stand on stage in front of however many tens, hundreds or thousands of people and watch them sing their heart out to songs that you put your time and your pain into, and knowing that it’s your creation that they love.”

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Posted on May 08, 2022