Lovin’ Lira

2011-02-05 00:00

LIRA’S dream is to become a globally-recognised African icon. And the singer is well on the way to achieving that.

In an article in Fair Lady this month, Lira (real name Lerato Molapo) revealed she’s planning to try and crack the American market in March with concerts in Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles, and the release of her new album Return To Love, which went on sale in South Africa on January 31.

But the singer is keen to stress that what she considers most important is painting an image of a contemporary African success in the wider world.

“I think I have values that have been instilled by my African upbringing that the world can learn from,” Lira says. “Also it is important for me that the world sees ‘us’ as something other than ‘poor troubled Africa’… I’d like to have them see something beautiful, inspiring, unique and African when they look at me.”

Not that she’ll say no to having success in the United States, which she says would be a step closer to achieving her dream of winning a coveted Grammy award.

Return to Love is Lira’s fourth studio album. Produced by her husband, Robin Kohl, it is described as a record that draws together everything Lira has worked for since she first embarked on her music career — starting with her 2003 debut All My Love, through 2006’s Feel Good, to the award-winning Soul In Mind, which earned her the album of the year and best female artist awards at the South African Music Awards (Samas) in 2009.

Asked to describe the record in her own words, she says: “I think I have changed as a person and so that translates in the music. I’ve become wiser, more confident and more comfortable with who I am. The music reflects my personal growth.

“The songs that make up Return To Love are soulful, upbeat and well crafted. I didn’t want to be restrained in what sounds we included on the album so there is some funk, ragga, urban, traditional African sounds, and, of course, plenty of soul. My favourite track is Mali [money in Zulu]. It is a fresh take on the subject and a very fresh groove which mixes mbaqanga and bossa … I love it.”

It’s been 10 years since Lira first made the decision to quit her day job in accounting in favour of a career in music, and she laughingly admits that she sometimes feels a need to pinch herself to check that it’s not all a lovely dream.

“It’s been a long process for me to get to this stage of my career, but I don’t think I ever considered it would be at this scale. It’s an awesome feeling … one that never goes away,” she said, adding that one of the most amazing moments in the past decade was having the chance to share a stage with Hugh Masekela at the World Cup kick-off concert last year.

“There was a sea of people in that stadium; the world had come to our continent, our country, to Soweto, and I was a part of this amazing moment — singing the song of one of my biggest icons [Miriam Makeba’s Pata Pata] with another living icon … It was surreal,” she said.

 

• Firstly, it is a difficult industry — not for the faint-hearted. So be clear on why you want to be in this industry.

• Secondly, what do you wish to contribute? The answer to this will help you stay focused through the tough times.

• Thirdly, there’s no real formula. You find ways of getting yourself out there and you learn to do whatever it takes without losing your sense of self. Some decisions might be a means to an end, but never lose focus and keep at it until you get there!

• Lastly, practise lots of patience — the journey is slow and painful at times, but the rewards are great and fulfilling.

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