An Interview With Lira
Just Curious readers have no issues with expressing their true feelings. A search for Afro-soul singer Lira on the JC site will get you an abundance of colorful commentary. Someone wrote “Lira yena she is not gifted as a singer” Ouch! Lira’s response to the detractors “It’s perfectly fine. I know that will exist. We all have different tastes. And to that I say: clearly I’m not talking to you then and its ok.”
To be honest, I‘d listened to a few of her songs here and there but never an entire album. Could she really be as bad as some of the negative comments made it seem?
With her album “Feel Good” set for a US release in early 2012, it seems Lira; born Lerato Molapo is on a mission to take over the world. Signed to the same talent management firm as the Black Eyed Peas, her 5 track EP (a short album) was released in the US on July 26th. Notwithstanding the faulty sound issues and talkative crowd, sista girl brought the house down with her rousing vocals during the New York City show. She can SANG!
During our interview the “Hamba” singer was unapologetically forthcoming and vulnerable- at one point even becoming emotional, her eyes filling up with tears during a particularly taboo subject.
Lira’s fans in South Africa hold a special place in heart. However, the title of her biggest fan belongs to her husband, producer and business partner Robin Kohl. On the difficulty of working together she says “I find it’s a healthy balance. Very often when we are in a work environment, we are very professional but we will steal moments to be lovers. I don’t see how I could have my career and have a relationship if I didn’t work with my husband. I’m never home. He’s my biggest fan and it’s special. I’m very blessed to have found someone like that”
In the January issue of True Love Magazine the multi-platinum selling singer stated her intention of an international takeover. She emphatically tells me “It’s always something that I’ve always wanted to do; it just took this long to be ready, to be mentally in the right space”. As confident as the songstress maybe she readily admits that her nerves may have gotten best of her on the inaugural night during Philadelphia stop. “I just came from a European tour that had thousands of people. I was coming into a small venue and I’m mentally ready for all of this but I was nervous. I wouldn’t say I was in my element but I grew into it.”
Acknowledging the risk she was taking with starting a new chapter she confesses experiencing a brief stint with self-doubt. “In my head I was like I am starting something here. I have tasted success back home and here I almost feel vulnerable. I’m starting from scratch here. What if they don’t like what I do? There are a lot of things that go around here. People tell you you’ve got to look a certain way, sound a certain way. I’m just me, I’m not selling American culture, I don’t know American culture. I’m just selling music”.
As a Zimbabwean, I had to get Lira’s view on the often-contentious battle between Zimbabweans and South Africans. I have never understood xenophobia and I was hoping she would help shed light on the touchy subject. Her eyes brimming with tears she answered, “It was one of the most heartbreaking things to have to see black people turn on black people”
As she speaks her tears don’t appeared forced, this issue seems to have genuinely affected her. I pause the recorder for a second and allow her to continue with her thoughts. “Our biggest enemy before then was white people. And we’ve had to forget about all these things and create peace amongst the people. Now suddenly we could that to our own. It was unbelievable, people were burned. My issue with South Africans is we are very apathetic; we resent people for doing their best to survive. I was hoping that people would understand that the people that perpetuated this were on a very base level, these are people on a grassroots level that had their own struggle. No sane person would react that way”
It wasn’t all serious talk with Lira, I asked her to reveal little known facts about herself and she says she is a “quite ghetto” I love that! Fabulously ghetto she calls it. And did you know that when she is on the road she listens to Professor’s album on her IPOD? Displaying her take-charge nature she recounts the story of how she gave an impromptu performance at the David Tlale show at the JHB fashion week in February. Astounded by the tardiness of the designer she remembers thinking “We came here yesterday. It’s like the day after and we are still sitting here. People were getting edgy and complaining. We needed to do something to entertain not only ourselves but the crowd as well” She recalls how she took the mic and asked the DJ to play a song- any song and used the moment to have a little bit of fun.
Here is my take on Lira:
Radiant, talented and beautiful she is the real deal. Her spirit is what really captivates you. Did you know that she helped her gardener recently build a 3 bedroom house? As if that weren’t amazing enough, she is taking her 2 maids children to private schools. How can you not admire that? As testament to her success, after appearing in the flick Italian Consul, Lira has been inundated with scripts even turning down 3 movies because the roles were “too similar.” Sure, things are great for the singer, actor and writer but she has had her fair share of ups and downs.
Regardless of whether or not you dig her music, you can’t deny her voice. If international stars like Shakira, Susan Boyle and Dave Matthews can have global success then why not Lira? In my opinion Lira will pick up where Miriam Makeba left off, rejuvenating interest in African music in the US and around the world.
By Makho Ndlovu ©
New York Correspondent