Lira: Building her international career

Following dates in America, Europe and across South Africa, multiple award-winning songstress Lira brings her ‘Captured’ tour to Cape Town for one night only.

*First appeared in the Cape Argus “Good Weekend” of 2011/ 10/23.

Lira: Building her international career

It wasn’t intended that way, but next Wednesday is be a divisive night for Cape Town’s music lovers. The indie kids will throb in unison at the Cape Town Stadium as they chant along to Kings of Leon’s “Sex On Fire” while, over at the Grand West Arena, the urban soul slicksters will be crooning in delight as Lira does “Rise Again” and new hits off “Return To Love”. More’s the pity that very few South Africans in either fanbase are likely to know – or care – about the other concert, but that is not the remit of this interview. Rather, it’s a rare chance to speak to the jet-setting Lira, real name Lerato Molapo, as she prepares for an even rarer live show in Cape Town after bringing her “Captured” tour to Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein and Durban.
“I’m so excited about this show,” says Lira from her hot-seat at Johannesburg’s Jazzworx studio, which she’s borrowed to host a series of telephonic interviews. She’s had to race across town to make it in time but, ever the epitome of chic composure, she’s as cool, calm and collected as her TV spot for Shield would have us believe she always is. “I’ve been able to come down to Cape Town for a Kirstenbosch show, or the Jazz Festival, but never with a full Lira show, because that is such a mammoth undertaking. It takes so much work, in terms of resources and time, to put together a specific tour but now, after playing it all over the world, I’m so proud to bring it to my fans in South Africa.”
Her tour received warm reviews across Europe and North America where she is focusing on launching a new collected album as an introduction to new fans. The show features a five piece band with three backing vocalists and four dancers, and will culminate in a DVD recording at the Sun City Superbowl at the end of October. Lira is no small thinker there either, with the recording being billed as “the biggest DVD production ever captured on African soil”, and including contributions from “superfans” in each city who will film backstage and off-stage contributions for the follow-up to her platinum selling debut DVD “Live In Concert: A Celebration”.
“It’s all a mammoth undertaking, but it feels good,” says Lira. “The Cape Town fans can expect songs off ‘Soul In Mind’ and ‘Feel Good’, with lots of new things from ‘Return To Love’. It’s an inspirational and uplifting show that gets big but, somehow, also stays quite intimate. Inasmuch as these shows are played in a room that is big, there’s a way that people say, afterwards, it was also personal and intimate. To be honest, I have no idea how we do it, but people say that’s what they feel and, I guess, it comes from us trying to be true to every song, to really honour what each song is about. At some points it’s very energetic; at some points very still and, at some points, it’s noticeably emotional. It’s quite a journey.”
The multiple South African Music Award Winner (Best Female Artist, Best Music Video, Best Adult Contemporary Album, Album Of The Year, Remix Of The Year and Best Selling Download, amongst others says she has truly “found her sound” on the new album, “Return To Love”. Hailed as “possibly the classiest – yet infinitely accessible – record to come out of South Africa”. It also forms the backbone of “Rise Again”, a career-spanning album that will be released in the USA as part of Lira’s 2012 campaign there. “I hate to use the term, but I suppose that it is a ‘Best Of’, but I am in pursuit of an international career, and this is an introduction for new listeners,” says Lira. “At the beginning of next year, we have a 60-day tour that plays 45-venues across the entire North America to further promote and market my music on that side – so wish me luck!”
Inevitably, when taking her music to a new audience – and with the continued growth that she is enjoying across South African audiences – the issue of labels and labeling comes up. “I have never much cared for that,” she says, “But it becomes necessary if you are being shelved in a shop, or are up for an award. I refer to my music as Afro-soul. It is soulful, and it’s got those beautiful African elements too. It’s there in my look as well: we celebrate a lot of things that are urban African.”
Lira performs in Cape Town for one night only, on Wednesday 26 October at Grand West Casino (7pm; tickets R130 – R260 from Computicket.comor 0861-9158000 and at Shoprite/Checkers).*First appeared in the Cape Argus “Good Weekend” of 2011/ 10/23.

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