Cover girl Lira graces the front of the September 2012 issue of Women’s Health SA.
(Image: Women’s Health SA)
• Robin Kohl
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Award-winning songbird Lira is set to wow the world – she’s received a request to perform at President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration ball on 21 January 2013.
Lira, who was born Lerato Molapo in Daveyton, east of Johannesburg, is no one-hit wonder – the singer was discovered in 2000 and since then has been raking in the awards.
For the past three years the Afro-soul diva has been working hard to break into the US market through a distributor and publicist in Los Angeles, and her first US-aimed album, Rise Again, was released there in June 2012. Rise Again contains popular songs from her previous South African releases and was preceded by a five-track EP to whet the appetites of American fans.
“It’s incredible,” she enthused in a radio interview. “I can’t absorb the reality. I’ve been getting so much support on Facebook and Twitter, and I feel like the luckiest girl I know.”
This is not the first time Lira has sung before a presidential audience – she’s performed for former president Nelson Mandela, and incumbent Jacob Zuma.
Lira’s manager, her husband Robin Kohl, said that she’ll sing at an African themed ball – one of several events planned to mark Obama’s second term of office. He was as excited as Lira, describing the gig as “massive”, and saying that the international exposure will do wonders for her career.
“This is an amazing opportunity. The ball will be televised by networks from all over the world,” said Kohl in an interview.
Lira confirmed that she had been approached three weeks ago by the US embassy in South Africa, and since then the two parties have been working out the logistics of the performance. Until she received the green light from Washington, however, she was unable to mention her big news but has now been given permission to spill the beans.
“I don’t have words,” she said.
Homegrown talent to wow the US
Lira is not the only South African who will grace the stage on the big night.
She’s jetting off to the US in the company of acclaimed three-menber house band MiCasa, and the veteran Hugh Masekela, who needs no introduction as he’s known and loved all over the world.
The Grammy-nominated trumpeter will perform at a separate event also held to mark the swearing-in of Obama for his second term.
MiCasa comprises frontman and guitarist João “JSomething” Fonseca, trumpeter Mo-T and Dr Duda, an experienced producer and club DJ.
The band has been nominated numerous times at both the Metro FM Music Awards and the local equivalent of the Grammys, the South African Music Awards. At the 2012 edition of the latter, they walked off with three big accolades, including dance album of the year, group of the year and record of the year.
“You are worthy ambassadors of our local music, and you’re living proof that South African music and South African musicians are among the best in the world,” said arts and culture minister Paul Mashatile at a farewell ceremony held in Johannesburg for the artists.
“Go out there and make us proud. You leave with the best wishes of a South African nation, proud to claim you as their own.”
The classy Lira, who is signed to Sony Music Entertainment – Africa, is famous for having displaced none other than American superstar Beyoncé at the top of the local singles charts with the title track from her 2003 debut album All My Love. Her subsequent albums have all been best-sellers – Feel Good (2006), Soul in Mind (2008) and Return to Love (2011) – and have achieved platinum status.
She’s released two DVDs – The Captured Tour and Live in Concert, which is available for Blu-ray as well. It’s reported that Live in Concert, which has also been certified platinum, was Africa’s first music Blu-ray disc.
Lira is a popular choice for magazine covers including Women’s Health SA, and has been named a brand ambassador for Blackberry, Mac Cosmetics and Audi, among others. She’s known for favouring South African couture and is often seen in creations from Stoned Cherrie, Errol Arendz, Kluk CGDT and others.
She performed at the 2010 Fifa World Cup kickoff concert in June of that year, and the following month she serenaded Mandela for his 92nd birthday.
In June 2012 she was nominated for a Black Entertainment Television award in the Africa category, but lost out to Sarkodie, the Ghanaian musician dubbed the King of Rap. A few months later, in September, Lira was interviewed by National Geographic and appeared on the scientific and cultural institution’s website in its world music section.
As a young trailblazing African, an interview and clips of her performances were featured in the stereotype-busting film Africa Straight Up, produced and released in October 2012 by Africa.com