The sounds of African drumming mixed with loud voices were somewhat cheerful and harmonious in the background when South Africa’s multi-platinum artist Lira answered her phone for a 10 minute interview to give an inside scoop of her itinerary of her upcoming January 23 performance at the SOBs Club.
“I am sorry about the noise” Lira said apologetically “I am here at Soccer City stadium where the 2010 FIFA World Cup Championship was held in South Africa. I am rehearsing and making final preparations for my performance at the kick-off of the 2013 African Cup of Nations which began Saturday in South Africa.”
Though, she suggested for us to reschedule the interview for later that evening due to bad reception, sound distortion and technical interference with our phone connection, she nonetheless capitulated to my insistence that we proceed with the interview. This is what she said
When talking about great South African artists and musicians, the first people that come to mind from my perspective are Hugh Masekela, the late Lucky Dube and Miriam Makeba. Where does Lira fit in that equation?
Lira: Lira is following in their steps hopefully. You know Miriam Makeba was a huge influence on me just in terms of what she achieved in the world, as she started the movement of making the world aware of whom we are in South Africa and our plight as native Africans and she received a global stage. For me she really paved the way in many ways, so now I get to just share my music with the world with greater ease in what she experienced. So I’m young and up and coming but definitely following in the footsteps of such people. I think I’m one of the faces of my generation right now.
What was the motivating factor that got you into music?
Lira: To be quite honest, when I was growing up experiencing a little of – you know growing up in apartheid South Africa, we grew up listening to another American soul music.
You know it gave people a comfort or gave them an escape into a world that was better than what they were experiencing and music seems to be a medium for people to express their feelings that they could not speak for themselves and this touched me already as a child. I mean, just watching some of my uncles and aunts… some of the pain that they were going through. And, that’s really what I was trying to do to capture the spirits or the feelings of people and portray them in songs. Already as a child I wanted to do that.
Where in South Africa were you raised? Give us a picture of your upbringing in South Africa
Lira: Johannesburg. So it’s in the Metropolitan area of South Africa in the townships. Typically growing up in the townships it means that all the people from the rural area come to the city looking for work and as a child born in that environment, it means typically, any child at the age of 4 already speaks about 4 languages and that was the kind of upbringing that I received very intercultural and we spoke multiple languages, very metropolitan, very urban African.
Normally, I do not like to categorize music but what is Lira’s sound or what do you call your sound?
Lira: It’s true, I also don’t like to categorize music because I like to have the freedom of expression but for the sake of clarity I will call it Afro Soul. And it is really a mix of R&B, a bit of funk, a patch of jazz and some Afro Soul. And, of course the use of African languages is the part that is more Afro Soul.
For people who are not familiar with your music, what is Lira’s discography like?
Lira: Yes, I have released 4 CDs – two live CDs and two live DVDs in the last 10 years so it has been a good one for me. I have released about an album every two years, it’s really been fruitful for me and I have really enjoyed my career.
You have a couple of songs called Hamba and Phakade that I like. What are you singing about in those songs?
Lira: The song Hamber is a song about a woman who’s really had enough of the pain and hurt that she’s received from her partner. And, sometimes you know particularly women, I think we stay in very bad relationship because we don’t believe we can get anything better and the song basically speak of self love and it says when a person do not treat you well you got to recognize and have enough love for yourself to walk away from them so amber means to go.
And Phakade is a Zulu word which means eternity, it just really encapsulate that old school kind of pure love and it is love in eternity.
Tell us more about your current projects, what are you working on? Do you have any new material out any new album?
Lira: I’m gonna spend 2013 working on a new album but in 2012, I actually released a live DVD which is called the Captured Tour and it’s been doing very good. It was Africa’s first concert film and so it just so exciting, it is a two and a half hour project I’ve been promoting? And, I’m looking forward for it to be released in the United States any day now.
You will be performing at the SOBs Club in New York on January 23, tell us more about that performance.
Lira: The last time I was at SOBs was in 2011, so I’m looking forward to a performance in 2013. We got some new materials to share with the people and of course I continue to promote the album called “I rise again.” So people can look forward to some good vibes, some soulful music.
Is there anything else you want to say before you go?
Lira: I think that’s it, um I’m gonna be performing for one of Barack Obama’s inauguration on the 21st and that’s initially why I’m coming to the United States. And, I thought while I’m there let me stop in new York and perform for my fans. So I think of course it is a huge honour as an African artist to come to perform for Barack Obama, we consider him a great icon and I think as an African we are celebrating one of our own. I look forward to performing in Washington on January 21st and in New York on the 23rd
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