Music, like a spectrum of color, is universal. From the first sound of a mother’s heartbeat that sets the rhythm of our lives, to a curated soundtrack to suit our moods, we all are affected by music no matter our culture or roots.
Music has the power to break down the barriers that language as a form of communication has inadvertently built. As international is it comes, South Africa’s Lira has surpassed the borders of geography with her music, spreading a message of self-love along the way. We had the opportunity to chat with the international spokeswoman and listen to her remarkable story, full of light and color, personified through her music.
1. How did you first become involved in music?
I auditioned for a small independent label in 2001, to become the first lady of Soul R&B in their predominant “Kwaito” genre stable. I was offered a contract on the same day and my music career was pretty much set in motion. I wrote all the songs for my debut album which was released in May of 2003 and the first and title single “All My Love” kicked Beyonce’s “Dangerously In Love” off the top position in the South African Billboard charts… this was the first time that a South African song had done this before.
2. If your music could bear a universal message to its listeners, what would it be?
There is a universal message of self-love, acceptance and being all you can be.
3. What inspires you to wake up every day and create?
Life is inspiring enough and I realize that life in South Africa and as a South African has influenced my outlook on life and the world.
4. You have very close ties to your home country, how does it find its way into the music you create?
It created much of my perceptions of the world. I grew up in South Africa in the time of apartheid and I formed an opinion of myself and the world based on that. The positive aspect of this, is that it is has created in me the desire to rise above limitation of all kind. I’ve become very determined and the content of my music has subsequently been primarily about self-love, acceptance and being all that I can be in this lifetime.
5. What was your experience like as a coach on The Voice?
Its been an exhilarating experience. It has been fulfilling to mentor such incredible talent as they work towards making their own dreams come true.
6. Your music has been described under the genres of Soul, Jazz, Funk, African and so many more. What would you describe your sound like?
Its inspirational soul music. I have often called it afro-soul because I also sing in three of my native Xhosa, Zulu and Sesotho tongues.
7. How would you define your own personal style?
Its simple, chic, African and elegant.
8. Let’s talk about Born Free. What was different during the creation of this album compared to your others?
I went through a process of recording my voices in my home office, where I do most of my songwriting lately. I then started mouthing most instruments and the album took shape without me necessarily intending it to go this way. I had also been contemplating the idea of “freedom” as it relates to our generation and all the songs became aspects of this idea. The theme was connected throughout the music and it was just an exciting creative process for me. When I met up with my producer, and co-composers we predominantly replaced the mouthed parts with real instruments, but in a few of the songs we kept everything I had done in my home studio. It gave the album some rawness and grit. The accapella songs also became a theme through out the album.
9. What does being “born free” mean to you?
Freedom to express myself, my creativity and the freedom to pursue my dreams.
10. What’s next for you this year?
I look forward to promoting the album with a tour throughout the world.
You can find out more about Lira and her global impact here, and make sure to keep an eye out for her upcoming releases.
Words by Pola Bunster for Prism Music Group
Photography: Djeneba Aduayom
Styling: Ferriss Mason
Makeup: Simon Rihana