“Our Ladybrille Woman of the Month feature is one of our most highly coveted features, as it should be.
This month, we celebrate the absolutely gorgeous LIRA, Africa’s multi-platinum award winning artist who is now positioning herself for entrance and success in America’s music industry and mainstream. As it stands, the music industry in the USA has experienced a fundamental shift (with) its economic and business model as a result of the digital age. Indeed, the industry and its professionals have now unleashed time and resources to better understand the digital revolution and most importantly how to stay relevant and viable, especially from a record label perspective. For Africa, the digital age has created a democracy and access for usually ignored artists to place their musical works directly in front of millions of fans, online. African artists can now set up their new media and social media platforms to attract and connect with fans, as well as sell their music through e-distribution/digital stores like Itunes.
For some of Africa’s leading artists like TuFace, D’banj and LIRA, it has meant allowing America’s music executives and insiders to really pay attention to the strong traction garnered by these artists online. For example, LIRA, our Ladybrille Woman of the month, currently has over 320,000 fans on Facebook, almost 40,000 followers on Twitter and her music is actively sold online at numerous music stores including Itunes.
Against the backdrop of America’s current music industry; and with such strong compelling statistics, a beautiful voice and overall highly marketable strong personal brand, we are convinced that Lira could most likely be a name that propels the new generation of African artists into mainstream America. Enjoy her exclusive interview with Ladybrille Magazine. In her interview, Lira shares with Ladybrille’s Editor-in-Chief Uduak Oduok, her vision for her music, her plans for the USA market and much more.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Lira, first congratulations on your accomplishments in South Africa’s music market and now your push into the USA market. I know you have been looking for ways to enter the USA market in the past and the timing seems perfect now. How are you feeling?
LIRA: I’m excited following my short US tour. I was very well received and it eased my nerves a bit. I know there is still much to be done but the success of my first US tour has given me more confidence.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: First things first, why aren’t you modeling or do you model in South Africa? You’d make a great model? You are gorgeous!
LIRA: (Laughs)Thank you. I do model in South Africa, I enjoy it very much!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Hi Lira! Before we get into your music, our audience might have seen or read a few features we have done on you but could you really tell us who you are? What was your favorite childhood memory growing up in South Africa?
LIRA: I’m a singer, songwriter, model and actress based in Johannesburg South Africa. I have released 4 studio albums, one live album and also released Africa’s first full HD DVD concert. I also released Africa’s first Blu Ray disc which has become the highest selling Music DVD title in South Africa. I enjoyed the energy and buzz of my township. There are people moving around all the time, as well as children playing in the streets… I found it inspiring!
LADYBRILLEmag.com:There is something refreshingly unique about South African music. How would you describe your particular sound?
LIRA: My music combines Soul RnB jazz, funk songs sung in English and a combination of 3 native languages. I call it Afro Soul.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: I know Lira is a household name in South Africa. How recognizable is the name in equally large music markets like Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana?
LIRA: I’ve performed in Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana before and enjoyed great reception. I have also been nominated in all African based award shows such as the Channel O awards and MTV Base awards alongside artists from all over the continent. This has helped breed familiarity. (Lira’s ‘Phakade’ video just earned her ‘The Most Gifted Female Video’ at the just concluded 2011 Channel O Music Video Awards)
LADYBRILLEmag.com: (We) have seen many foreign artists attempt to make a breakthrough into US mainstream music market. Their efforts have been futile so far, especially for African artists. What do you think you bring to the table that is different?
LIRA: There is never a guarantee. However, I’m confident in the team that is working on my US launch. We have an extensive tour planned across all of North America, accompanied by loads of PR. We are doing our best and doing things one step at a time. I think it will take time but I’m willing to do the work.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Given what mainstream America is listening to right now, what kind of success do you anticipate in the US market as you prepare to go full court press on your publicity campaigns?
LIRA: I’ve always catered to a niche market, I’ve just been fortunate to have received massive support back in South Africa. I’m not a top 40 act but for me it’s about finding my market and developing it over time.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: We have seen a few West African artists, Nigeria’s D’Banj included, negotiating and signing music deals with local American labels here. What are your thoughts on these moves?
LIRA: I have been offered deals by some labels that have launched successful careers of musicians that are in the Soul RnB genre. I have opted not to go with them because of the nature of the deals proposed. I feel I want to grow where I am and I don’t want to be limited or too tied down. I do look forward to a deal that can be mutually beneficial, I would go for such an opportunity.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What are your thoughts on Award shows like Museke’s Afrotainment Awards and Nigeria Entertainment Awards which have or are now creating visibility for African artists in the USA?
LIRA: I think it is exciting. We need all the support we can get. I think everyone knows how difficult the US market is and I guess such awards want to make a positive contribution to the process.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Let’s go back to your music. How did you discover the specific sound and style you currently create?
LIRA: I was influenced by a lot of American Soul music from the 80’s and 90’s, especially because there was so much of it around when I was growing up. I heard songs from Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Anita Baker and so many more. The elders would play this music night and day. It seemed to me the music was giving them words for things they were feeling but could not articulate. I found this to be very beautiful. I wanted to be able to do the same thing; make people feel that they could express their emotions when my music played.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Do you write your own music?
LIRA: Yes. I’ve written all but one of the songs on all four (4) of my albums.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What inspires your writings?
LIRA: I’m mostly influenced by observing people going about their lives. I’m also inspired by my own life experiences. I’ve noticed that some of my perceptions are influenced by my South Africa upbringing, which is the experience of apartheid, the transition into a democratic government and then having to figure out what to do with our new found freedom.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Speaking of new found freedom but from a music angle, you have been signed to Sony Music in South Africa for a while now. Why did you think they were the right fit to launch your music career?
LIRA: At the time of recording my second album, Sony understood my personal vision and believed in me. It was incredible to find a label that wanted to enhance me, not control or change me. I’ve had complete creative freedom. I have had complete creative control over all my albums, they have trusted me to do my thing and have been supportive. I’ve enjoyed working with them.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: (That is great to hear.) Let’s talk about your LP. I know you just dropped your EP. When do you anticipate your LP will be ready?
LIRA: I’m busy finalizing the mixes and the artwork. We will have it in the US market by February 2012.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Okay. I always ask this question because I feel many artists do not necessarily think about this part. You release your album in a new market. What happens next?
LIRA: I’m staying for four (4) months promoting it and touring throughout North America. I feel I need to be present in the US to support its release.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: (I agree.) What drives you to do music? What makes you wake up each day and say, people need to hear this music inside me?
LIRA: Initially it was because I wanted to bring a feel good element to music and I wanted to inspire people. I come from a township when you get older life becomes quite desperate. I felt there was so much negativity out there that I did not want to add to it. I found that my attitude literally brought me good fortune. I wanted people to feel good while listening to my music and that’s exactly what happened. That’s why I still do it. It’s incredibly fulfilling.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What African artists inspire you and your music?
LIRA: Miriam Makeba from South Africa is at the top of my list. She remains our greatest African global icon.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What kind of collaborations have you fantasized about and with whom?
LIRA: John Legend and Lauryn Hill are my ultimate collaboration fantasies. John Mayer is another. I love the beauty and simplicity of his compositions.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: (I love all your choices. I am a fan of all three, especially Lauryn Hill and John Mayer.) For your LP, What do you hope your fans take away from your music and album when it drops?
LIRA: I hope they’ll feel great when listening to it. I know life is tough and the global economy places people is an uneasy space… my music brings messages of hope, comfort, celebration. It’s meant to make you feel good through all of life’s trials and tribulations.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: How does it feel to be celebrated, by Ladybrille, for your brilliant contributions to music and also putting South Africa on the world music map?
LIRA: Thank you very much for the honor, I have enjoyed this interview and I hope I can continue to make you proud.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Thank you Lira.
LIRA: Thank you!!
LISTEN TO LIRA’S ‘RISE AGAIN,’ LATEST HIT SINGLE OFF HER EP