CAREER IN MUSIC
Lira learns from past for future success
The Afro-pop superstar struggled at first to find her voice in a highly competitive field — but her first break changed everything, writes Edward Tsumele
Afro-pop superstar Lira says one of the roles that musicians must play is to bring people together.
She shared the stage last weekend at the Reconciliation Festival with Afro-soul vocalists Zonke and Zahara, and multi-award winning group Micasa, among others.
"Music remains a platform to address social situations," she says. "The festival showcased a mix of various cultures and, by its nature, music brings people together," Lira says.
"The most important thing is that people need to be the change they want to see."
She started her professional career as a musician in 2002 when she was signed to 999 Music. She struggled initially to find not only her voice, but also space in a competitive field — and only succeeded in doing so after the company gave her her vital first break.
"I am very grateful for the experience I gained at 999 Music. I had to learn from the challenges. I faced them. That was my university, I spent two years at 999 Music and learnt everything I needed to know about the music industry. I built a business model from what I learned. I am so very grateful to Arthur Mafokate, the founder of 999 Music," Lira says.
Her musical journey so far has been fascinating and quite inspirational to many musicians as she faced down several challenges before building a solid and successful career, and
the brand Lira, that keeps on growing.
Born Lerato Molapo in Daveyton, Johannesburg, she began performing live at the age of 16, singing cover versions and songs she had written.
She studied accounting and bartered her skills in exchange for recording time at a studio, where she made her first demo at the age of 18.
She worked in accounting for two years before chucking that in to follow her dream. But she created a five-year plan for her music career soon after she resigned from work.
Her first album, All My Love in 2003, won several awards and shoved Beyoncé’s single Dangerously in Love off the local charts. Her 2006 album, Feel Good, launched her global career and she used the opportunity to champion Africa.
She has appeared on the cover of several international magazines and in 2015 was listed by Forbes Magazine as one of the wealthiest female singers in Africa with a net worth of more than $35m.
Lira says there is no big secret to building a successful music career.
"You just keep on working. Luck arrives for people already working on something. Work hard and stay humble. Keep going and keep the focus.
"I strive for excellence. I pride myself on elevating how we see ourselves as Africans and pushing my own boundaries."
Lira adds that it is important for musicians to understand that music is a business like any other business and, therefore, it is important that they understand that it is their career.
"We have seen artists that came before us and were compromised because they never understood the business," she says. "We need to learn from the past as established by others and choose to do better. After you have been exploited the next logical thing is to rise and do better and be better."
She is managed by her husband Robin Kohl, and says that this presents no difficulties because they know how to separate business issues from family life.
"It is all one big fat soup. We do it with ease," Lira says. "He comes from a family where the family works together. It is second nature to him. His parents work together.
"We find a nice balance. When we are home we enjoy being romantic."