Lerato Mopalo – better known as Lira, her stage name – is a young South African singer born in Daveyton (Ekurhuleni) on the East Rand, in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The young star was born on the 14th of March 1979 in a township, and was faced with several of the harsh socio-economic difficulties faces by black South Africans during the harsh years of Apartheid rule. Nonetheless, the songbird was struck by the bolt of music, citing her greatest influences as being Miriam Makeba, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone.
By the age of 16, the young girl had already started performing live – she excelled at both covers and self-written songs. She was young, earnest and hard-working, and made sure that she devoted herself entirely to music despite being in difficult financial conditions.
Hence, she devised an idea to get herself some recording time at a studio; by offering her accounting services to the owner, she was given permission to record one demo. She was 18 by then, and well & truly keen to be a singer. After graduation, she remained in accounting for 2 years. But then, she quit her job and decided to go for glory!
She handed in her resignation letter and prepared a five-year plan for her budding musical career. She later said that she “hated accounting…wanted to become a scientist like Albert Einstein.
In 2000, she was discovered by musician and producer Arthur Mafokate, who decided to give her a contract with his label 999 Music. It was with them that she would release her debut album “All My Love) three years later. She garnered accolades at the Metro FM Awards, the South African Music Awards and Channel O Reel Music Awards. Her song was so well-received that it eclipsed Beyonce’s hugely popular “Dangerously in Love” within her nation’s borders.
By 2006, she had quit her old label and signed for Sony Music Africa alongside keyboardist Victor Mngomezulu, bassist Tshepo Sekele and producer Robin Kohl. She released her second studio album, “Feel Good”, in the very same year and was showered with plaudits, winning numerous awards and being nominated for many more.
Half-way through the following year, its title track became a radio sensation in Italy.
She released a 13-song LP dubbed “Soul in Mind” in 2008. She won 4 accolades at the following year’s South African Music Awards, the highest ever collected by any singer in its history. It was labelled platinum and later earned her the “Woman of the Year” title from South African Glamour Magazine.
In 2009, she began to make a compilation of her tours in a live concert DVD called “Live in Concert: A Celebration”. She employed 10 RED digital video cameras, the most in global history. She released it in 2011 as the first Blu-Ray in Africa, and the 9 million South Africans that tuned in to her show made her extremely popular. The DVD reached x3 platinum when it was released in November 2010.
In 2010, she took part in the kick-off concert of the biggest event in the world – the 2010 FIFA World Cup. There, she was part in aninterpretation of personal hero Miriam Makeba’s “Pata Pata”. Later that summer, she was invited as a guest singer to Nelson Mandela’s 92nd birthday celebrations. Her rendition of anti-apartheid song “Something Inside, So Strong” was telecast live in 3D to the ex-president, and it is lauded as one of the most powerful performances of her career.
In June 2011, Lira took to stage for the first time and was the supporting actress in an Italian film about child-trafficking in Europe. “Il Console Italiano”, (or the Italian Consul) premiered at the Taormina Film Festival, where she became the only African singer since Miriam Makeba to perform at Teatro Del Greco.
That was also the year during which she released her fourth studio album, Return to Love. Like everything she does, it was instantly popular with all of her listeners.
The following year, she was nominated for the “Best International Artist” award at the BET awards ceremony, but unfortunately, she did not manage to take the trophy.
On the 29th of April this year, she released another album – this time for American label Shanachie records – called Rise Again.
The talented young lady has become an ambassador for Audi, Shield, Samsung, MTN & Blackberry, and has appeared on major ad campaigns all over the continent. She has appeared on the covers of more than thirty magazines all over the world, and is considered to be one of Africa’s foremost stars in the music industry.
An avid believer in giving back to the community, Lira is heavily involved in grassroots projects in her nation, and also with several advocacy groups such as the Student Sponsorship Programme, which clinched her the Inspiration Award in 2011.
She is one of the finest voices in the continent right now, and her unique “fusion of soul, funk, elements of jazz and African” music have made her a premium-quality singer. Her energetic stage performances and dazzling presence on the stage have made her live-shows extremely popular, and her star can only rise.