Lira. You’ve no doubt heard the name before, but you can be sure that you’ve never heard anything like the South African singer’s latest release. Lira lays claim to a destiny that’s likely to see her confirmed as one of the greatest artists of her generation and a contemporary jazz artist of real substance. Everything about FEEL GOOD defies expectations – from the fact that Lira wrote or co-wrote all but one of the album’s 14 tracks, to the astonishing musicality that defines every song, the wide-ranging scope of the material and, mostly, Lira’s quite devastating vocal gift.In spite of the at times difficult journey she’s undertaken to get here, Lira has always had an unswerving belief in her destiny. “I didn’t grow up in a particularly musical family, but I remember one person asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said ‘Whitney Houston’.”
That was when she was growing up in Daveyton on the East Rand, a place that has played a pivotal role in nurturing Lira’s musical gift. It was there that she had her first musical outing and it was in Daveyton, at the age of 16, that she wrote her first song. “A few friends and I decided to enter a talent show – and we wrote a couple of songs and one of the songs I wrote, called ‘Let Me Be’, went on to win best composition and best performance. It was an epiphany for me – at that moment I realised that I could express myself creatively through music and that people got it.”
In spite of performing as a group and continuing writing songs, Lira went to the Vaal Technikon where she majored in Financial accounting and Auditing. It wasn’t long before she had met some guys who ran a studio and, in exchange for doing their books, she was given studio time. “That is when I produced my first two songs ever,” Lira recalls.
At this time Lira had been working full time but encouraged by her mother, she took the decision to leave her job. “I matriculated when I was 16 and so I was still young and I really needed to follow this dream of being an artist.” Two weeks after she left work – early 2000 – she met Arthur. “They were looking for an R&B artist and so I took the opportunity to join 999.”
Lira began traveling with the 999 artists and recorded an album (2003’s ‘’All My Love’) but after a few years, she left this part of her career behind and returned home …meeting up with Victor Mngomezulu (a keyboard player) and Tshepo Sekele (a bassist), two of her key creative collaborators on FEEL GOOD.
“It was amazing hooking up with them – they gave me the space to be free and creative and could execute the melodies I had in mind for the songs so easily. What you hear in the songs is exactly the essence of the three of us.”
Working with Robin Kohl at Jazzworx proved to be another inspired step for Lira.