The power to achieve…
by Sheldon Rocha Leal
A lot of people are afraid to ask for what they want…that’s why the don’t get what they want. Madonna (1992)
That is one of my all time favorite sayings. People are generally either not confident enough or too apologetic to be successful. The result is that many people sit on the sidelines watching others being successful and being resentful of their success. In South Africa this problem is even more pronounced as our culture almost dictates that we are not allowed to show our success or that we should be apologetic of what we achieve.
I have met many of South Africa’s talented musicians and recording artists and have had the pleasure of speaking to them and gaining an understanding of the method of their madness. Everyone has a story, but of all the people that I have met, the one that has impressed me the most is Lira, the Afro Pop artist.
Lerato Molapo was born in Daveyton in the East Rand. She started performing at the age of 16 and was inspired by some of the worlds most incredible soul singers: Miriam Makeba; Stevie Wonder; Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone to name but a few.
She studied accounting at UNISA when she graduated from high school and was eventually discovered by Arthur Mafokate, who signed her to 999 Productions, his own company. Arthur is also known as the king of Kwaito, one of the biggest selling genres in South Africa.
She released one album through 999 productions, All My Love (2003) which received acclaim in the South African music industry.
After she left 999 she started recording at Jazzworx and this is when I met her. Jazzworx is an amazing recording studio in Randburg in Johannesburg. Some of the top urban recording artists have recorded their albums at the studio. The studio is owned by one of my old music student buddies, Robin Kohl. At the time I first met Lira, she had attained some success with her first album, but was not the Lira we now know. I was busy recording an album with a friend of mine RJ Benjamin.
She eventually recorded her follow up album at the studio: Feel Good (2006).
What really blew me away about Lira at this fledgling part of her career was her focus. RJ Benjamin and his band, of which I was a part at the time, used to rehearse at her office and I used to constantly see Lira working on the side while we rehearsed.
One day I went over to her and asked her what she was doing and she told me that she was working out her accounts…every cent was accounted for in her budget. I was blown away by the focus and the discipline. She also had such a clear understanding of her brand and the direction she wanted to take.
Fast forward a few months and Feel Good was released. The success the album attained was unprecedented. The next thing I knew her song was used in a major summer campaign for MTN, a South African cellular mobile provider. Her name was being used all over the place. She was performing with some of the biggest talent, not only in South Africa but in the world.
Since then she has won various awards including 10 SAMA awards, she has performed around the world, she has released 4 studio albums, 2 live albums, 1 greatest hits album and even published an autobiography of her life.
That being said, it has never affected who she is. She is still the same humble Lira that I first met trying to get her career on the road in the early 2000's.
Last year I was busy completing my Masters degree in Music Business and I asked if I could interview her for my study. She gladly obliged and off I went to her magnificent home. In the interview she had the same drive, discipline and attitude with which she started her career. I was surprised that she had not lost her vigor after all she had gone through in the ensuing years. She conveyed to me that many people forget that the music industry is just that…an industry and that it needs to be dealt with as such.
She conducts her brand as a business and she knows that she has an audience with needs to which she needs to cater, whilst still remaining true to herself and her brand.
It was so refreshing to hear her speak in this way. Many successful artists either start believing the hype or the story that they have created and lose focus of what needs to be achieved. Not Lira, she knows what she is about and she knows what she needs to deliver. She even pointed to her bakkie parked on the outside of her house and told me, that, that was all she needed.
Just last week I saw Lira again and she was busy working on new music. I was excited to see her excited about making music and excited about researching new sounds and genres.
Lira is an inspiration and a testament to the fact that if you want something badly enough you are able to achieve it, with the right discipline, dedication, focus and passion for what you do, whilst never forgetting where you came from, because if you are not true to yourself and what you do, no one will believe in the product that you create.