lira singer south africa jazz music interview the voice perkolate online

July 2016. Story and interview by Marelise Jacobs. Cover: Lira and Zoe Modiga at Bassline. Photography by Dieter Bertram.


It was a night to remember. The crowds started gathering at 19:30 and by 20:30 Bassline was packed. While Nicky B of Kaya FM entertained the growing audience we made our way to our seats at the back of the club. There was hardly room left to stand but the people kept on coming. This was a night many people had been looking forward to.


A few minutes to nine signaled the end of Nicky's set and it was time to introduce the opening act. Some knew the name, some didn't. One thing is for sure, not one person in the audience at Bassline on 25 June will ever forget the name Zoe Modiga. With a powerful voice and magnetic stage presence, she quickly had the crowds in a frenzy. Easy going and comfortable on stage, she knows how to grab and keep the audience in the palm of her hand.



“...If I did not keep pushing myself to do more, I'd feel lifeless...” - Lira

Nicky B came back for a second set while the musicians got themselves ready for the main event. Clad in all white, the band consisting of Lwanda Gogwana, Tseke Malatji, Victor Mngomezulu, Franco Mannel, Kent Smoke and Leagan Breda got the crowd ready while a projection was playing images of Lira on a big screen. One could feel the anticipation building in the air.


And then she was there. Lira appeared on stage and immediately had the whole club mesmerized. Beautiful, tall and talented she started her show with a few fan favourites, among others Labi Siffre's Something Inside So Strong which the audience sang along word for word. A fitting tribute since Labi celebrated his seventy-first birthday on the 25th of June.

As Lira moved from one song to the next, she talked about the stories behind the songs from her newly released Born Free album. There was goosebump moments galore when she and Zoe sang Let There Be Light, a powerful and beautiful song. With music pumping through the air, the beat and bass of Listen was another song that gave this writer new insights into what live music really should be like.


The common thread throughout Lira's show was joy, happiness and the message that you can be the light in your own life, and in the lives of others. At the end of the show Lira was called back with deafening applause to do an encore which lasted almost half an hour. We just couldn't get enough. Wishing the show would last just a little bit longer I had to remind myself that I needed to get backstage after the show is over. It was surreal to think I would soon be interviewing this amazing musician.


The show came to an end and I met Lira backstage. I was struck by how friendly, and even more beautiful, she is in person. We talked about her new album Born Free, the first to be produced by her own record label. Asking whether she would consider signing other artists to the label she said right now there is just not enough time, and looking at her hectic schedule that's easy to understand.

"I think the human spirit actually thrives for growth and expansion... it feels natural for me. If I did not keep pushing myself to do more, I'd feel lifeless. I know I'm uncomfortable with being comfortable."


About her time on The Voice, Lira said that the opportunity came just at the right time. She had long been part of the corporate world and wanted to be in a position where she could mentor fellow musicians, people who are already working and grinding in the music industry. The Voice is a positive show Lira said, and also the only reality show she follows on television.