It is an honor to have so many friends around the world. Among them are many persons who live on the continent of Africa. There is such a wealth of music, art, culture and history it makes African sociology very interesting. Over the years, I have really enjoyed the music of South Africa. Thinking back several years I remember my father introduced me to the music of Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. I also grew to appreciate the musicianship of master guitarist Jonathan Butler. Each time I heard one of their performances it reminded me of how music unites people even though residing thousands of miles apart. Many years have passed since my introduction to South African music and many musicians have made the trek to the international stage. One more South African star has brought her own gift of music to the US. Lerato Molapo, better known as Lira, has released her first album in the US market after almost ten years of success in South Africa.
If you are familiar with Lira’s music, or perhaps you have seen her on one of many magazine covers, more than likely you have developed an appreciation for her music. Nevertheless, if you have not heard her music, please take a moment to look for and listen to her album “Rise Again”. Many times when I mention an artist unknown in the US mainstream I am asked, “Who does he or she sound like?” I do not like to answer that question because I feel that an artist has a musical identity of their own, and therefore some part of their performance sets them apart from any other musician. While many may compare Lira to Jill Scott or Lauryn Hill, I would not make such comparisons and allow you to make your own judgments on her sound. In a recent interview, Lira described her music as Afro Soul. I think I can accept that category title. Lira’s success in South Africa includes winning four South African Music Awards among many other nominations and awards and music that has topped the charts since bursting upon the scene in 2003. Lira’s talent level is unquestionably great, of which the awards and critical acclaim are testimony. The larger question that looms is why Lira chose to release an album for the US market at this point in her career. I choose to explain it with a question: Why not?
Many artists from the US have great success selling music in the South African music market. Lira should have the opportunity to bring her music to the US along with other artists from around the world. I do not mind having more choices of music and I am sure most of you reading this commentary feel the same way. Is Lira gaining notoriety in the US? Definitely! Because of technological advances and social networking, Lira continues to gain a large fan base here in the US and other countries outside of South Africa. If you are a musician reading this commentary and wonder if you should try to expand your audience globally, just remember the sensational South African singer, Lira.