File:Lira (South African singer).jpg
Background information
Birth nameLerato Molapo
Born1979 (age 41–42)
OriginJohannesburg, South Africa,
GenresContemporary R&BAfro-soulFunkJazz
Years active2003–present
LabelsSony Music Africa
Associated actsSimphiwe Dana, Miriam Makeba, Letta Mbulu, Hugh Masekela
WebsiteOfficial website

Lerato Molapo, known professionally as Lira, is a South African singer. She was born in Daveyton, on Johannesburg's East Rand 1979. Her name translates to "love" in Sesotho and she speaks four languages. She is a multi-platinum selling and an 11-times South African Music Award-winning Afro-Soul vocalist, who refers to her music as "a fusion of soul, funk, elements of jazz and African."[1]

Early life

Lira's world was shaped by the harsh realities of South Africa's formerly racial and socioeconomic apartheid. She grew up listening to Miriam Makeba, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone, who would eventually inspire her own songwriting. She began performing live at the age of 16, singing both cover versions and self-penned songs.

As an undergraduate student, Lira studied Accounting and used her skills to exchange for recording time at a local studio, resulting in her first demo at the age of 18. Upon graduation, Lira continued in accounting for two years. With ambitions to be a singer she turned in her letter of resignation and created a five-year plan for her music career.[2]


In 2000 she was discovered by musician/producer Arthur Mafokate, who signed her to his record label, 999 Music, and helped with the release of her debut album, All My Love (2003). The album earned her accolades at the Metro FM Awards, South African Music Awards and Channel O Reel Music Awards. The title track even knocked Beyoncé's single "Dangerously in Love" off the charts[3] The following year, she left 999 Music and teamed up with keyboardist Victor Mngomezulu, bassist Tshepo Sekele, and producer Robin Kohl, subsequently she was signed to Sony Music Africa and released her first major label album Feel Good (2006).[4] A huge success, it led to multiple nominations and wins at the South African Music Awards (SAMA).[4] In July 2007 the album was released in Italy, where its title track gained massive airplay.

In summer 2010, she joined a line up of artists that included Alicia Keys, Shakira, K'Naan and John Legend, at the FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Concert performing a rendition of "Pata Pata," a hit song originally recorded by the late Miriam Makeba. Later that summer, she was selected to take part in the 92nd birthday celebration of former South African president Nelson Mandela. Telecast live in 3D directly to Mandela, her performance of the popular Labi Siffre anti-apartheid tune and Mandela favourite "(Something Inside) So Strong" with the Soweto Spiritual Singers proved to be one of the most prominent performances in her career.[5]

Lira made her cinematic debut as the support lead in the Antonio Falduto-directed drama The Italian Consul (Il console italiano). In June 2011, the film premiered at the Taormina Film Festival in Italy, where Lira became only the second African vocalist to grace the Teatro Del Greco stage since Miriam Makeba. Lira stars opposite Italian actress Giuliana de Sio – as well as Edwin Angless and Anna Galiena, while the film centres on the trafficking of girls in Europe.[6]

According to The Star newspaper, Lira is currently considered the foremost adult contemporary female solo artist in South Africa. She has appeared in major ad campaigns and been an ambassador for Audi, Shield, Samsung, MTN and BlackBerry. She has appeared on the covers of more than 30 magazines worldwide.

In December 2011, she was named one of the "Five Unique Artists to Change Music in 2012" by Essence magazine.[7] In May 2012 she appeared in L'Uomo Vogue's "Re-Branding Africa" issue, featuring General Ban Ki-Moon on the cover, where she said, "We're a young democracy, and we're accustomed to an image of Africa as a place that expects outside help. We must instead take stock of our situation, become autonomous, find our identity and independence."[8]

She lends her time and resources to causes that matter to her the most. She remains active with and has received awards from various grassroots organisations, outreach groups, and advocacy programs such as the Student Sponsorship Programme – which presented her with the Inspiration Award in 2011.[9] She has also participated in numerous activities for The Southern Africa Trust.[10] In 2015, she was listed by Forbes Magazine as one of the richest female singers in Africa with net worth in excess of $35 Million. She is currently a member of the coaching panel of The Voice South Africa.

In early 2016 Lira was hand picked by Bobbi Brown Cosmetics to appear in their South Africa Advertisement campaigns shot in Johannesburg.[11]

Feel Good

In 2006 she released her first major label album on Sony Music Africa. Feel Good began making waves on the South African music scene.[2] The title track quickly became the most played local song at radio. The album earned her nominations at the South African Music Awards (SAMA) and became the first music video from a South African artist to be featured on VH-1.[12] The album was certified Platinum while the single received the SAMA Award in 2008 for most downloaded song.[13]

Soul in Mind

In 2008 she released the 13-track LP Soul in Mind. It went on to set a SAMA record the following Summer for most Awards won in a single year (4) by a single artist.[13] The album was certified Platinum.[14] Later this year Glamour Magazine South Africa named her "Woman of the Year."

Live in Concert: A Celebration

In 2009, Lira began assembling the makings of her live concert DVD. Filmed before a live audience at the Carnival City Casino, the production employed 10 RED digital video cameras – a first globally – and was released the same year. Nine million South Africans tuned into the concert’s telecast and subsequently the DVD reached three-times Platinum when it was released in November 2010. In 2011 a Blu-ray version was released making it the first Blu-ray to be released on the continent.[15] The DVD won the Award for "Best Global Chart DVD" at the 2010 SAMA's. It soon became the country's fastest and highest selling music videodisc in the Sony Music catalogue, replacing Celine Dion's No. 1 chart position for Live in Las Vegas; A New Day.[15] The soundtrack to the DVD released in October 2009 was certified Platinum

Return to Love

In January 2011 she unveiled her fourth studio album Return to Love. The 11-track set contained songs about hope, love and interconnectedness. Songs included "Call Me," “Abba," “Get into Action," "Mali" (a mixture of Bossa and Mbaqanga), "Phakade," and "Be My Friend", while incorporating sounds of funk, ragga, urban, soul and traditional African.[16]

Rise Again

On 29 April 2014 she released her debut American album, Rise Again (Shanachie Records), a 14-track LP featuring songs from her African catalogue, including "Feel Good" "Phakade" and "Rise Again."[17]

Jill Scott Concert, Johannesburg

On 13 December 2014, Lira was the special guest act for American Neo-Soul star Jill Scott, in a one-night-only concert in Johannesburg.[18]

Born Free

On 25 March 2016 Lira released her sixth studio album, Born Free, featuring songs such as "Rhythm of Your Heart," "Listen," Brave Heart"Let There Be Light" and "Be About It" exclusive for iTunes Africa [19]




  • "All My Love" (2003)
  • "Feel Good" (2006)
  • "Ixesha" (2007)
  • "Wa Mpaleha" (2008)
  • "Phakade" (2010)
  • "Rise Again" (2011)
  • "Mali" (2012)


  1. Joy Keys chats with South African Singer Lira 03/22 by Joy Keys. Blog Talk Radio (22 March 2011). Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Home of the African Music Fan. Museke. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  3. Lira South Africa´s Afro Soul Queen booking at Griot Template:Webarchive. Retrieved on 25 January 2013.
  4. 4.0 4.1 LIRA. ReverbNation (10 June 2010). Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  5. "Lira and Soweto Spiritual Singers tribute to Mr Nelson Mandela at Sony 3D world". YouTube (4 July 2010). Retrieved on 25 January 2013.
  6. Lira stars in The Italian Consul | South Africa. (20 May 2010). Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  7. JPG image Template:Webarchive. Essence (December 2011).
  8. Lira Template:Webarchive. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  9. Celebrating 10 Years of SSP – Print Version Template:Webarchive. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  10. Regional integration can build a better future for young people. (January 2011)
  11. Danielle James, "Bobbi Brown Sees The Beauty In Africa", Hello Beautiful.
  12. "Feel Good" by Lira | Music Video. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Lira – A biography.
  14. "Lira: Soul In Mind". Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Website Template:Webarchive. (26 October 2010). Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  16. Home of the African Music Fan. Museke. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  17. "Rise Again", iTunes Preview.
  18. link
  19. "Born Free", iTunes Preview.