Lira - Lira EP (2011)

Lira
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Whenever the opportunity arises, I like to scope out artists based outside the U.S. who have widely impacted their country’s pop culture. I was particularly drawn to South African R&B/jazz superstar Lira during the worldwide broadcast of the star-studded 2010 FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Concert from South Africa. Her rendition of Miriam Makeba’s signature piece, “Pata Pata” (“Touch Touch”), accompanied by jazz legend Hugh Masekela, was one of the concert’s highlights. Since her 2003 debut, All My Love, Lira (born Lerato Molapo) has emerged as a phenomenon in her home country and is the among the first female solo acts since Makeba to generate international media attention. The title track from her sophomore release in 2006, Feel Good, was the first South African charter to be played on the American VH1 cable network.

Whenever the opportunity arises, I like to scope out artists based outside the U.S. who have widely impacted their country’s pop culture. I was particularly drawn to South African R&B/jazz superstar Lira during the worldwide broadcast of the star-studded 2010 FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Concert from South Africa. Her rendition of Miriam Makeba’s signature piece, “Pata Pata” (“Touch Touch”), accompanied by jazz legend Hugh Masekela, was one of the concert’s highlights. Since her 2003 debut, All My Love, Lira (born Lerato Molapo) has emerged as a phenomenon in her home country and is the among the first female solo acts since Makeba to generate international media attention. The title track from her sophomore release in 2006, Feel Good, was the first South African charter to be played on the American VH1 cable network. Feel Good was released a year later in Italy to very popular response, helping to launch Lira’s movie career through a starring role in The Italian Consulate, a film featured at Italy’s Taormina Film Festival. In 2011, Lira set her sights on marketing her unique urban music mix to U.S. audiences.   

Lira’s debut U.S. release, The Lira EP, consists of two tracks from her 2009 Live in Concert: A Celebration and three tracks from Feel Good.  Her multi-faceted personality radiates throughout, accented with Mary J. Blige-like vocal shades. The title track rides on a jazzy laid back, mid-tempo groove with a subtle African flair that is all about wanting to be loved: “I want to hear I love you every now and then.” “Rise Again” clearly speaks out about how to survive life’s difficulties; set to delicious Spanish seasoned rhythms and Lira’s feisty scat break with acoustic guitarist Grant Tregellas.  Lira explores her playful side, especially on the chorus, with the cha-cha spiced “Dance of Life.” “Ngiyabonga,” a song of thanks and gratitude, is performed in Lira’s native Zulu with a tender, soulful touch. Lira packs some bluesy power, as in the case of “Crush,” illustrating those conflicting feelings of hope and confusion in a relationship.      

Overall, The Lira EP fully taps into the singer/songwriter’s vocal depth and proves why she is a certified pop icon back in her home country. In the meantime, Lira’s fourteen track project appropriately entitled Feel Good should be hitting the U.S. urban music shelves in early 2012.

Notable tracks: “Dance of Life, “Ngiyabonga,” and “Rise Again.”

Music:  4.0 stars
Lyrics:  3.0 stars
Vocals:  3.5 stars
Production:  3.5 stars
SoulTracks Call:  Highly Recommended

By Peggy Oliver        

 

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