In pursuit of her very own sound

Afro-soul songstress Lira swings into spring brandishing a brand-new release — a second DVD recording featuring concerts filmed at Sun City, in Durban, Cape Town and Jo’burg. With seven releases under her belt, the Black Entertainment Television international award nominee delivers her finest songs and, surprisingly, cover versions of Phil Collins and Sade songs. Titled Lira: The Captured Tour Concert Film, it also features a peek into the process behind a Lira show.

How has your music transformed over the years?

There were a lot of influences coming in from everywhere; there were a lot of global trends. Some things resonated and some things did not. Music started getting very sexual; old music used to be classic and timeless and those values started disappearing. So all of these things didn’t really resonate with me because I wanted something that would connect with people in the long term. Coming from a post-apartheid environment, I think it is important to promote healing and build something that will be our own.

So many artists are adapting to American styles. What inspires you to stick to the Afro sound?

Through the years it became important to find a distinction, something I would call unique and South African. The more I go into the world and try to infiltrate the global market, the more it becomes evident to me that it is important to stand out. I also find that my background of African languages influences my English compositions to some degree. The way we construct our language is almost poetic, but in a very distinct way.

How do you feel about your generation of artists?

My biggest questions for my generation of musicians are: What is our story, what is our legacy, what are we trying to build and say? We were brought into an age where our people were free, but we did not know what to do with this freedom. To me that freedom was becoming all I could be — imagining what was possible and pursuing it. And that is what I did.

How are the sales of the Captured Live DVD doing?

It’s been out for a month and we are almost at gold in terms of the sales, which is exciting. I have been doing signing sessions at music stores to get closer to the fans, so I will be moving around the country again.

How did you experience being nominated for the 2012 Black Entertainment Television awards?

It was an incredible experience being in the BET this year, sharing the red carpet with superstars and the country [United States] being filled with excitement. I wore a South African outfit and with that I made the best-dressed list. I was the first non-hip-hop act to be nominated as the best international act. I felt like I was breaking new ground, so the trophy was less important than the fact that something new had happened.

What can fans expect from you at the Arts Alive Festival alongside the likes of Thandiswa Mazwai and Vusi Mahlasela?

Jazz on the Lake is one of my favourites and I used to attend it with my parents while growing up. My last performance [at the festival] was truly memorable for me, so I’m very excited to be going back. One of my favourite things is that it’s a family event; my younger fans get a chance to see me. I have had the pleasure of doing a European tour with Vusi and Thandiswa, so I know them well and I have great respect for both of them. I think we are a very beautiful ­combination.

If you had a chance to work with any artists, who would it be and why?

I would love to work with John Meyer, John Legend and Sade. The thing I admire about Sade is that it doesn’t matter what happens in terms of global trends, she is true to who she is. I appreciate the fact that she is so feminine and so timeless and free.  

Jazz on the Lake takes place at Zoo Lake in Parkview, Johannesburg, on September 2 from 11am. Website:

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