Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Day I Met Lira - arguably the best African songstress

I don't remember who first introduced me to Lira's music. Maybe, I introduced myself to it while getting content for Museke.com. I do know that I've been a fan of her and her music from day one. I also remember my bestie Phelele used to talk about how beautiful Lira was. Real African music connoisseurs would say the same about her music. Through dealing with various artistes as part of Museke, I got to know Lira better and even interviewed her. It was a Q&A (online) one, I didn't meet her in person. Last week, I did meet her in person for the first time. How that happened is a story I wish to tell. :-)

Two of the 4 CDs I normally play in the #vimride are Lira CDs. The Return to Love album and the Celebration Concert album. My favorite Lira song used to be "Wa Mpaleha" but after a steady dose of listening to her music, it's been replaced by "Ngiyazifela". I sometimes put the song on repeat 27 times straight. (I used 27 because South Africa's country code is +27 :-D) I especially love the Concert album, it's a live recording of a concert Lira had, so you can enjoy her melodies, the band's music and the crowd's manifestations. I wondered when I would finally get the chance to see Lira perform and meet her.

Before I traveled to South Africa to attend the World Economic Forum amongst other things, I emailed my friends and network in South Africa to gauge when and if we could meet as I was going to be there a whole week. I emailed Lira as well. I wanted to meet her in person, for lunch, dinner, something and talk about her music career, etc. She finally responded saying she wasn't going to be in Johannesburg the days I would be there and that she would be there at the South African Music Awards. I hadn't thought of going to the SAMAs but once I realized that was the only chance for me to meet Lira, I started looking for tickets. I talked to various people I knew in the South African music industry but unfortunately the tickets were sold out. I was prepared to go to Sun City (in Rustenburg), 2.5 hours drive from Joburg to attend this and stay there overnight with my friend Eyram. I eventually got the promise of a ticket from Alex of MTVBase (yeap) but I decided not to attend the SAMAs because of hotel room availability and a renewed wish to spend as much time in Joburg.

So I would have to meet Lira some other day. I had told Lira I would be attending the World Economic Forum event on Africa in Cape Town. I knew Yvonne Chaka Chaka would be there. Lira did tell me she'd be there but would be in and out. I only read the email properly a couple days ago and missed seeing that before I was in South Africa. I was enjoying #WEFAfrica very much, meeting famous Africans, including Yvonne Chaka Chaka herself, and having a long conversation with her on Thursday, May 9th. Later that day, there was a cultural soiree hosted by the South African government for the #WEFAfrica attendees. I attended it late because I was meeting a cousin of mine for the first time and one I didn't even know until this month. When I arrived at the soiree and was doing a walk of honour greeting the attendees, one of my fellow African Global Shapers was trying to tell me what I had missed. "Alicia Keys, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Justin Bieber have already perfomed", Elvis said. I could believe the Princess of African Music bit. Justin Bieber was in Cape Town that day but since I missed seeing 2727 screaming female beliebers outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre, there was no way I was gonna be a believer of Justin Bieber performing for these African dignitaries and more. Justin Bieber was cause for more traffic in the Mother City than the heads of state of the Mother Continent. Alicia Keys? Brother please! No way on table mountain was she in town.

I finally found a table to join and some food to eat. While having a serious conversation with Bousso from Dakar, the emcee for the soiree was welcoming Lira to the stage. Thinking about that again makes me well up right now. I couldn't believe my ears. What was she doing in Cape Town? Is this really happening? Am I going to meet Lira tonight? Am I going to meet Siyabonga's crush? Ayobanesss! Lekker neh? Lira (Lerato) Kohl (nee Molapo) was on stage performing all the tracks. Eventually, I hit the dance floor and before I could show my dance moves, I was taking pictures of the star that was shining so brightly. Can you believe she started doing some 2-by-7 azonto? I broke into my own azonto moves, validating my Ghanaianness and stole the dance floor for a few minutes.

After her performance, I introduced myself and she remembered me. I wouldn't say I was surprised by that, Lira and I go way back lol. I took some photos with her and bought a DVD and a CD - The Captured Tour. 150 Rand ( +$16) worth. She signed the DVD for me and we took many pictures together. When some of my fellow African Global Shapers said they didn't believe I knew Lira (most of them didn't know she was unfortunately), I asked Lira to tell them what my name was. "Oh, this is Ato!". Verification. :-) Let's also say that after meeting Lira that night, I killed off all ideas of attending the SAMAs :-)

I don't know why I didn't know what her name Lerato meant, but I found out that night because one of the Global Shapers was called Lorato. Turns out Lerato means "love" in Sesotho while Lorato means "love" in Setswana. Lovely! You can tell am captivated by Lira's music and love it very much. I was captured in 2008. This weekend, I started listening to the Captured Tour CD. You should go grab a copy, it's a heavenly celebration of music. Like I kept and keep telling all who would hear, Lira is the new and present Miriam Makeba. She rocks!
The following Sunday, I was at Eyram's house watching the SAMAs as once planned. It looked like a great show but I wasn't disappointed I wasn't attending. After all, I had seen Lira perform earlier. And here she was performing again at the SAMAs like she said she would. Causing me to tweet this ;-)

PS: You should check out Phakade (lyrics translations), Believer and Feel Good. I also love her rendition of 'Something Inside So Strong' sung by Nelson Mandela as well as her special birthday song for Madiba.
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