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Lira had an exceptional 2010 – becoming the first South African artist to release a live music concert on Blu-ray and selling multi-platinum numbers of her live DVD.
Now, early 2011, sees the multi-award winning artist return with a brand new studio album that’s nothing short of extraordinary – and a fitting calling card for Lira’s much-anticipated breakthrough onto the global music stage.
Titled RETURN TO LOVE – Lira’s fourth studio album is a masterful record that draws together everything that Lira has worked for since she first embarked on her music career – at first tentatively with her 2003 debut ALL MY LOVE and, from 2006’s FEEL GOOD onwards, with mounting confidence in her singular abilities.
Lira’s triumph at the 2009 South African Music Awards, where she won Album of the Year and Best Female Artist for the 2008 record, SOUL IN MIND, and subsequent multi-platinum sales of her second two records and her LIVE IN CONCERT – A CELEBRATION DVD (2009) proved she had the voice, the songs, and the performing ability to strike into the hearts of South African music fans.
But one listen to RETURN TO LOVE and it’s clear that over the course of her first trio of albums, Lira was only just beginning to reveal her musical gifts.
“I was very focused on defining the ‘Lira’ sound even more, with this album,” Lira says of the vision behind possibly the classiest – yet infinitely accessible – record to come out of South Africa in a long while. “I wanted to send this out into the greater musical world with a real solid, really refined sound that is unmistakably my own.”
In this quest, Lira, and her producer as well as primary co-songwriter, Robin Kohl, have succeeded handsomely.
If comparisons are to be made, there’s a real feel of Sade’s earlier work, in Lira’s scorching, soul-filled vocals. And yet the subtle sense of her South African roots that flickers throughout the material, along with Lira’s unique vocal stylings mean there is nothing copycat about RETURN TO LOVE.
“It was always my feeling that I don’t want to be boxed into being a particular kind of artist,” Lira says with the quiet emphasis of someone who knows precisely what they desire. “On this album, too I didn’t want to be restrained in what sounds we included on the album so there is some funk, ragga, urban, traditional African sounds, and, of course, plenty of soul.”
At 11-tracks, the album finds its lyrical footing in all the things that Lira loves – from dancing to singing, being introspective, loving others, philosophising, and stirring people’s consciousness. “I love to dance. I love to love! I’m a romantic. But I also like to be contemplative,” she says.
Standout tracks are hard to pin down.
Whether she’s writing about the relentless tug of heartache on ‘Call Me’, or the plaintive plea for answers in a world that’s lost its way (“Money and greed cast a shadow on the sun/Yes, I see it burning up the skies”) on ‘Abba’ or the need for individuals to take charge of their live on ‘Get Into Action’, Lira’s words have a force that few can match. Other album highlights include ‘Mali’, with its Bossa and Mbaqanga mix, as well as ‘Phakade’, which has all the hallmarks of a wedding song, along with the more somber, ‘Be My Friend’.
With a lineup of live shows that will keep her calendar full throughout the coming year, significant international interest in her work, and an album that’s as good as anything released internationally, Lira’s ready to deliver yet again to her loyal fanbase – and take on the world.