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New and Next: Meet Afro-Soul Singer Lira

The South African singer says she fills the same musical space as Lauryn Hill.

ESSENCE.com’s “New and Next” column spotlights the brightest new talents we think you should know. This week we meet South African multi-platinum Afro-soul singer Lerato (“love” in the Sesotho language) Molapo, aka Lira, who recently released her debut American album, Rise Again. 

Who is Lira?
I’m a South African singer/ songwriter with four albums under my belt. My strength is really my performance. I love connecting with my audience, so I will say I’m a dynamic performer. A lot of people might have seen me performing with Hugh Masekela at the World Cup. I’ve had a really successful 10-year career in South Africa and now I’m looking to spread my wings. My music is uplifting, empowering and it’s conscious to a large degree. I tend to focus on the positive because I think there’s enough negativity in the world.

Who she sounds like: We would venture to say Lauryn Hill based on the fact that there was some thought and consideration into her music. We’d also say India.Arie, and a little bit of Jill Scott. What she says: “I just think we fill the same space musically. I’m influenced by a lot of old-school R&B. Growing up in apartheid South Africa, songs like ‘Someday We’ll All Be Free’ resonated with me because they were songs of hope and love. They made me want to be a musician.” 

On her U.S. debut: I’m super excited. I came here and did five shows last year, but none we were completely sold out. A lot of people that came to my shows were like, “I was just free” or “I was just passing by, but honey you’ve turned me into a fan with your beautiful, uplifting messages.” I earned a lot of fans in the process. That’s why I released Rise Again because people were like, “Give us the music.” I’m aware that it’s going to be a slow journey to be known in the States and that’s perfectly fine. It feels like for the past 10 years I’ve been climbing this mountain and I get to the top. And then I find myself at the bottom of an even bigger mountain. That’s what this U.S. debut is for me. I feel like I’m starting my career all over again.

Lira’s debut American album Rise Again is out now.

Watch her concert video for “Rise Again” and let us know what you think: