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South African music star Lira holds a number of things dear to her heart – her career and her fans being two of them.
It’s largely these aspects of her life that have led to Lira launching a book based on her career in the music industry.
After taking the plunge in 2003 and quitting her accounting career, the multi-platinum-selling star, who is considered the top adult female solo artist in the country, is celebrating 10 years of musical success.
The book aims to provide an insight into who Lira is and how she came to be where she is today.
But – and more important, it seems, judging by how passionately she speaks of it – she wants this book to be an inspirational guide to surviving in an industry that can embrace you one second and turns up its nose at you the next.
In a conversation with Tonight, Lira discussed her book and upcoming appearance at the Siyagiya Durban International Music and Cultural Carnival.
We began with her book, Making Herstory: Lira. “I was approached by Struik International about two years ago and at the time didn’t see a purpose for it.
“When my first decade came up, I found myself taking stock of this amazing journey and that’s when I realised this would be the one thing I could write about.
“It’s really more like a how-to: how do you build your confidence? How do you get over the hurdles of life? How do you structure your finances in the music industry?
“How do you run your business – not necessarily that you have to start a business – but how do you run your career like a business even if you are just an individual musician?”
Co-written with Clyde Meela and Lira’s husband, long-time business partner, producer and manager, Robin Kohl, Lira explained her choice to have multiple writers.
“I felt it gave perspective. I told my story from an emotional perspective. I could have just hired a writer to write it in the third person, but I needed to use my own words and express my own thoughts.
“I felt it was also necessary to recognise that the strength of my career and brand is because I have a great support system around me in terms of family, musicians and business partners. This industry can be incredibly lonely and what made a big difference for me is that I’ve always had support.”
The book will also reflect on her trials and tribulations in the industry. Lira says she thinks the biggest fear for musicians is not being able to make it financially.
“I felt the biggest perception was to survive the times when you are not making any money and how to start working towards building your finances. It’s not that we don’t work, but I have always felt musicians are bad about handling money.
“When things are going well, they splash out. It’s about being mindful that you don’t know what tomorrow holds.
“Today, start planning towards the future. This is something no music school will teach you, but life will teach you in a hard way.”
Lira’s also big on soul – and I’m not talking about music. When she ditched her accounting career, the risk was for self-preservation’s sake.
“I go into detail about this in the book, but the best way I can describe it is that I felt unfulfilled. I think I was terrified at the idea of living the rest of my life in a space that did not make me happy. I was 22.
“You are working at a job you don’t like, eventually you don’t appreciate the income and just get stuck in a rut. I thought, ‘This can’t be life’. I wanted more passion in my life.”
One of the basics of the Lira formula is self-acknowledgement: “Acknowledge that I’ve been working hard and deserve a piece of my own income to grow myself.
“People are so happy to push themselves so they can pay their bills, but don’t push themselves so they can save. If you don’t do it, if you don’t look after yourself, who will?”
Having just wrapped up her First Decade concert in Carnival city at the weekend, Lira is set to perform at the Siyagiya Festival in Durban this month.
“I love that I’m at a stage in my career where I can create, think up new ideas and know that I can execute them and my fans trust me to give them their money’s worth. Ten years is not a small thing.
“I recognise that it’s amazing that in this day and age when artists come and go, I’ve been consistent, probably for the past eight years, and it’s really been a blessed journey.
“I will make the best of that hour I have on stage (in Durban). It’s always high-energy, always inspiring, lot’s of energy, good vibes and happiness.”
Other artists in the line-up at the festival on December 16 include Hugh Masekela, Salif Keita, Madala Kunene, Sazi Dlamini and Zakes Bantwini.
• Tickets for Siyagiya: R150 to R350 at Computicket. For information on Lira’s book and other performances visit www.misslira.com.