South African singer Lerato Molapo known to the world as Lira is a platinum selling, multi-award winning musician who has had career defining moments like lending her voice to Disney, singing on the same stage with John Legend, Alicia Keys among others and performing for the late Nelson Mandela and former US President Barack Obama. Josephine Mosongo spoke to the star.


You recorded your own version for Disney’s mega hit Moana "How Far I’ll Go", how did that happen?

Disney approached me because they wanted to do an African version. It was a huge honour because they could have chosen anyone in the continent but they settled on me, it was a big deal.


How did it feel to perform a song written by Lin Manuel Miranda, world renown composer and creator of the Broadway musical Hamilton?

He’s done amazing work, and to think he is a hip hop artiste. It was also exciting that he got nominated for an Oscar. But for me, just the idea of doing a song for Disney and that it would actually end up in the movie was amazing to me.


You got a lot of flowers for your birthday (14th March), you really love flowers?

I love lilies. I actually have an organic garden at home, and the whole garden is medicinal and edible.


What else did you do for your birthday?

I had brunch with my girlfriend and when I got downstairs at the restaurant, I found a little forest of flowers that my husband had organised for me with yellow (my favourite colour) balloons. He also surprised me with dinner with my family. I didn’t think that they would make it because it was in the middle of the week. I love fine dining and we went to a wonderful restaurant where we could have five course meals with paired wines, I love that kind of thing.


Fancy. You also create art?

I do, when I was younger I thought I would be an architect because I’ve always been good at art. But when I went to high school I wasn’t allowed to take art which was very bizarre. They said that the class was full so I ended up taking accounting instead. But I still do it as a hobby.


You have had so many memorable firsts in your career like The Live in Concert: A Celebration, was such a huge moment in your career, what do you remember most about it?

I’m always pushing African excellence. I want to push whatever that was thought impossible for us. At the time, in 2009, there was a camera called the RED digital camera and we used 13 of those. There was no other production in the world that had used those specific many cameras in one production. We even had to import some into the country. The only other production that has used as many or more is the movie The Hobbit.


That must have been very expensive, did your management foot the cost or did you?

I had to put money into it too. The record label said, ‘no, we have never spent that much on one production,’ but I told them I didn’t want a mediocre production. I wanted a world class product reason being I needed to be able to send my product anywhere in the world and know that it could speak for itself. I put my money on the table and told the record label ‘this is how much I’m willing to invest in myself, what are you guys willing to do?’


It is a good thing it paid off then

Now it’s like the norm. Compared to what I paid the first time, artistes are now paying way more. I think we (South Africa) influence the live concert production for African artistes. We set the trend.


Which other memorable moments come to mind?

Performing for Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama was amazing.


According to Forbes Magazine, 2015, you are one of the richest female artistes in Africa worth over $35 million (Sh3.5 billion), how accurate is that?

I think that’s pretty much my worth but it’s not money sitting in the bank (laughs) but I have amassed something that I’m very comfortable with.


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