THE VOICE LIRA
STEPS UP AS COACH
Singing superstar Lira Molapo says that being chosen as one of the coaches for the new TV talent contest The Voice SA is one of her greatest achievements because she can relate to the hopefuls she will be mentoring on the show. “When M-Net broke the news that they wanted me to be one of the coaches, I was excited simply because this is the show that is about to change someone’s life,” she says.
The Voice SA is the local version of the singing contest that began as The Voice of Holland. It has gone on to become a huge hit in more than 60 countries worldwide.
The series kicks off today on M-Net, DStv channel 101, at 5.30pm. It consists of seven episodes of so-called blind auditions, during which the coaches sit with their backs to the contestants and make decisions based on the performers’ vocal ability alone.
Despite the fact that some of the contestants are professional musicians, Lira becomes emotional on the show “because they remind me of how I used to knock around from one audition and competition to another, and how I struggled to get a record deal”.
She was famously rejected by Idols judges in the early stages of that competition.
“Some of these contestants were [also] rejected along the way. They deserve the exposure,” she says.
Lira is well aware that there are people who may not think much of her singing.
“It doesn’t bother me at all. People can say whatever they want about me, but they cannot take my success away from me – and people must remember that success alone is not enough,” she says.
Her positive attitude and hard work have helped her to make it big in the music industry.
“I am consistent and I believe my positive attitude and great work ethic helped me to be where I am today,” she says.
The platinum-selling singer is the only black coach on the panel, competing with Parlotones frontman Kahn Morbee, Afrikaans rocker Karen Zoid and Afrikaans pop singer Bobby van Jaarsveld. The four have each amassed huge followings.
“Being the only black coach is not a racial issue for me,” says Lira.
“M-Net’s criteria were quite clear when they approached us: they were looking for multiplatinumselling artists and musicians who would be able to take talented contestants to the next level in their music careers.”
Lira says she has a great working relationship with the other coaches.
“We spend a lot of time together; we even have drinks after work,” she laughs. The coaches compete against each other by creating teams of 14 singers, hoping that one of them will take the coach to the finale, where four singers compete to take the title of The Voice of South Africa.
Competing with experienced and talented judges may be tough for Lira, but she has a plan to get one of her singers to win this competition.
Her strategy is simple: She is looking for singers who will be able to compete with each other, and she has challenged herself by actively trying not to select those most comfortable singing music in her chosen genre, Afropop.
“I don’t need another Lira,” she insists.
However, she admits to having often been surprised upon turning around in her red chair and seeing the contestant.
“Some of the people, I couldn’t tell their gender and age. Sometimes when I turned my red chair, I was surprised when I realised the person was young but had a mature voice,” she says.
Asked what makes the show different from Idols, she says: “We are dealing with professional talent and, as coaches, we’re not interested in mocking them. Rather, we strive to mentor them to be the best artists.”
Besides The Voice, Lira is working on her sixth album, set for release in April. It will be titled Born Free, a name she has had in mind for many years.
She will be exploring this notion in a positive and entertaining way.
“It is a very interesting subject because we were born and raised in the world, and that seems to give us the impression that we are free. Are we really free?” she asks.
Lira says she is free because now she has “freedom of expression” and has been “debt free” for almost 10 years. “We were all born to be happy and free – let’s all do what makes us happy in life,” she says.
Lira as she appears on an episode of The Voice SA