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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

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