A local talent from age 16 when she began performing in Johannesburg, Lerato “Lira” Molapo is one of South Africa’s most brilliant rising stars. Over the past few years, buoyed by multi-platinum sales of her three studio albums and a mantelpiece full of awards and support of fans, Lira has made no secret of her desire to find a global audience for her music. Lira’s given name, Lerato, translates as “love” in Sesotho, a native Bantu language spoken in South Africa. Lira takes this full meaning to heart in her soulful, romantic, playful, and cont plative singing projected without the slightest hint of cliché. If comparisons are to be made, there’s a real feel of Sade’s earlier work in Lira’s scorching, soul-filled vocals. Yet the subtle sense of her South African roots flickers throughout the material. Endlessly tapping into her own creativity, her music finds its lyrical footing in all the things that Lira loves—from dancing to singing, being introspective, loving others, philosophizing, and stirring people’s consciousness. With the quiet phasis of someone who knows precisely what they desire, Lira admits, “I never want to be restrained in what sounds I include on records. There is some funk, ragga, latin, jazz, urban, traditional African sounds, and, of course, plenty of soul.” Lira’s triumph at the 2009 South African Music Awards, where she won Album of the Year and Best female Artist for the 2008 record Soul In Mind, and subsequent multi-platinum sales of her next two records and Live In Concert – A Celebration DVD (2010) are proof of her tangible connection amongst South African audiences. This year is a particularly significant year for Lira. Her music is finally becoming available in North America for the first time via a self-titled five-song EP, Lira, which was released on July 19. Her first tour dates in the United States are this month as well. Feel Good, a compilation featuring songs from her three Sony releases in Africa and Lira’s first internationally released full-length album, will be made available on January 31, 2012.