When South African multi-award winning artist Lira promised Malawians a night of the Lira experience, not many understood what she meant. Not even many heeded her calls to bring dancing shoes for the Standard Bank Blue Mingoli event.
So, the night started with local R&B crooner Lulu showing his versatility on the guitar as he performed Mponyere, Abiti Patuma, Mtima Wakana, Owema, Pemphero Langa and Nd’zalera.
While many enjoyed his performance by singing along and occasionally dancing to the music, it was Nd’zalera that sent the audience dancing.
Naturally, Lira’s music appeals to a certain section of people and arguably, not many local revellers had an idea of who she was or what she was capable of delivering.
Again, she is soft spoken, something unusual of musicians globally. Her petite frame also betrays her, especially in the eyes of those seeing her for the first time. Simply put, Lira can go unnoticed in a throng of women. Not that she is not beautiful, but is way too simple for a modern woman.
So, when she meekly walked onto the beautifully decorated stage at the Bingu International Conference Centre (Bicc) on Saturday night, only a section of fans in the packed auditorium cheered on her.
But the events thereon stunned many as Lira proved that there is a bigger personality inside her as she executed a lively and professional act that few have witnessed in the country.
If it were on the war front, Lira would have been termed as a ticking time bomb—a missile waiting to strike on the advancing adversary.
Towering in pink high heels, with white wide legged pants and a pink peplum long arched top, she started the night with I’ll Rise Again.
Poignant with emotion, perfect coordination as well as interpretation of what she was singing, Lira slowly transformed into a hot-blooded being.
With her irresistible blend of soul and jazz, blended with South African melodies, she was eager to show off her energetic South African dance moves that sent patrons into a frenzy. She was not moved by the fact that the Love Band was engrossed in playing the instruments as she was equally if not more than riveted and absorbed in her own world.
She did not only show off her vocal abilities, but exhibited her dancing moves through well coordinated choreography.
Music is a universal language and Lira is one of the firm believers of the adage. Language was not a barrier as the songbird took time to explain the meaning of each song to the audience.
In her powerful voice, she belted out hit after hit and the numbers from the audience approving her prowess fast grew. The sultry South African hit-maker and her six-piece band had the audience eating out of the palms of with old-time favourites such as Phakade, Hamba, which she loosely translated it into Chichewa as ‘Pita’, a message to an old lover.
She also performed Feel Good, Ixcheshaas well as All My Love, a title track of her first album released in 2003, which surpassed Beyonce’s Dangerously In Love on a chart-topping run.
The performance was gut-wrenching as she performed the heart-warming lyrics of Kenny Rogers’ Something Inside So Strong, a rendition that she nurtured with a bit of funk, owning the classic by spicing it with some freestyle.
She suddenly burst out grinning from ear to ear and with fists of laughter she said: “What happened to being a sister’s keeper? Why did you not tell me about the dust in Lilongwe? I had a serious sinus attack and spent a better part of the day in doors.”
But that sounded like a mockery to the fans for at no point in time did Lira show signs of someone who was nursing.
The medical condition affects the cavities behind the nose and eye which may result in wheezing. But her voice was crystal clear, her vocal frequency created the natural reverberation such that her tone quality was not in a way affected.
In a true fashion of saving the best for last, her version of Miriam Makeba’s PataPata was the killer as she asked the fans to stand and join her in dancing. It was gripping as to how the songstress connected with the fans at another level as she was offering instructions to the audience in a form of a song.
She directed the audiences into a dance and gyrating session, such that at no point in time did it occur to the fans that the award winning artist is actually bidding good bye.
By the time the curtain came down and more than four hours later, it was well after midnight.
“You have been amazing Lilongwe,” she said with a toothy smile as she left the stage.
Gutted as they still yearned for more of her music and dance lessons, the audience screamed “one more” to no avail.
Dejected, they watched the big blue curtains slowly grinding to a close and the Lira experience had ended.
While heading out of the imposing Bicc, surely African sounds and rhythms were still ringing in the ears of many and memories of the show shall linger in the minds of many for a long time to come.