Real

Lira

Over the past few years – buoyed by multi-platinum sales of her two studio albums and live DVD, a mantlepiece full of awards and support of fans – Lira has made no secret of her desire to find a global audience for her music.

"I have big dreams," Lira has frequently been quoted as saying – and it looks increasingly likely that this rare artist will see those begin to flourish in 2011, with the release of her fourth studio album (and third for Sony), RETURN TO LOVE. RETURN TO LOVE is a masterful record that draws together everything that Lira has worked for since she first embarked on her music career – at first tentatively with her 2003 debut ALL MY LOVE and, from 2006 onwards, with mounting confidence in her singular abilities.

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 second two records and her LIVE IN CONCERT – A CELEBRATION DVD (2009) were proof enough that her heady mixture of old school soul, spiced with enough contemporary twists, had exploded with serious intent amongst her South African audience.

But, one listen to RETURN TO LOVE, and it's clear that over the course of her first trio of albums, Lira was only just beginning to reveal her musical gifts. "I was very focused on defining the 'Lira' sound even more, with this album," Lira says of the vision behind possibly the classiest – yet infinitely accessible – record to come out of South Africa in a long while. "I wanted to send this out into the greater musical world with a real solid, really refined sound that is unmistakably my own."

In this quest, Lira, and producer, Robin Kohl, have succeeded handsomely. If comparisons are to be made, there's a real feel of Sade's earlier work, in Lira's scorching, soul-filled vocals. And yet the subtle sense of her South African roots that flickers throughout the material, along with Lira's unique vocal stylings mean there is nothing copycat about RETURN TO LOVE.

"It was always my feeling that I don't want to be boxed into being a particular kind of artist," Lira says with the quiet emphasis of someone who knows precisely what they desire. "On this album, too I didn't want to be restrained in what sounds we included on the album so there is some funk, ragga, urban, traditional African sounds, and, of course, plenty of soul."

At 11-tracks, the album finds its lyrical footing in all the things that Lira loves – from dancing to singing, being introspective, loving others, philosophising, and stirring people's consciousness. "I love to dance. I love to love! I'm a romantic. But I also like to be contemplative," she says.

Aside from this tribute to the things she adores, there's another – perhaps more subtle – reason for the album's title.

"My first album was titled ALL MY LOVE and it was an album that initially caused some heartache for me," Lira says of the kwaito-pop offering that introduced her to South African music fans. "It was released at a time when I hadn't yet found even the real beginnings of the sound and presence that I wanted to convey and was fumbling a little in the dark. But yet that album forms part of my history and so this new record is something of a statement about an acceptance of who I am – a return to me."

Fittingly too, Lira's given name is Lerato Molapo – Lerato meaning love in seSotho. It's no surprise, then, that Lira sings, so full of joy, "Over the years I've gone through so many changes/But I'm ready to get back into my skin again" and, later, "Falling in love with who I am" on the uplifting and unabandoned album opener, 'When I Dance'.

Soulful – Romantic – Playful – Contemplative: RETURN TO LOVE is all of these things and more. What's perhaps most striking about the album is that, in the hands of Lira, none of these come across with even a hint of cliché.

Indeed, throughout the songs on RETURN TO LOVE, Lira's lyric writing shows the kind of growth that only few artists can boast of. Whether she's writing about the relentless tug of heartache on 'Call Me', or the plaintive plea for answers in a world that's lost its way ("Money and greed cast a shadow on the sun/Yes, I see it burning up the skies") on 'Abba' or the need for individuals to take charge of their live on 'Get Into Action', Lira's words have a force that few can match.

In preparing for RETURN TO LOVE, Lira and her producer (and husband) Robin Kohl took a "songwriting sojourn" – their first ever.

The result is a set of songs that's as diverse (stylistically and in language) as they are sparkling fresh. "The process of working together was something that we really focused on – and at least four new songs came out of that intense breakaway to just write," Lira explains. One of the songs that emerged from this process was 'Mali' – a delightful and hugely infectious take on money that sees Lira directly ask "money" to bless her, her family, her community and humanity and spread amongst everyone. It is based around a Bossa and Mbaqanga musical mix and is an album highlight. Another written during this joint creative period was 'Phakade', a remarkable composition that's as pure a song about finding a soulmate as you're likely to hear – and has all the makings, in lines like "You are my joy/A beautiful gift", of an evergreen wedding song.

For an artist known for her emotional-ballads and uplifting songs about personal journeying and fulfillment, RETURN TO LOVE also features a song that's slightly more sombre. "I'm aware that, as a musician, you can't fight the urge to write about how you are feeling – including the times that you are not at your best," Lira says, revealing, yet again, her now trademark frankness in her comments about the track 'Be My Friend'.

RETURN TO LOVE, more than any of Lira's previous releases, captures the energy of Lira's live shows. "There's something about this band that only those who have seen us know and that is that we are a rocking live act," Lira says. It's for this reason that Lira's band members, including bassist, Tshepo Sekele, pianist Victor Mngomezulu, drummer Joshua Zacheus, backing vocalist Brenda Mtambo and guitarist Grant Tregellas are among the musicians contributing to RETURN TO LOVE.

Says Lira, "Our live shows are a journey that we undertake on stage – that takes audiences through different emotions, as we travel through the songs and we wanted to capture that on record in a way that conveys real energy."

Few who listen to RETURN TO LOVE would disagree with this approach –and, in the end, the album is a triumph; a perfect introduction to Lira for newcomers to her sound and nothing short of a deserved new step on the journey of an artist who really is extraordinary.

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Mafikizolo

One of South Africa's most favourite music groups, Mafikizolo, is back with a brand new banging album after a well deserved two year break and this time they want to take their loyal fans on the musical journey of their lives. The transport for the journey is a Six Mabone - a classic car of the 60s-which is the title of their seventh album.

Theo Kgosinkwe, the male member of the duo, says: "In the 60s, Six Mabone had the same status as BMW today. And our music is enjoyed by the young and the old. We are taking our fans back and forth." The latest album is the second without Tebza who was killed in a road rage accident three years ago.
The new album has blues and swing elements and most of the songs were recorded with a live band.

Nhlanhla Nciza, the female member of the group, insists that although they brought new elements on this album but they have used the same formula like their previous platinum selling albums.
She said: "There is a bit of afro pop, kwela and marabi which have become our trademark. They say you must not fix something that is not broken and we are not going to mess with our winning formula."
The album features a remark of Miriam Makeba's classic Walila - and they deserve a round of applause for doing justice to the song. Anybody who does a remark or remix of Miriam Makeba's song has to know his story very well and be brave enough to do so.

Nciza admitted: "Doing a remark of Mama Africa's song was one of the hard things to do, she is an international brand with a lot of followers and nobody must mess around with a musical icon like Miriam Makeba."
Also on the album, they also featured a new up and coming stable mate, Zonke, on a song simple titled Flowers. There is a mind blowing slow jam called Khululeka which was produced by house music crew, Shaana.
Without any doubt, the album shows Mafikizolo's musical growth - they have been in the industry for eight years and they have learned a lot. Kgosinkwe summarizes it the better when he says: "We have been to hell and back. God has been there for us always."

Shortly after Mafikizolo shot to fame, they were involved in a near fatal car accident which left some of the band members in hospital for a couple of weeks.
And when they began picking up the pieces and getting their feet back on the groove, Tebza was killed.

Six Mabone is an album that will make many people realise how rich South Africans are, musically and that with the right production team like Dangerous Combination Crew [DCC], Oscar "Oskido" Mdlongwa, Mandla "Spikiri" Mofokeng, Bruce "Dope" Sebitlo, Zynne "Mahoota" Sibika plus jazz maestro, Don Laka, behind you - you can keep the world on its dancing feet and win as many music award as possible.
About their album, Nciza said: "Six Mabone is a kind of album that when you put into your sound system, you will never want to take it out for a long time."
And Kgosinkwe said: "Mafikizolo does not make albums for December but we make music that will last for a life time. Six Mabone is a must get album if you love and support South African music."
Six Mabone will definitely cement Mafikizolo's status as one of the most singing sensational groups in South Africa and musical phenomena in Africa.

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Garth Taylor

Garth Taylor

Multi-talented is the word that best describes this singer/songwriter. Garth writes his own music and lyrics and has teamed up recently with Andrew Baird to co-write for the new album simply entitled "Garth Taylor" is due for release in May 2011

Garth made his debut onto the South African music scene in 1998 and has delighted fans with a number of chart topping hits, including "Why", which remained at number one on the charts for five consecutive weeks and is now a classic. “Only With You” was at number one on Cape Town charts for six consecutive weeks. Other chart hits include "If I Gave You My Soul", "Home Again", "Tonight" and his cover, "Islands In The Stream". 

His last album "Stripped Down Soul'd Out", has received acclamation from the South African music industry and is still receiving significant aritime on all leading radio and television stations across the country.

Passionate and talented, his strong vocal delivery and energetic shows draw crowds wherever he performs. Garth’s dedication and experience give him tremendous presence on stage and he is able to deliver a memorable experience for fans at every performance. 

Garth has shared the stage with many industry greats, both local and international, such as Simply Red, Shaggy, Jonathan Butler and the late Brenda Fassie. Having created a first-class band, Garth performs around South Africa and abroad.

Being committed to helping those in need, he spends a fair amount of time helping raise funds and awareness for foundations that care for abused women and children and other charities.

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