By Shirley Genga
After becoming a house name in urban Kenya in the 90s, Mercy Myra moved to the United States seeking green pastures. And there, she married Kenyan rapper Attitude whom she later divorced after a painful break up.
Mercy was encouraged from an early age to sing in the church choir and during family gatherings.
“I come from a talented family of singers and musicians, and I never thought being talented in music was a gift. I thought everyone could sing. I found out later that it was a gift and decided to pursue music as a career,” she says.
Mercy made her entry into the local music industry in 1994 when she joined the music group the Kalabash Band. After four years of being part of a band, Mercy left to make a go at a solo career.
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“I felt I needed to step out and give my contribution to the growing face of Kenyan music; back then, there were no solo female artistes — it was still a male dominated world,” she explains.
It was not an easy endeavour and that she faced a lot of obstacles.
“I did many free shows because people were not willing to pay, but I was not deterred. The industry was different socially for women, if you were a woman you were in a band— going solo was rare. So if you wanted to go solo, you had to be prepared to perform for free until you got your break,” explains Mercy
After three years, Mercy finally released Sitaki, her first single in 2001. Later in the same year, she released her first album Taba Samu. She was to release a second album Nyisri Malong’o in 2003.
Counting the likes of Miriam Makeba, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Angelique Kidjo, Ella Fitzgerald and Chaka Khan as her musical influences, she knew a long time ago that she wanted her music to stand out.
“In my first album, I was experimenting with a different sound, doing a little bit of everything but by the time I released my second album, it was afro fusion that was my sound,” she continues.
This unique sound interwove everything from English, to Swahili and Dholuo, as well as French and Dutch, while combining the African sound with Jazz, Pop, Spanish and Hip-Hop, among other Western sounds.
Her albums went on to inspire hits like: I’m Gonna Fly, Maneno, Life, Imagine and Tie Dero.
Even though Afro Fusion was her sound, she did the hit song Nimeamua, if only to prove that she could also do Kapuka.
Even though the music could do the magic by itself, Mercy had a way of making tongues wag with her choice of wardrobe.
“I had a talk with my mother before going solo and we talked about leaving a legacy and making a mark. I needed to make a statement. I have always been sensual in the way I perform and carry myself, and I simply infused that into my music. Back then, for woman to show her midriff was taboo, yet it was common during music festival to show the mid riff area. I love to show my midriff and I am not shy about my body,” she explains with a smile.
Mercy Myra met Attitude in 2003, he was a new and upcoming rapper at the time, and whirlwind romance sprouted, closely watched by the press. After dating for three years, Mercy left for the United States in December 2005 to start her life with Attitude. The couple wed in 2007.
“For a long time, my life had been all about music and more music. I reached a point in my life where I wanted to settle down and have a family,” she explains her decision to leave it all for a foreign country.
She decided to take a break for two years and moved to the US with Attitude.
From her Atlanta base, the songstress has been involved in the burgeoning Atlanta music scene, and has gotten the chance to work with artistes like India Arie.
“I did the back up vocals for India Arie for the song Thy Will Be Done, a song for her latest album, and also did a Swahili alto ending for the song,” she says.
Return To Kenya
Mercy is now a mother to Taylin, who is turning seven in October. Unfortunately, she is no longer together with her husband after they separated in 2011.
“I was broken after my marriage ended. No one enters into marriage believing it will end, but when it happens, you have to pick yourself up and move on. I had to be strong for my daughter, and so after I was done with mourning the end of my marriage, I had to get up and continue living. The experience has inspired one of my new singles called Soldier,” says Mercy.
Mercy, who turns 39 in January next year, says she is in a good place.
“I am not dating, I want to raise my daughter and build my career,” she explains
Mercy has a new song out called African Tango. She will be performing tomorrow at Carnivore grounds together with Atemi and Sahibu for the Past Present and Future show.