Esther Wahome, a recording and performing artist with a strong gospel music focus is a pioneer in many ways. She has retained her positioning for the past 25 years, mentoring many other artists, and has scooped many brand endorsements in Kenya and other countries.
Her music was among the first to cross over from church to secular settings including clubs without compromising her intended message. She was also the first gospel artist to be awarded the Head of state commendation by former President Mwai Kibaki.
Esther’s daughter Michelle Mumbi began carving out her own niche in the showbiz industry, showing promise from a very young age. When Michelle was 11 she accompanied her mother to the studio, and sang one of Esther’s original songs. The song “Utukuzwe” won her a Mwafaka award as artist of the year.
In addition to modelling, she later got into TV acting in a series called Angels Diary in a leading role. “Basically all her teenage years she was on TV and she grew by day. I supported and encouraged her and made sure she would be on time for shoots and had everything she needed.”
“I learned so much from watching my mum in the public eye, especially how to handle myself in any situation. She taught me that I can be anything I put my mind to be, and to lean and trust in God for my dreams and aspirations. So I am able to focus on being my own person and building my own brand,” says Michelle.
“We are best friends and share everything together. We both love fashion and plan to stand a fashion house together. My confidence reminds me of her. She is very confident in who she is and what she does, and she also has compassion for others which is also another trait we have in common.”
“Motherhood did not change my view of my career, but how I went about my career. I had to consider my children and my family’s needs. I can’t travel for long, so I plan my tours abroad well. Michelle and I spend a lot of time together. When she was born I was only 22; I got married at 21 and I used to cry when she cried since I was so young and inexperienced. My husband would then have to take care of his two babies: the wife and the daughter!”
Esther says that her career is quite fulfilling for her because it is more than a profession; it is also a calling, a gift and a passion wrapped in one. “It’s very involving because most of the time I travel for concerts in different countries across the world, I attend many band rehearsals, and I am actively involved in church ministry.
I also spend time in studios, writing and recording songs, and sometimes I get out there shooting videos; some I release, while others I don’t. There was also no money for years, but I continued working hard and being resilient until doors and blessings including financial ones started opening.”
Esther believes that the music industry experienced a mushroom effect from 2004 to 2010. “That was when artists sold albums and albums and it was the time when Kenya was the only country in the world where the gospel genre was bigger than the secular. But musicians still have so many challenges, especially with the platforms and avenues that are meant to collect revenue for artists.”
Michelle adds, “I think the entertainment industry has changed from mum’s time compared to now; with the digital era improving the quality of production. But on the negative side I think that the youth have focused too much on modernising music such that gospel music has become a bit too secular.”