Sultry-voiced Eunice Njeri is a force in the Gospel industry, but her previously unblemished record was soured by one incident; a too-soon failed marriage. But does it define her?
In another life, she would pull a Sia. Sia is the Australian songstress who is only recognised by her sound and not her face. The powerhouse who produces masterpieces behind a veil. But there can be only one Sia, and Eunice Njeri has had to grow past her introversion.
“If I didn’t have to put my face out there, I wouldn’t. And if I could re do my music, I would probably have only audios, never videos.”
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Her aversion to public scrutiny is probably fueled by the aftermath of her rather short-lived union with her ex-husband in 2016. I use the term ‘ex husband’ gingerly as the annulment was done in less than a day.
“All the sadness came to me when the media decided to choke me,” she says. She is referring to the media furore surrounding her November 27, 2016 wedding to Isaac Bukasa in America. When people found out that it had been annulled barely 24 hours after it happened, fans and foes alike went to town on it with all sorts of theories as to what actually happened.
“None of the theories were true,” Eunice says. “I respect Issac’s privacy, so I won’t tell you what really happened,” she stops me in my tracks. Was it really home sickness, as her musings on social media back then alluded?
“ … Isaac and I did go to the altar to get married, but at the end of that day I realised one thing; I couldn’t do it, my heart was elsewhere. Probably in Africa doing what I do best. I am still trying to figure that out… To all who were hurt in the process, I apologise. The marriage was annulled (like it never happened). No papers were signed… We have decided to go our separate ways and hope for the very best. God bless you,” the social media post read.
We remain silent for a while, probably letting it sink in that she won’t talk much about it; then seems to reconsider that, having made a decision on how much to say, and what to leave out.
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She explains that if it wasn’t for the massive support from pastors and her family afterwards, and the fact that she was out of the country, she could have gone insane.
“Thankfully I was not carrying the burden alone. I got so many encouraging texts and my family made fun of it until it stopped looking like such a big deal. I went to Ethiopia at that time and they shut down the internet for two weeks, so I did not even hear what people were saying. I decided that God was using me, and if not in Kenya then in other parts of the world,” she says.
It is all done though, and she is well past her short lived marriage. And after being crashed and burnt in relationships, she knows a thing or two about them.
“I would tell people to wait on God and not make any rash decisions. The relationship can only be right if both people have a relationship with God,” she says.
That said, she will not say a word about her current relationship status, but looks forward to settling down someday.
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“I come from a big family of 7 children, so I would love to have a big family of my own.”
This interview is happening on a Tuesday evening on church grounds. I had to attend a church service, after a performance by the gospel musician. The applause is deafening as she walks onstage. And as she belts out the lyrics to her song Zaidi na Zaidi, the congregation sings along to it. Soon she is done, and finds me waiting patiently.
Eunice looks very much like the stereotypical church girl. Conservatively dressed in an ankle-length yellow lace skirt, a matching black blouse with a high neckline, she is a picture of innocence. Her face is devoid of makeup. She doesn’t like it, she says.
Had she not been a musician, she would probably have been a lawyer, but growing up in a family without much money to spare meant that she had to forge her own path sans higher education.
“And you know those days there was no Equity Wings to Fly to save you,” she says.
And so she found her voice, literally. And 20 years later, she is still using it to do what she loves most; evangelism.
She is currently in her happiest season, as she says she now understands how her life is supposed to be. “I feel peace in my heart,” she says.
Her biggest struggle is taking a break from work. “The first holiday I ever took was this year,” she says. “A group of friends and I took the SGR to Mombasa.” Her biggest unfulfilled dream is learning piano, which she vows she will learn, however long it takes her. Meanwhile, she can play the guitar, which she was taught by music veteran, Kamau Karongo.
Leave it all behind and run?
She has felt like quitting many times; leaving Nairobi and settling into a quiet life upcountry. “One time I had three things go wrong all at the same time. I had a relationship break, someone I lent money never paid me back so I lost a lot of money…I can’t remember what the third thing was,” she muses… “But I wondered if God had left me that time.”
What saved her was her faith in God and an inner unrelenting determination. “I always say no matter how bad it gets, wake up, dress up and show up. Healing will inevitably come. But if you are reading this and I lent you that money…could you please pay me back?” she says laughing.