Jemimah: I took a break to focus on various charities

Jemimah Thiong'o during an interview with KTN reporter Lofti Matambo at The Standard Media Group Headquarters in Nairobi on April 18, 2021. [Courtesy, Standard]

Jemmimah Thiong’o emerged in the local gospel music scene in the early 2000s as a gentle and mellow-voiced singer.

Her songs were undoubtedly motivational, the lyrics a testimony of her faith in God and an encouragement to anyone who had lost hope or was struggling in life.

In one of her most popular tracks, Mwenye Baraka, Thiong’o gave the much-needed uplifting to believers not to be discouraged by those who mock them since a time would come when their enemies would be ashamed as God showers them with blessings.

The track was like a ray of sunshine to the hopeless, a reminder of a higher power’s goodness that would overcome all challenges and overturn all fears. It played in households, matatus and even in nightclubs, and became a memorable tune that reverberated through the country.

“Akisema atakubariki, hakuna atakaye zuia,” sang in part the lyrics, affirming to Christians that no human being can challenge God’s decision to bless.

Away from limelight

After months of being away from the limelight, we were able to smoke her out and the artiste appeared for an interview on Standard Group’s Radio Maisha. She dispelled rumours that she had abandoned her music career.

“Despite being engaged in various causes, I have never stopped pursuing music. My team and I have been working on some new songs. They will be out in due time,” said Thiong’o.

Talking about her creative energies, Thiong’o says every aspect of her art is sought through God and his word.

“My songs are derived from Bible teachings and are simplified in a way that those who hear them will understand. The lessons and messages are always in line with the teachings of the Bible,” said Thiong’o.

About her hiatus, Thiong'o says she has been involved in various charity works as well as a personal venture which she is passionate about, farming.

“After releasing my first album, I threw myself into prison service and ministry. I also focused on helping girls from poor backgrounds access toiletries and sanitary towels, as well as a little shopping while returning to school from the holidays. I worked with a team and we also visited children in cancer wards. After some time, I found that the prison ministry was my higher calling and narrowed down on it,” said Thiong’o.

According to the celebrated gospel singer, the current harsh economic times due to the pandemic are an opportunity for everyone to look at their special skills or talents and eke out a living from them.

“I have always loved farming, my close friends and family know that. My joy is in the farm. I have composed many of my favourite songs while out on the farm,” said Thiong’o.

According to the Pendo La Ajabu singer, ministry work in church is not supposed to be a job. Rather, it should be something a person does as a calling and as a substitute to labour or work elsewhere.

“We should be like Paul in the Bible. He would make fishing nets and also preach at the same time. If you earn from the ministry, that’s fine, but if you don’t, that should not aggravate you as a man or woman of God. This pandemic has taught us that the work of God must be done. As a person in ministry, always have your net option like Paul. Mine is farming,” said Thiong’o.

The singer urged young ministers to be self-sufficient in other ways with or without their earnings from the church, even if it means beginning from a humble start.

“The work of ministry is about sacrifice, not about making money. The situation should teach us that we should all unite to help the church,” said Thiong’o.

Music journey

Speaking about her journey in music, Thiongo said that she has been a singer and songwriter since she was young, and she plans to continue on the same path.

“I was once chased from the studio because of singing in Kiswahili. The producer criticized me for singing in Kiswahili and told me to go back to farming. That was in 1997. Six years later, a Mount Kenya cleric, Prophet Peter Njenga heard me perform as a vocalist in church and encouraged me to record my music. Every time he would see me, he would ask where my songs were and thankfully I returned to the studio,” said Thiong’o.

The singer further said that since retreating from the limelight, from where she has been working on her music and farming, she has been enjoying a quiet life as a mother and grandmother.

“All my children are now married, and I now have grandchildren. For that I am grateful,” Thiong’o said.