Popular Kikuyu musician Njeri wa Muthara narrates the painful past that robbed her of her childhood and how she beat all odds to become a fast-rising singer in the industry.
Being a housegirl at a tender age must have been so hard. How much were you being paid?
I was driven by poverty into working as a house help at such a young age. I had to fend for my siblings after my dad walked out on us. We are six kids and whatever my mother earned was hardly enough. I was paid Sh500 per month, which was good enough. My mother depended on that money to buy food.
That means you didn’t even go to school like other kids?
My mother couldn’t afford the Sh300 school fee. Luckily, my older siblings were schooled by our grandfather. My mother got me the housegirl job near our SabaSaba village in Murang’a. It was hard. I used to wake up at 6 am, and do household chores, which included looking after the kids, cleaning utensils and cooking. I hated it since I was still young and envied my agemates who played outside.
So, your mother forced you to work? Do you blame her for robbing you of your childhood?
I hold no grudge against my late mother. She was desperate and looking back, I thank God for that experience. She meant well and I am sure she is happy for me up there with the angels.
You finally secured a place in school. How did that come happen?
When Mwai Kibaki became president in 2002 and rolled out the free primary education programme, I was enrolled at Magumu-ini Primary School in Saba-Saba. I was 10 years at the time and I was the oldest in my class. But I was determined. I was bright and instead of joining Class Two, I was pushed to Class Three. I excelled in KCPE and was admitted to Nginda Girls High School in Murang’a. But that was the beginning of another tough phase in my life.
What do you mean?
We couldn’t afford the school fee after my mother died. I also lost my elder brother in a road accident. I got some CDF sponsorship, but the money was not enough. I had to top up Sh10,000 and also needed pocket money. My classmates contributed to keep me in school, but their patience also ran out. I feared going home to meet my hungry, suffering siblings. It was depressing. Our relatives shunned us. But by God’s grace, I managed to finish high school.
That must have been a miracle. Did you join campus?
Unfortunately, I did not score a good grade for university admission. I wanted to pursue of a law degree. I started applying for scholarships but was not successful. Most of the people who offered to assist me insisted that I first have sex with them, but I turned them down. I did casual work before I landed a job in Dubai to train children how to play football and other sports. I didn’t stay for long and flew back to Kenya after saving enough money.
How did you end up as a musician?
I became a musician by chance. I recorded a song which I posted on Facebook and surprisingly, I received massive support. Musicians Jose Gatutura and Man Kathenge encouraged me to record it. I recorded five songs and one titled Kinua Tau Tau (loudmouthed) became a hit and got a lot of airplay on most Kikuyu radio stations. The song criticises people who take advantage of women. I have so far performed at different events and some entertainment joints.
What lessons have you learnt from your experience?
Resilience and focus on your goal are important. Desperation should not push girls to early marriages and prostitution.