By Carol Odero, Photographs: Emmanuel Jambo
Even if Habida nee Moloney Ebo had never become a singer, something about her would draw the eye. As a newly wed, when she turns up for our interview the Monday following their weekend wedding, it is not surprising that she is with her new husband, Daniel Ebo. They both look just about ready to collapse with fatigue.
“We slept at 2am last night,” she says as she sinks gratefully into the chair. She spots a suggestively arched eyebrow on my end and explains.
“People traveled from all over to come to the wedding and they call at all hours. Sometimes they want us to meet them for dinner and it’s so nice and sweet of them that we can’t say no. We had to switch our phones off or else we would never sleep.” It is always said the wedding is the beginning of marriage, and they are only realizing that. Loose ends need to be tied and so the honeymoon is on hold for the next couple of weeks.
Habida hit the entertainment scene in a big way in 2008, setting off an unusual amount of curiosity and speculation primarily over her love life.
At 29, she is strikingly beautiful, with long, dark, curly hair that falls easily down her shoulders. Today she is in leggings, flat shoes and a cropped sweat shirt that strains against her generous bosom. Right next to her, is hubby Daniel, in sandals, loose shorts and a tee shirt. He has been almost invisible until now. Towering at well over six feet, he is quite the attractive man himself.
While Habida has Irish and Pokomo blood flowing in her veins, he is from West Africa, without the stereotypical accent, though there is a slight hint of it when he speaks. His family lives in Togo, and the Ebos, just like the Moloneys, loved the new addition into their respective families.
How people meet frequently makes for a great story. For this pair, it happened in the US in 2006, where she was studying music and theatre, and he was working. An on-off affair ensued. “It was difficult. He was based in the UK and I was in the US and at some point we just figured that these things do not work out,” Habida explains. That, as far as they could tell, was the end of that. However, cupid had other plans and their paths would cross again several years later in Nairobi.
And all it would take was a chance encounter at the MTV nomination party at The Loft in Nairobi in 2009. It was a pleasant surprise for both. Daniel, head of sales and marketing of the Intercontinental Hotel Group, Africa and a DJ, had by virtue of his job traversed several continents, and Habida, who had come home to roost and launch her music career.
“Some friends nudged us to get back together. They kept saying we had been good together, so we figured, let’s,” says Habida.
Daniel adds, “When I first met her, I knew that she was the one. All the elements that I look for in a partner were there and I can say that the planets were aligned. It felt right and I could see myself growing old with her.”
She smiles, looking into his eyes then dropping her head to his shoulder cooing, “Aww. How romantic! You’ve always been such a romantic. We went out on a date and that night we kissed. We had kissed before but somehow this time it was different. That is what did it for me.”
Three months after they started dating for the second time, on a beach in Dubai Daniel proposed and gave her a diamond ring. Habida says she hadn’t been expecting his proposal at all. However, before he proposed he had approached her parents first to ask for their blessing. ”
My mother fell in love with him on sight!” Habida remembers.
It is obvious that they have an easy camaraderie going on. During the wedding, when an aunt announced that in Uganda one serves their husband food when kneeling, Habida was a good sport about it and knelt down to give Daniel his cake. She took a minute too long getting up. “Sorry about that,” she smiled into the microphone. “I was a little out of dress.”
Designed by wedding dress designer Segula in the UK, the dress was bustier that showed off her decolletage and dragon tattoo along with hennaed vines around her arms. Today, Daniel grooms her, occasionally removing lint from her sweatshirt. They order food and like a couple who understand precisely what the other wants, they transfer and exchange bits and bobs from one plate to the other, her ring winking in the sun.
The pair wed in St Austin’s Church, Lavington on the 18th of December last year, followed by what their invite only card referred to as ‘an adult reception’ at The Intercontinental Hotel.
Wait. Isn’t she Muslim? “I was. I have also been Catholic. Now I am non denominational,” she responds. Daniel is Anglican and the pair say they were both quite fine with a Catholic wedding.
The priest in his sermon dives right into it, stating that the young newly weds, more than most, her with a publicly involving, demanding career and he with a similar tangent, would have to work at their relationship that much harder.
“I did not feel like that at all. I would not say that it has been like that. We haven’t been apart for long and anytime he travels, we go together. So far, I have not had a chance to go on tour and also, our baby has kept me at home. When he is away, we are on the phone all the time. His phone bills are crazy.”
He says, “We make an effort so that we are not apart for too long.” When it comes to privacy though, it must be difficult to conduct an intimate relationship in the full glare of the public. After all, Habida did quickly and without applying overt effort, capture the imagination of a whole lot of people.
“I have never really felt that. Have you?” she turns to Daniel who says “It was very difficult. Just now coming here I saw two guys staring at her. It happens all the time. When I am alone sometimes people walk up to me to ask me where she is or how she is doing.”
“Really?” she says, astonished. “I didn’t know. I forget sometimes that people know me so I end up asking him why they are staring at me! It really does slip my mind. He is the one who reminds me.”
She also knows that she is constantly watched and her physical attributes intensely discussed. “I was so busy getting ready for the wedding I only started working out a week to the day and even then I had to make the time and stick to it.
I have read blogs, and after watching my videos people called me fat, and those were the nice comments. It can get vicious, and I know that. I definitely feel the pressure to look a certain way and fit into mice clothes.”
Then there is this nagging rumour about an alleged relationship between Nameless and Habida that refuses to go away.
She anticipates it even before the words are out of my mouth.
“Are you serious? People are still talking about this? Please tell me you are not going to ask me what I think you are going to ask me. It’s nonsense!”
The Nameless and Habida rumour is still the subject of much speculation.
Daniel calmly states, “Imagine that. And that you would invite him to sing at your wedding too.” Both Nameless and Wahu were wedding guests and also performed at the reception.
“They are good friends. We see each other a lot. And may I point out that I would not sing at another woman’s wedding if I thought she was sleeping with my husband.”
The wedding is by all accounts a celebration of Habida the woman, daughter, mother and wife so it is understandable when she says that their six month old baby has enriched her life greatly.
“My priorities have changed. Now I want to make a real success out of my life and take care of her.”
Her husband leaves IHG mid January at which point the pair leave for Hong Kong and Phukhet, Thailand for their honeymoon.
It must be tricky looking for a job so soon after getting married.
“I got that job when I was still single and worked long hours, always available for my boss. When I cut down my working hours, it practically felt like I was slacking off. Now my family is my priority and I want to be there for them so this does not work for me anymore. It was fine when it was just me.
I also want new challenges and I still have my DJ-ing gig which I mostly do in Europe and the Middle East so it isn’t like I can’t put food on the table,” he says. He is being wooed aggressively as well.
For now, they are not revealing where they will eventually settle.
“Habida’s family is staying here and she needs to establish herself as an artist as well. With my job, I could be located anywhere so we are thinking about that.”
So far, Habida’s musical career looks promising. She is soon releasing a single, ‘Get Down,’ and working on an album set to be out in summer. Acting, however, has been disappointing for her on various fronts though she truly wishes she could get on board. She is an eternal optimist with a sunny disposition however.
“There are some things that you can’t plan and prepare yourself for. When I met Daniel I was just focused on music, music and music. I was not keen on getting into a relationship. I did not know that I was ready to get married until he asked and I said yes.”
She is also looking forward to giving their six month old daughter siblings in the near future. “I would love to have as many kids as possible with Daniel.” For now she is content to shield her daughter from the limelight. “For me the biggest thing is that I do not want my daughter to be a part of this craziness. That is really it.”
Kesho – Habida
Sunshine by Nameless & Habida