In Karundu Village, Mukurweini-Nyeri, 25 years ago a child was born. She was named Mary Wanjiku but in the entertainment industry, we know her as Marya. She is pretty and bootylicious! She is also very personable, opening to me about her childhood and her venture into music.
It is only seven years ago she got to know that those who raised her were not her real parents. It was also the same time she got to know that a girl she knew as her cousin was in fact her blood sister. This is the story of the sensational Marya.
“Growing up, I shuffled between my ‘parents’ home in Buruburu estate and my grand mother’s home in Karundu Village. I was the last born of my parents’ kids and I always wondered about the age range between my elder siblings and I. I grew up in abundant love and was dotted on by my parents and grandmother. Looking back, I think my grandmother’s special love for me was probably because I constantly reminded her of my mother. My uncle is the eldest in my grandmother’s family and so his children are grown ups.
My mother died of cancer when I was very young. My Uncle took me in and my elder sister was adopted by another aunt. I thus grew up knowing that my uncle was my dad and my sister was my cousin. With time, some things stopped adding up and I started pressuring my relatives with endless questions. ‘Why don’t I look like my elder brothers or sisters?’ ‘Why am I always at my grandmother’s home every holiday and why do villagers speak in hushed tones every time I pass by?’
My family members were very reluctant in answering these nagging questions but promised to do so when I turned 18.
The day finally came and the whole family gathered at my parents’ home in Buruburu. My grandmother told us that she had nine children but now she only had eight who were alive. The ninth child was my mum. I was totally confused.
I had a mixture of emotions and the shocker was when I was introduced to my sister. ‘She is not your cousin but your elder sister.’ Grandma said. It was difficult to reconcile all these facts and I had more questions to ask.
Now that I knew my dad was not my biological dad, I insisted on knowing my real father. Again, my family was very reluctant in letting me know who he was and when I finally met him, it all made sense. Arrangements were made for us to meet in my grandmother’s home and I was very excited to finally get to know at least one of my biological parents. But he
was emotionless, almost like he did not know of my existence. He did not embrace me or even call me his daughter.
Not that I was so much in need of a father’s love because I have sufficient from my uncle, but I just wanted to feel that he cared. I have since dealt with his rejection and moved on. My parents continue to be mum and dad and my love for them is like that of their own child. In fact, my music career was discovered by my elder brother (my cousin).”
Marya is an extrovert. While schooling in Kagumo girls in Kirinyaga and later in Karundu High school, she always participated in music festivals and drama. She was always the lead soloist and always brought back awards. She was once awarded as the best actress in the whole province. Over the holidays, she would play with her brother’s piano, trying to make out notes and sounds. Her brother’s friend overheard her string together some melody and encouraged her to write a simple song.
“When I sang, they were impressed and sent me to Ogopa deejays studios. I went for a voice test and after months of waiting, I almost gave up ever being called to record anything. I then met Mustapha who gave me the right connections.
In 2008, I was signed in, assigned a mentor and a manager and since then, there has been no stopping me.
Marya says her music is all about what happens around her. It is an expression of her perception about life and personal
experiences. Mahaba was her first single and is about a girl whose lover had gone to a far away land and she was so lonely. It did not help that her friends kept telling her he was never coming back! Now that he is back, all she wants is him close by, and a promise never to leave her again. Reviews about this song in you tube are mixed, with her fans celebrating the talent and her critics saying she could have done better.
Hey Baby featuring a fellow musician Colonel Mustapha was a big hit for Marya and received positive reviews. The song is about a girl who needs assurance from her boyfriend that she is still his only ‘baby’. Apparently she found some lipstick marks on his shirt and started to doubt his commitment to the relationship.
Incidentally, Marya dated Mustapha but they broke up because of religious differences. Marya is Christian and Mustapha is Muslim, making it impossible for their relationship to blossom. They however remain friends and comrades in the Ogopa powerhouse.
Her other single which generated some controversy was Chokoza featuring Avril her close friend. The instant dance hall song is telling off men who think women hang out in clubs seeking favours from them. Marya and Avril tell those sending drinks their way to know that they may accept the drinks but that does not mean they are ready to be friends with them.
A number of people believed that both girls were lesbians because they challenged the men never to assume that every girl they send a drink is attracted to men. Marya says both her and Avril are straight. From the review charts, the song was well received and it put the singer on high pedestal. She is very grateful to all who have been instrumental to nurturing her singing career.
What else do you do besides singing?
I make a living out of singing. I have shows and especially this coming festive season, I am looking forward to doing big business.
What is your feeling of Kenyans attitude towards local music?
I feel Kenyans are opening up to local music given the reception we get when we do our shows. Our fans are very supportive and this motivates us to put more efforts.
Comment about music piracy in Kenya
We are always on the plea for Kenyans to buy our original music so that they can support the industry. The MSCK is doing a good job in curbing piracy and every musician looks forward to the day piracy will be totally eradicated.
Where do you see your music in the next ten years?
I hope to have grown into a household name. I am working towards releasing an album and it will come out when I feel ready to do so.
What is one misconception that people have about you?
Many think that I use my beauty to get everything I want. Far from the truth. I work day and night, using my brain and strength to build myself. In fact, I do not appreciate those who give me anything on the basis of my beauty. I want to get it because I deserve it.
Amani. She has held my hand and is walking with me through this journey. She has been there before me and she knows how to get around this industry.
Which musicians do you admire the most?
Locally I enjoy listening to Wahu, Achieng Abura, Suzzane Awiyo and of course Amani. Internationally, I like Beyonce and Alicia Keys.
Any beauty regime?
I do facials once in a while; I never sleep with my make up on and I go to the gym thrice a week.
How do you ensure you have some free time to relax?
I plan my schedule to give me some rest time during which time I watch a movie or catch up with friends.
What is your favourite food?
I love Chinese, Ethiopian and Citheri.
Story: Lilian Mwangi Stylist & Makeup: Katey Sensuelle Jewellery: Taphenes Lydiah Photography: Ben Muthee
Marya Music – Mahaba
Marya feat Colonel Mustapha – Hey Baby
Marya ft Avril- Chokoza