Fate Brought Singer Habida Back to Kenya
Famous for her song, Sunshine, the 2009 collaboration with Nameless, HABIDA MOLONEY, 28, now a wife and mother, dreams of making it big in acting and music. She spoke The Standard's to Tricia Wanjala
In between recording sessions, she snatched a few moments for a quick interview before picking her daughter from kindergarten. Some of us know Habida Moloney as a Kenyan songstress, with catchy hits like the 2009 Award-winning collaboration with Nameless, Sunshine. This newlywed mother of one is enthusiastic and passionate about music, acting and family.
“I started singing at the age of ten,” she reminisces with a smile. “You know how African families are very focused on their children getting a good education and pursuing a white-collar career. As white as my father is, he is very African inside.”
Indeed as an educator and administrator, Habida’s father held the position of principal at St Mary’s School in Nairobi for several years before retiring. He is now the director of Amani Counselling Centre. She prides herself on being a lot like her father and is grateful to her parents for inculcating in her a strong work ethic and sense of worth.
“I’m a hard head like my dad. He does what he thinks is right. He is an intelligent man and I look up to him a lot,” she says.
Habida also adores her mother.
“My mummy is my best friend. She supports me the most. She taught me that stuff happens everyday,” she says. “She would say ‘Come on! You have got to get up and move on. Have a good cry, then move on.’ This has taught me to deal with difficult stuff. I’ve learned to always be resilient and to bounce back,” says Habida.
An international crossover artiste today, Habida has always demanded a lot of herself.
“I’m hard on myself, so I always think I have a long way to go,”
How did she get started?
“When I was 16, I wanted to go and study music in the UK, but I ended up working there for two years before going into theatre. Acting is my passion. I do not support the acting industry in Kenya because the producers are just out to eat most of the money and exploit the artistes by underpaying them. I miss it, but somebody has to take a stand,” she says.
From her teens, Habida has worked in several TV shows overseas and even acted in a soap opera she wrote. She started by modelling designs for KikoRomeo and kept up her modelling career when she left the UK for the US four years later.
“My parents always emphasised education, so I went to study performing arts at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta, the home of RnB. I could relate better to this type of music unlike in the UK where they were really into pop, which was not my thing at the time,” recalls Habida.
During the seven years she was in the US, Habida worked a regular job in addition to the rigours of studying since she was helping to take care of her younger sister.
So what made her decided to return to Kenya in 2009?
“It was always the plan, but it was tough for me to adjust when I came back. I ended up going back and forth to the UK. In the end, it was actually my husband who brought me back to Kenya.”
Hotelier Daniel Ebo had been her friend for over a decade, first in UK then Dubai where he was working.
“We had been on and off, but stayed in contact throughout. He later got a job in Kenya. I said to him, ‘you’re in Kenya? That’s weird. Okay let’s do this!” This twist of fate sealed their decision to become life partners and since then the duo settled in Kenya.
Their two-year-old daughter Michaella is a true global citizen, being both East and West African.
“Daniel is Nigerian, but he was raised in Togo and spoke only French until he was six. He had to learn English then since his family moved to the UK. He wants his daughter to have a French speaking background, so we will take her to a French school when she is three,” says Habida.
Having endured a somewhat difficult pregnancy, Habida speaks candidly on both the joys and challenges of motherhood.
“Nobody told me it would be this hard, but of course I love it. I want to be a good mother. I never want to let her down. I think I make my life hard by the kind of excellence I demand from myself, but otherwise it’s amazing.”
When it comes to parenting styles, she is the self-proclaimed disciplinarian while her easy-going husband has taken the role of ‘good cop’.
“We talked about it from the beginning. He plays with her and I’m the one who handles the serious stuff. I will make my daughter do everything, not just music. I will expose her to everything and then I see what will interest her. We will nurture her talents, but we won’t force anything on her.”
So what was it about the Nigerian hunk that got Habida’s attention? The singer is conservative when it comes to speaking about her personal life, but she does hint at the way to a woman’s heart being through the stomach.
“Daniel started his career as a chef. I’m lucky because I get to eat exciting meals. If we are out at a nice restaurant and I remark that a dish is good, he can taste each of the ingredients and make it at home.”
It is no secret that opposites do attract, and indeed Daniel comes across as being personable, but much more reserved and retiring than his socialite wife.
“He is shy, but loves going out and we both love to entertain. He has also worked as a professional DJ and he’s a good dancer. He sometimes wakes up on a weekend and buys stuff to cook up then fixes fancy cocktails before inviting a bunch of people over.”
Talking about her husband brings a wide grin to Habida’s face.
“He’s clumsy as hell. He makes me laugh. Every time I hear him saying ouch! Somewhere in the house, I wonder how he is still alive!”
On a more serious note, she knew she had made the right decision to marry her long-time friend when she observed one of his endearing qualities: “What I admire most about Daniel is the fact that he is caring. He is so caring that he wants to help everybody. It’s like he wants to save the world. It’s annoying sometimes!”
As for Habida’s career plans, she sums them up in one line: To become a superstar! She is currently defining herself as an African artiste, not just a Kenyan, and has recently performed in Tanzania and Nigeria, as well as recorded some tracks in Germany.
“I dream big – I’d like to work with Nikki Minaj and D’Banj.”
No longer content to be associated with her sugary-sweet image from her previous songs, Habida says her new album signifies a change in direction.
“It’s more of a good girl gone bad. My songs have more energy. Girls’ Night Out, which I co-wrote with Silverstone, expressed how I felt after I had given birth to my daughter. I was so happy. It was all about kicking back, letting loose and having a good time. I will release the album soon. I am currently working on two more tracks.”
Habida also speaks of her longing to get back onto the stage.
“At Msongari School I was in drama. I always get nervous, but I love being up there. I pray that a door to get back into acting will open in the near future. As for the Diaspora, I started there so they haven’t forgotten me. I still have fans who keep up with me through Facebook, Twitter and my website. I’ll hopefully do a tour sometime. I was invited to do one recently, but I’m not ready to leave the baby just yet.”
Indeed, with motherhood come many sacrifices. “Being a mum has changed me. I would rather spend any spare moment I have with my daughter.”
Source: The Standard