“When I was 17 years old, I was diagnosed with heart disease. What I did was to turn to my God. I prayed as if I will never pray again. When I went for the second test, I tested negative and that’s when I got saved and started singing. I will sing to my grave.”
For a woman who continues to dominate for three decades now, Mary Atieno Ominde is arguably one of the best talented Kenyan Gospel Maestros of all time. While many assume she has already bowed out of the Gospel industry, to her, it is just but a beginning. Her statement above, said roughly a year ago in an interview with Nation Media, confirms she is not planning to leave praising and worshipping the King who lifted her up from the pit of despair, out of the miry clay and set her feet upon a rock to sing to the whole world anytime soon. Despite being blind, Mary perfectly illustrates that disability is not inability.
In a candid interview with Gospel Minister Kambua on Citizen TV’s Rauka Show on Sunday morning, 11th July, 2021, Mary took time to share about her early days, music journey and secret behind her continued relevance. Silvan News has extracted some of the nuggets from the interview.
Biography; Birth, education and work.
Kambua: We…we just want to get to talk to you a little bit and know what the secret of Mary Atieno is. But taken back alittle bit, where were you born?
Ominde: I was born in…in Asumbi Mission in Homabay County. That is where I was born. And then… I grew up…then I went to primary school in St Oda School for the Blind in Aluor Mission. Then I finished my class Seven. Then I went to high school in Salvation High school for the blind in Thika. I finished my sixth form in 1983. Then in 1985 I went to Kenyatta University and I finished schooling in 1988. Then I went to BuruBuru Girls up to now.
Kambua: Where you are still teaching, at BuruBuru girls…
Ominde’s miraculous healing in 1978
Kambua: Wow.. Mary allow me to take you back to your childhood because I have heard you share a testimony of something that changed your life and is actually what made you decide to give your life to Christ and serve him. You have had health issues at some point as a young girl. What was going on?
Ominde: I had health issues which were not understandable by the way. And it started in 1976. When I was in form one, I started developing a heart problem. I had a..a heart failure. And in 1977 December, I used to have heart failure or heart attacks three times a day. So I went to hospital, went to the best cardiologist… at that time in Kenyatta National hospital. She couldn’t find anything.
So somebody told me in fact when I was really crying in hospital that, this one doesn’t need any medication, Just go home. They were telling me to go to…. Maybe witch doctors. But I refused. I said that I just needed God. So that is when I decided to go to God. And I begged God. I told God that if you will give me another opportunity to live, I will serve you for the rest of my life. So I got healed in 1978. Got saved in 1979, February 28th.
Music and breakthrough into fame.
Kambua: How did you get into music Mary?
Ominde: After getting born again, I prayed to God and I asked God to give me a gift which I could use to serve him. So I started composing songs. So that is when I started beginning singing. And then I was encouraged by some of my schoolmates like there was a lecturer who did music called Caleb Tai. Then when I joined IFC Jericho church Choir, the late Isaiah Simeha encouraged me….So I joined the choir and that is when I knew I would sing.
Kambua: Wow, what year are we talking about?
Kambua: Wow, long before we were born.
Ominde: Sure, many of you were not yet born.
Kambua: What would say was your breakthrough moment? Or rather, how did it happen that people got to finally start knowing you on national level?
Ominde: My breakthrough moment was in 1983 when I sang Adam na Eva with Jericho IFC choir. And two things happened; After recording that song when I was in Thika High school for the blind, we went to sing to then president Daniel Arap Moi. I had composed a song entitled Kenya Twaipenda. So when we went to sing, infact it was very difficult for us to be given a song to sing because we were supposed to entertain and not sing. But our principal who is now a preacher in PCEA in St. Andrews, Mr Peter Kariuki, insisted and even disturbed the crew. Kumbe I didn’t know that was my moment.
So before the President announced the funds that had been raised, he personally called us. He said that kuna kwaya ingine inataka kuniimbia sana na hiyo choir inatoka Thika High School of the blind. So that is when I sang Kenya Twaipenda. And I had prayed to God. So when Kenya Twaipenda was being sang on the KBC Television, at the same time, Adamu na Eva was also being done on the television. So that is the time people began to know the God I serve.
Kambua: Wow, Amen. And to date, how many albums have you done?
Ominde: I…I haven’t counted. They are quite a number. Many…many
Secret behind her continued relevance; Lessons to ministers
Kambua: What is the secret Mary Atieno of being relevant for such a long time?
Ominde: One of the secrets of being relevant for such a long time is keeping close with the God who saved you. Am very close to God. And most of the time I…I like examining my heart. Is my heart right with God? And then if you really pray. I like praying a lot. I like reading the Bible. I like reading Christian books. But most of all by the way I just love listening to sermons. And I have been blessed particularly by bishop Adebayo from Redeemed Christian Church. He has really helped me by the way. In the Internet, I would say that he is my spiritual father. To be very genuine. So that is what has kept me, and leading a holy life.
And then…and then let me also say something. I have always learnt from other musicians. And I would like to…to please encourage my…my fellow gospel singers. Let’s please learn from our fellow Gospel musicians. It is good to listen to somebody….It is good to listen to other people. It is good to appreciate them. So that is what has kept me going.
Ominde: And also fasting. It is good to fast.
Kambua: Amazing amazing nuggets. Why isn’t she giving us more music? (Random question from a Kenyan)
Ominde: I have…I have, but sijaweka kwa video. Lakini nimerecord…. nimerecord news songs. They are about 10 to 12…Within three weeks, kuna ingine God will help me na itatokea.
(Final remarks and end of program).
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