Cecilia Wairimu, better known to many as Amani, is a valued artiste in Kenya, East Africa and beyond.
The humble, beautiful and hardworking Thika-born singer shared with Citizen Digital exclusive details about her childhood, education music, and relationship.
Below is her narration:
“I was born in Thika at a time there was no superhighway. I am the first born in a family of three (two girls, one boy).
On disciplining her siblings
Being the eldest sibling, it is natural to expect Amani was the custodian of family norms as outlined by her parents. Was she cracking the whip when it was called for?
“It would depend; if it is something that I would be punished for by my parents later then I would ensure that my younger siblings don’t misbehave. You know how African parents are. They’d ask you: where were you when your siblings were misbehaving?
“Contrary to what many first born children go through, my parents did not expect a lot from me. They are neither too strict nor too lenient. My mum is quite a disciplinarian and my dad is the liberal one.
She is an alumnus of Bishop Gatimu Ngandu Girls High School
“I attended Moi Academy in Thika for my Primary education and Bishop Gatimu Ngandu Girls’ High School. I was very shy; when at home I would play with my siblings, but when I was in school, I would keep to myself. I had to get used to the environment and people for me to open up – even today I think it is still the same.”
Her dad is a professional chef
“Being the first born, there was a lot of pressure for me to learn how to cook. My dad is a professional chef, so cooking in the house was a must-know. One could not dare cook substandard food when my dad was around. I leaned more toward baking because I thought the pressure of cooking was just too much, and dad was not very keen on the art of baking. Hapo ndiyo nilikuwa namuwahi.
What’s Amani’s favourite meal?
“I like African meals because I think they are very nutritional – good traditional chicken, mukimo, traditional vegetables and salad. I know how to cook ugali too. I have never cooked ugali for members of the Western Kenya community (laughs), but maybe one day my skills of cooking ugali would be put into practice.”
Amani realised she can sing after she joined BG (High School)
The talented artiste says she resorted to music after she realised that almost every classmate of hers was gifted in academics; and that she needed a venture that made her stand out.
“It (Ngandu Girls) is a national school – the best of the best go there. So coming from my primary school, and time and again being at the top of my class, I thought I was smart. When I got to Ngandu I realised that there were ladies who smarter than me like 100 times. I thus looked for a venture that I would outshine my competitors.
“Being the introvert that I was, I used to spend a lot of time alone. I remember this one time I was having a conversation with God; I asked Him what edge do I have? Because clearly I could see that on matters education and academics it was very competitive.
“One day I just realised I can sing, dance and act. That is when I started having an interest in music.”
She is a great chess player
“Generally, I am not an active sports person. However, when it comes to chess – yes! In Ngandu, I was more involved in drama and music.”
“The funny thing is that I am not a good actress; I remember one day during drama festivals, I burst out laughing on stage, and that was it (I left drama)! I thought the person whom I was acting along was very funny. I thus became the audience in the process.”
“In primary school I was a great swimmer.”
Being a shy person, how does she find the courage to perform on stage?
“I think it is about passion – I had so much passion for music and I believed that was my edge; I just had to take the bulls by the horns, there was no way out.”
She is an International Business Administration graduate
“I studied International Business Administration with a major in marketing from the United States International University (USIU). My experience at the university was fantastic! My high school background played a huge role in molding my experience at the university. Ngandu was very strict. On the other hand, life in USIU was shaped by freedom and the do-as-you-wish attitude. I was scared. I was intimidated at first. But I am glad I found my place.”
She moved out of her parents’ house while she was in her second year at the university
“While living with my parents I had to behave – there was no such a thing like going out. However, my breakthrough in music came later on when I was in my second year in campus. I was able to move out of my parents’ home, but that is because I was paying my own rent from my musical performances and album sales. I think it became a bit hectic driving all the way to Thika after performing at a gig at night; so I found my ka-little place.”
What has changed about the music industry over time, at least according to her observation?
Using Talk To You music video featuring Patonee and Big Pin as her prime yardstick, Amani says the music industry has witnessed massive growth and evolution.
“Back then I don’t know what we were doing (laughs). But I think the director of (Talk To You music video) did a superb job. He at least knew what he wanted. That was my first experience on video; I was wondering if I was doing the right thing.
“I think people are now investing huge amounts of money on music videos. It is all about lighting and equipment; equipment costs money, so people are really investing a lot of money on music videos. The thing is you have to compete on the African stage.”
With years of experience in music what has she learnt about the industry?
“The most important thing is that an artiste has to stay focused. Number two: don’t take things too high – usicatch feelings because everyone is there to do business. Don’t venture into music with a lot of expectations; yes, you are talented; you have your musical career, but that is probably the story of every other person; and everyone just wants to make money.”
Amani opens up about dating
“I am seeing someone. He is not in the public limelight.”
So does that mean Amani will soon tie the knot?
“It’s going to happen soon! About the “soon”, wait and see – I am a bit of an introvert, and it is my private life; and I like to leave some room for mystery. But I have been dating and it has been a good experience.”
Amani’s say about Kenya’s dating scene
There has been an umbrella notion from social discussions that Kenyan women get into relationships for money, and that Kenyan men are unromantic. What does Amani think?
“The funny thing is that you go across Africa and lovebirds seem to complain about each other. Tanzanians complain about mkorogo (bleaching) among women. I guess guys should just cross borders, inaonekana kila mtu ako na manung’uniko yake.
The dating scene in Kenya has its issues, but I guess that is the society we are living in; however, whatever choices we make should be personal.
“You cannot live by the bandwagon mentality – relationships are as unique as our personalities; what works for someone else might not work for another person. Just make your relationship between the two of you – what do you want, what is your vision, how do you want to carry it out, and move on from there. Relationships are a journey, a process – you don’t just meet and all falls in place. A journey of getting to know each other, appreciating each other, building something together. There’s no marking scheme for love.”
About her relationship with Tanzania’s AY
Amani and Tanzanian singer AY dated between 2005 and 2007. Recently, the Zigo star opened up about why he and Amani split – he said neither Amani nor he was ready to relocate to the other’s native country. Nonetheless, AY showered praise on the Bad Boy singer for her patriotism.
Amani’s take: “I dated AY eight years ago and it seems to come back on the media time and again. Some of that stuff I kind of forgot; I guess it’s because I am in the limelight, I am reminded.
“I am where I am right now and I am happy. He too is happy with his life. My decision not to relocate to Tanzania was based on my career; I was doing pretty well in Kenya at that point and time.
“It’s good to know he said good things about me.
Her advice to young girls…
“Accept your strengths and your weaknesses; learn to say no. One of the things I had to learn along the way was to say no. Women want to over deliver; as we get older, we have more responsibilities, we have more on our plates… we have the tendency of wanting to stretch ourselves. We are giving too much and we are not putting back anything; if you cannot do it, you cannot do it!”