Linda Muthama shows up at the Junction Mall in a pair of fantastic-looking, striking, sun glasses. She gives me a warm, hearty hug before we take a seat at the Chinese restaurant on 4th floor.
In what seems like micro-seconds, Linda and I go from light, bubbly pleasantries to heavy yet general discussions about mental health, friendship, religion and bullying.
Linda tells me she just discovered Sarahah and she absolutely loves it. I tell her I’m not quite familiar with how it works, but from the little I hear, it worries me. I tell her such apps could open ugly doors to bullying, hate and maybe even the extreme, suicide.
Linda giggles, “You can’t bully me.”
Linda laughs with ease, exhausts her points of view eloquently, and is unapologetic about the life she has lived. She also speaks softly, just loud enough for her to pass her message across.
I ask her if there’s a question or topic she doesn’t want me to touch on, “None, ask away,” she says.
When it comes to music, Linda is talented, passionate and professional. When I tell her about some of my unfortunate experiences attempting to interview musicians, she breaks into laughter.
“Oh, it’s not you, it’s us. We are often stuck in our own world, believing our own hype too much at times. So interviews, communicating, keeping time and the like, those things pass us by. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.”
After talking to me about her childhood, travel opportunities, and life in music, we finally talk about that one thing many Kenyans now mostly remember her for, her marriage as a second wife to Walter Mong’are, more popularly known as Nyambane.
Linda immediately corrects me, telling me she was never a second wife, she was a mistress.
So many thoughts occur to me, my mind races, I now have questions I hadn’t quite planned to ask. Linda answers them all, telling me that it is all her truth; it is the life she has lived.
Although she extremely loves singing, Linda is now increasingly feeling the urge to hold younger people’s hands and to show them the ropes of music, faith and life.
Linda hopes to be a mentor to them, to guide them where she can, and to hopefully prevent them from making the same mistakes she made.
Here’s the rest on Linda Muthama:
Where do you perform these days?
Weekly, on different days, I perform at Slims Restaurant, Tamambo Karen, Black Diamond and in church. I also perform at various major corporate events when called upon.
Are you content with performing in both the secular scene as well as in church?
Yes. There are people who don’t go to church, why should they be left out? I’m very comfortable using my God-given talents to reach out to as many people as possible.
Do you feel pigeon-holed at times?
Yes, there is always the pressure to be in one box. That we have to be or do one thing and not the other.
I think human beings are multifaceted, and should be allowed to let their light manifest in the best ways possible. There are women who I’ve ministered to in the club more than in the church.
The church, although it is the place many go to seek refuge, fulfillment and nourishment, it is also a place that tends to have lots of toxicity, how do you deal with it?
You’re right, and I’m glad you mention that. We have to remember, church is not the building, it is the people.
I think we go to church expecting that everyone will be on their best behaviour and that no issues should arise; but, church is where venom exists, just as it does in every day society. For me, I go to church expecting the venom, it will be there, and I think it is wise to be prepared for it.
Will you be going back to the main entertainment scene, releasing singles and albums?
I have two albums now, but I’ve always wanted to do a worship album. I want to travel around the world ministering to people through my music. Like Sinach for example. I’m currently in studio trying to make it happen.
Will you want to be labelled a gospel artist going forward?
No. I don’t like that label. I’m just an artist, I sing, and I hope to influence people positively.
How do you describe your style of music?
Oh, do I have a style? (Laughs) Because I’ve been so musically exposed, I can do almost anything.
I can play anything from traditional Kenyan music to benga, opera, jazz, I can do them all. But for this next chapter, I’ll be doing, let’s call it, worship music, because that’s what I’ll be working on at the time.
Where did you spend most of your childhood?
Until about 18, I lived with my family in Tigoni, with very strict parents.
I’d completed high school, and joined Kenyatta University to study music. I knew what I wanted by then. It was a great course, I got the opportunity to travel to Finland and South Africa through it.
Where were you at 25?
Oh, gosh, what year was that? (Smiles) There was a period in my life where I got to travel a lot to the US to perform and tour with the Redykyulass team. This was after participating in Tusker Project Fame.
Was Tusker Project Fame worth it for you?
Yes, extremely, because of the fame (Laughs).
Did you enjoy it, the fame?
I did, especially because I love people. I liked that I could walk around Kisumu city and people would easily say hello to me as though I lived there. That was nice. We were supposed to use the fame to create careers out of it, which, unfortunately, most of us have not been able to achieve.
Why do you think that is?
I think it’s because most of us who went through it thought they’d arrived. But it’s like, how do you arrive at something you don’t have? So you have fame, but you don’t have a product. Fame is fickle, it comes and goes, you need to have content.
What do you wish you knew then that you know now?
(Thinks) At 25, I actually went through a quarter-life crisis. I thought I hadn’t achieved anything. I used to put so much pressure on myself to achieve anything and everything.
Then, when I think about who I am now, I don’t think I was kind. I was not keen on people. I would see what I want, and just go get it.
What has that experience taught you now?
That life is more than accolades and awards. Those were the things that validated me then. However, I don’t regret it, because I can now say I have done that. Now I’m more keen on people.
There are so many young people who are going through something similar: a quarter-life crisis, no jobs, failed start-ups, and life in general just not seeming to work out, what’s your advice to them?
My advice is to respect the process. Just start, and keep going at it. Don’t stop.
Even if you were the worst singer, if you kept working at it consistently, eventually, it would pay off. When I started playing live bands, I wasn’t sure it would work out, but now, I have corporate clients who ask for our services dedicatedly.
What would you say to the girls who struggle with the pressure to be liked by men?
Gosh, which men? (Laughs aloud)
But you’re right, I see it a lot when I’m performing, it’s just that I can’t walk up to a girl and tell them the guy they are with shows up with a different woman each time. I can’t do it because those are my clients, I have to be discreet since I want them to keep coming. But it’s unfortunate.
What would be the best way forward for them?
I think this is mainly an issue that stems from the home, so many girls grew up without fathers who affirmed them and this affects them. I would say find other people, find mentors, male figures, who you can look up to.
All you need is someone to tell you, “Keep going, I believe in you, I’m so proud of you,” and that makes a huge difference. This is so that when you meet someone who doesn’t value and respect you, you can easily walk away because you know your value.
So, for the girl who feels like she is the only one who does not have a “sponsor,” or not been taken to Naivasha for the weekend, what’s your encouragement to them?
Wow, if you’re the only one, remain the only one! It’s perfectly okay. My dad used to say, “I’m doing all these things for you so that no man ever impresses you with things like Naivasha. What is Naivasha?” (Laughs)
Also, I think we have to work on living lifestyles we can sustain. If you can’t take yourself to Naivasha every weekend, don’t go. Living a life that is dependent on sponsors is very dangerous and can easily lead to depression.
And to a girl who is over 18, and still a virgin?
(Exclaims) Congratulations! Oh, if I could do it all again, (thinks) I would have waited longer. It just saves you so much headache and trouble. You can’t long for something you’ve never had. And also, by the time a decent guy finds you, they’ll find you very secure in yourself.
Wait, it is okay to wait, there is so much worth in waiting. Just wait.
Did you love Walter?
Yes. As much as it was called a scandal, this was also my life. I lived it, I went through it, I would never have gotten involved with him if I didn’t love him.
Were you proud of being a second wife?
I was not a second wife, I was a mistress.
Was I proud? All I can say is that now I’m very proud I have a beautiful daughter. But I learnt a lot from that chapter of my life.
Did you ever meet his wife?
Were the both of you civil with each other?
Was she okay with your relationship with him?
Yes, she was okay with it. People presume to know a lot about what happened, and that’s another thing, I’ve sat at a table where everyone discussed me, without knowing I was there. I didn’t subscribe to all that scrutiny, I just sang, but I’m okay with it. It’s part of the package.
Did the scandal get to you?
Not really, because I realised my name is a brand. And when the relationship ended, it was natural for everyone to talk about it. I was on everyone’s lips, which was to be honest, kind of nice. (Giggles). But also, I don’t think I was created to be “normal,” and then die. So I’m okay with it all.
Did you ever see yourself becoming a mistress?
No. Not at all. I used to sit and think, “How did I get here?”
How did you get there Linda?
I don’t know Yvonne. I don’t know. (Shakes head) Life happened. It all just happened. It wasn’t a scheme or a plan or a ploy, it just happened. The same way someone starts taking alcohol, or if you’re dating, it’s like, how did you get there? Why him and not the other guy?
Would you ever date a married man again?
No, absolutely not. I went through it all and I got out on the other side. It’s hard because it all just happens and there’s no plan on how to get out. I meet so many people who ask me how I got out. I’ve considered writing, or maybe giving talks about it. It’s not easy.
Did you ever feel terrible for his wife while you were his mistress?
Wouldn’t you feel terrible if another woman did that to you?
At that time and that space I was in, things were very different. I was in a different world. I would certainly feel awful if it happened to me.
But now, if I find myself in a relationship where there’s cheating, I would leave. I would just leave because I’m increasingly finding value in myself.
Who would be an ideal partner for you now?
Oh, I had a whole script on how he shall be tall, dark, handsome, mature, wealthy, God-fearing, goodness! But now, I want someone who knows God, who would be kind and would be self-aware.
Do you think that kind of man exists?
Yes. They do. They do exist.
Where do you think you’ll find him?
I’m not finding a man, he’ll find me.
Define for me what friendships mean to you?
For me, friendship is being all in. I have expectations of my friends. With my friends, I call them, visit them and when things are off, I check up on them .
That’s what I do for my friends, and I like to expect that in return. If I realise someone can’t reciprocate in the same way, I don’t insist. It’s the reason I’ve cut so many people off, but I’m okay with it.
Do you consider yourself successful?
Oh, ask me that when I’m 60. (Laughs).
What’s the biggest lesson life has taught you so far?
I’ve learnt to be kind, to others as well as to myself. And also to build my spirit man.
What does “spirit man” mean?
Wow. That’s a whole other topic. Can we have another interview? (Laughs)
(Laughs some more.)