Award-winning gospel musician Janet Manyowa shared her amazing story on the platform In Conversation with Trevor where she revealed how her husband plays a central role in her creative prowess.
Manyowa (JM) told Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN), the host of the online show, that initially she was reluctant to venture into music and that it took a lot of persuasion from family and friends for her to record her first song, Amazing Grace.
Since then, she has never looked back.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
TN: Greetings Zimbabwe, Africa and the world, welcome to In Conversation with Trevor brought to you by Titan Law. I go beyond the headlines and the sensational. Today I am in conversation with an accountant and renowned gospel singer, Janet Manyowa.
Janet Manyowa, welcome to In Conversation with Trevor.
JM: Thank you very much for having me.
TN: It’s a pleasure having you here. Happy birthday, it’s your birthday today.
JM: Thank you, I am feeling very special.
TN: You are very special to a lot of people, looking at your life — birthdays are opportunities or occasions where we look back at our lives. What comes into your mind when you look at your life?
JM: Birthdays in my parents’ home were very special. We took that time to speak into each other’s lives. I remember all they said to me: “God is going to bless you, coming in and going out and you are going far.”
It seemed a rhetorical statement at that time, but I am remembering everything that was spoken those days and seeing how God has come through for me, so I am feeling very blessed.
TN: You feel very blessed looking back at your life. What have been the highlights?
JM: There have been many highlights and obviously having children, I have three children, and those are the major highlights for me. But before the kids there was a special man I got married to. That was also a major highlight for me.
I grew up being an intelligent school-going girl, so I remember all those things that happened as I grew up and me singing from school to church, so yeah it’s been a good life.
TN: The tradition of speaking to your children, have you taken that over from what your parents used to do, to your kids?
JM: Definitely I have. So after celebrating and we eat the cake and whatever, we take the time to actually shut everything down and we speak to each other because we go through life and don’t say the special things like: ‘You know, Janet, when you came to the hospital and I was sick, it really meant a lot to me.’
[Sometimes] we go through life not knowing all those special moments.
So we take that time to actually speak to each other and say things like: ‘You know, Matipa, when you brought me tea/coffee in bed that day it was very special to me’ and she holds on to those special moments and I think it’s a great thing.
TN: Indeed those are quality moments. Looking back, you have been singing now for five years. You launched your debut album in 2015, which has been hugely successful.
Tell me about that process of putting the album together, the growing pains, as it were. What sticks out for you as far as that album is concerned?
JM: I think the first song I did as a recording artiste was really nothing serious to me. It was just trying out because the pressure was now too much from family and from the husband.
So I decided, okay let me do it so that you see I have done it, get it over and done with, nothing after this.
So I did my first song and It was well-received.
I was really surprised, it was a worship song, Amazing God, and I featured Dr Comfort Manyame.
I didn’t think it would play on radio, but when I heard it on radio it just dawned on me that God has a purpose with my life and I guess I had been playing with that purpose and I wanted to pursue it more.
I then did the rest of the songs and I was working with a local producer Tremmia.
He was my friend so it was fun to do, but, Grateful, my second album was when the work really began.
TN: It’s interesting that from what you are saying, your husband saw the talent, how great you were as a singer. A lot of people saw that, but you doubted yourself.
JM: I didn’t really doubt, I saw myself as an underground musician.
I wanted to write songs. I started writing songs at the age of 13 when I was in Grade Seven, right about that time, and I knew that God had given me the gift, but I think I was just not willing to go the extra mile and be in the limelight.
I had a name I wanted, even when I did my first album I wanted to be called Rejoice, which is my second name so that no one could attach it to me, not that I had skeletons or anything to hide, but just the pressures that were attached to being in the limelight, so I didn’t want to go through them.
TN: How is it now that you are hogging the limelight? How is it feeling like, are you enjoying it?
JM: I think God gives the grace, you know at every stage of our lives we fight new battles and for me I feel God has given me the grace to step up, sing and hold back when I need to.
So I also have a very supportive family and friends around me, who are truthful with me, who are supportive.
My husband will not leave any stone unturned, he will make sure that I have the support that I need.
He will ask: What do you really need? What do you really want? Let’s do this.
So I really thank God for that. He has been a source of strength for me to carry on.
TN: So your husband plays an important role in your life. He helps with the writing of the songs. He is a pillar of support.
JM: Very, very much. In my creative process I usually write songs. He has written one and helped me with others.
He wrote Muri Mwari and then I developed it. It’s a beautiful song and I think it’s one of my favourites. I am not trying to be biased, but I think it’s my favourite. We are talking about my husband being part of the creative process.
So when I write my songs I hesitantly go and say, ‘So I have a new song’ and then he says, ‘Fine let’s hear it and then I also say :‘You know what”, this song means . . .” and then I explain.
When I am done explaining he says: ‘So now, let’s hear the song’.
Sometimes I get a yay, sometimes I get a nay. A few times he has said no, I think this is not great, do it again.
So that is my first stumbling block, my next stumbling block is my producer who then says: ‘Uhm it’s fine, but you can do better, Jane.’
I would have to go back and rewrite, but it’s fun.
TN: It’s interesting for me talking to you now, having seen you performing live. You are two different characters, on stage you are alive and something else, but in person you are very shy and withdrawn. Talk to me about that.
JM: I don’t think I am really shy, but like I said I can withdraw when I need to and sometimes I need to be in the hat of the accountant and I can easily go into that hat where I have to be a mom and washing dishes and taking my children on the back.
I think it’s the grace once again, I just give praises to God for enabling me to fit into many roles because I think as a gospel minister, there is a certain level of confidence that we need to be able to convey the message.
So I thank God that He gives me the grace at that point, but if you see me a minute before the performance I will be shivering like Lord why? (laughs)
TN: But they say that is a healthy dose to be able to continue to shiver no matter the times you have been doing the same thing, that’s a good dose of reality there, isn’t It?
JM: It is and I always have that reality check. The moment I think I can do it by myself, then we have a problem.
l “In Conversation With Trevor” is a weekly show broadcast on YouTube.com//InConversationWithTrevor. Please get your free YouTube subscription to this channel. The conversations are sponsored by Titan Law.