When she couldn’t make it on stage, Shanah Serena Manjeru stood on a make-do one, on a chair, at a busy restaurant and sang her heart out at only three years. Six years later, her mother, Florence Manjeru shares her experience, recognising her daughter’s talent and nurturing it
Harriet James @[email protected]
At nine years, Shanah is an award-winning child emerging the best in Kenya Music Festival and other singing competitions. Tell us more about her.
Shanah is our last born child. She has been singing ever since she was three years old, mostly singing songs by some of her favourite musicians such as My Redeemer by Nicole C Mullen, El Shadai by Amy Grant, Beautiful Beautiful by Francesca Battistelli, among others.
In 2017, Shanah emerged the top winner during the Kenya Music Festival when she competed against other students in the under-10 singing category. Rose of Sharon Academy, Nairobi, where she attends school, also conferred to her Best Talented Student in 2017. When she was only five years old, she competed in a singing competition in an international school where she was pitted against much older students, and won.
Being your last born child, do you pamper her? How is her character as she grows up?
We have always treated her like any other child. Her siblings would say that she is a little pampered though. Growing up, Shanah has always been a jolly and obedient child. She always seems to do what is right.
When did you notice she had a talent in singing, and how did you as a mother encourage it?
We noticed her ability to learn and hold a tune as early as a year old, before she could even speak coherently. We thought it was amazing, but didn’t realise it was a talent.
We recognised the talent when she was about three years old. We were in a restaurant having lunch on a Sunday.
She asked to sing on a stage. She proceeded to sing a nursery rhyme, Bumble Bee, and when we seemed not to grant her the ‘stage’ she stood on top of her chair, in the restaurant full of people, and sung the song!
When done, she sat down, continued with her lunch, while those in the restaurant clapped and cheered. We immediately realised something that could not be stopped, her singing talent was born.
Take us through her music journey?
What is the source of her inspiration? Her dad is a major source of her inspiration. He has taken it upon himself to help her hone her talent. We have always encouraged her to perform for audiences as part of her training.
She has performed at birthday parties, churches, during a bridal walk at a wedding, in events such as the Churchill Show and Churchill Kids Festival, in radio and television shows, and even at a funeral.
In 2017, she released her debut music video, Destiny. So far, she has recorded four songs with accompanying music videos, but only released Destiny. She is set to release more music videos in this year. With every new song, we see her grow as an artiste in her own right.
How do you ensure she balances between school, her social life and studies?
We mainly schedule her music activities over the weekends, holidays and a little after school during the week. The advantage is that she is still young and academic demands are not too heavy.
She is usually done with homework before she gets home. We want to maximise on this because we realise that the more she advances in school, the less time she will have to do other things.
How do you keep her grounded and ensure she grows up like a normal child, despite being a little celebrity?
I don’t think she feels like a celebrity as she goes on with life like any other child.
We don’t treat her like one. She gets disciplined just like her other siblings when she gets out of line.
She does chores, such as washing dishes, making breakfast, sweeping and even washing clothes, once in a while. She is also social, so we encourage her to relate and play with everyone.
How has being in the limelight changed her?
It has not really changed her. She does everything she did before she was in the limelight. She always gets surprised when people notice her from television interviews or her YouTube song, or make a big fuss. She tends to get a little shy. She does not seem to know what to make of it when other children crowd around her.
What do you admire most in her?
Her love for people and most of all, her love for God. I also admire her good memory, especially around music. She is also quick at learning new things. Where do you see Shanah in five years?
In five years, she will be 15 years old. I see a girl who has honed her skill and understands that her gift has a purpose. I see a girl who owns her music, one who knows what she wants and what she doesn’t want. I see a girl who will have discovered her own musical style. Five years is a long time, and she could easily achieve these even before then.
What advice can you give parents with gifted children?
God has placed their children in their hands because He knows they have everything it takes to help them bring out their gifts. It has nothing to do with financial ability. The earlier parents start to nurture the gifts of their children, the better. Parents should know that children have an ability to balance their academic work and nurturing talent. Both can go together.