Persons Of Interest: Thelma Spits Lukachia
This post was to go up on Monday but coming from the holiday season it was difficult getting hold of my POI earlier so we arrange to meet at my office on Monday at 11 am hoping that I can still meet my deadline of 3PM.
Thelma walks into my office two minutes to our agreed time which tells a lot about how serious she takes her appointments.
By day she is the Operations and Communications Manager at Free Kenya Foundation, in the evening you will find her singing with her Uzima Band at some hotel in town and she still finds time to be a mother to her 23 month-old son.
How does she juggle all that?
Ominde: Tell me about yourself growing up.
Thelma: I grew up in Milimani Kisumu where I was raised by my grand parents – I am a total orphan. My grand parents are very religious and from a very tender age I found myself singing in the church choir and later on in the School Choir when I joined Mukumu Girls for my high school.
Ominde: Is that why you formed Uzima Band?
Thelma: True, my love for music has a lot to do with with formation of the band. I remember when I used to come to Kisumu I admired the Six String Band that played at Turtle Bar on Nairobi road every Thursday but the band fell apart.
When I came to Kisumu there was no band playing contemporary music anymore and I decided to start one and that’s how Uzima was born.
Ominde: Would you say that you make enough money from the band?
Thelma: Money is never enough however much you make. We started the band only making Ksh. 3,000 per show for the whole band but now we take a minimum of Ksh. 20,000 per show. That is still little bearing in mind that we have to divide it among all members of the band and pay for the equipment that we hire.
We hope that the market in Kisumu will soon become more receptive and that clients will be willing to pay for the value we give them. Our biggest challenge are the Congolese bands who have completely messed up the market by charging very low performance fees.
Ominde: How do you juggle this with your day job running an NGO?
Thelma: My work is very flexible but I also plan my time well so that I can be able to deliver on my duties at the office and be available for my band mates for practice and performances.
It’s when it comes to my baby it becomes a bit tricky because for some nights in a week I am not available to tuck him in but I am glad I have a very supportive husband who appreciates my love for music and is always with the baby when I cannot be around.
Ominde: Being a musician you attract a lot of attention, how does your hubby take that?
Thelma: Like I said my hubby is my biggest fan and he is okay with me being out there – sometimes late at night singing and mingling with fans. I am a flirt – I flirt with my fans and friends but I always know what boundaries not to cross so my hubby has never found a reason to be jealous.
Ominde: Interesting, let’s go back to how you met your hubby?
Thelma: You probably already know I am married to a white guy from Netherlands. Believe it or not we met at Barcadia Lounge (she laughs), I was with a group of friends but most of them were blacked out and I was still dancing, our eyes locked and he came over and chatted me up. We exchanged phone numbers and he called the following day…the rest like they say is history but we have been married for two years and have a son together.
Ominde: How did your family and friends react to you getting married to a white guy?
Thelma: My grandma probably thought I was going to marry one of the boys from her church so I can recall her asking me when I took my hubby home if I was sure it was him I wanted to marry.
My friends are okay with it, my hubby is a very likable person.
At times though I get negative comments when I am out with him because of the stereotype that every girl who marries a white man does it for the money. Of course nobody wants a broke man but some of the comments are very disheartening at times. I have however gotten used to it and today I take it all in my stride.
Ominde: What would you say was your biggest highlight of the past year?
Thelma: We were performing at the launch of “Transform Kisumu Initiative” having been invited by the Governor. Also present was Suzanne Owiyo who was one of the people appointed to be Kisumu’s ambassadors. When she took to the stage to perform Kisumu 100 she called us to back her up and for me singing alongside her was such a great honor for me.
Ominde: Your lowest moment?
Thelma: That has to be losing our bands’s percussionist Siaka Odedo. It was a big blow to us as a band and to the entire arts industry in Kisumu.
I am looking forward to a great 2016 both for the band where we plan to expand and get our own equipment and in my professional life and family.
If you know anyone you think should be a person of interest, kindly let us know so that we can celebrate them together.
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