The GE Reports Africa blog casts a spotlight on the content produced in partnership with aKoma Media, where stories are made@africa, as part of the Amplify initiative, Africa’s first paid fellowship for content creators.
Laila Le Guen is a writer based in Nairobi. She spoke to Winnie Kiboi, who uses her passion for gospel music to spread a message of love and hope.
This week, we spent time with Winnie Kiboi, a GE Communications Specialist and gospel artist who finds healing in music and who translates this experience to others. Young and charming, bursting with life and belief, Winnie exudes effortless inspiration. She wants people to find hope and life in the message of the gospel in order to accelerate their movement to greater spiritual heights and towards peace.
When she appears at the entrance of the marquee, she is perfectly framed by the soft light from outside. She looks exactly as she does in her YouTube video, which can be viewed below: confident and joyful. We’re at the CITAM Church on Thika Road and amid the rows of empty seats arranged in semicircles around the stage, she improvises an a capella rendition of her first album.
She starts out with a repetitive nod and a hum, then she hesitates slightly and starts over in a different key. All the while, she sways to the rhythm of music only she can hear. Eventually, her voice soars in praise of God and her whole body comes alive. Her eyes are closed tightly in concentration, her arms are raised to the sky and her feet are energised by the vibration she is creating. Behind her, the stage is draped with red and black strips that meet at the apex of the marquee. We too, are transported by the sound.
“Music makes me feel alive! If I’m down, it makes me feel good. At the same time, as a gospel musician, my participation in music is not just for the sake of participating in music, but it’s also a message to other people,” she says when we sit down afterwards to chat.
It is this drive to inspire that helps Winnie move forward. At first, she saw her corporate self and her artistic self as separate facets of her identity. But, over time, she’s found out that GE offers her a unique opportunity to be in tune with her faith. “Living my spirituality out in the world is very tough and there are times when I have failed completely. But, one thing that has really helped me in working at GE is that the company is very big on integrity and that is a factor a lot of Christians struggle with.”
While Winnie is too humble to brag about her double career, her co-worker Yvonne candidly reveals her admiration. “She has such a sweet voice,” says Yvonne, remembering the GE singing competition Winnie won last year and the office birthday parties where she regularly performs.
Winnie has been singing since she was a child, but like many musical artists in Kenya, she never thought of her passion as a potential career. Now saddled with two very demanding activities – her role at GE and her commitment to gospel music – she’s realised how these different sides of her life can complement each other.
At GE, she has acquired leadership skills and learnt how to work with a diverse team bound together by the hope of creating sustainable technological solutions to Africa’s most pressing problems. Storytelling is a big part of her role and this allows Winnie to tap into her creativity to raise awareness of the brand as well as to foster a common culture within the company. At church and in her spiritual life, she has built up the mental resilience necessary to pull through in a challenging environment.
The day-to-day demands of the job involve juggling several projects with different timelines, which can make it hard to keep the bigger picture in mind, were it not for a strong sense of purpose. “Am I doing what I was brought on this Earth to do? How am I using my skills and talents?” These are the questions Winnie keeps going back to, to check in with her life’s mission. Ultimately, what makes it all worth it is GE’s commitment to their customers, the open-minded, flexible ethos that runs through the company combined with the constant drive to simplify processes to work faster.
And because you never know how much time you have left to live, there is also a certain urgency in her desire for fulfilment. Even as she dreams of a full-time artistic career in the footsteps of her idols, Angela Chibalonza and Sinach, she’s now considering her next challenge: Inspiring even more people through preaching.
After spending a few hours with Winnie, the impression that we were left with is that her positive outlook on life is a kind of wisdom that leaves room for wonder.