Joyce Lay

Former Taita Taveta Woman rep Joyce Lay who now sings gospel music. 

| Pool

Former MP Joyce Lay’s new life as gospel musician

What you need to know:

  • Joyce Lay will this week release a music video to her latest song ‘Holy holy’.
  • In Parliament, she was most famous for championing a bill seeking to govern in-vitro fertilisation.

For the first time since she took a break from politics to become a gospel singer, former MP Joyce Lay, who goes by the stage name Jewel, will this week release a music video.

The four songs she has released since June last year when she announced her switch to music have been in either audio format or lyric videos, and have had modest views on YouTube.

But in a move that confirms her determination to make a name in the gospel music industry, the 47-year-old will this week release a music video to her latest song Holy holy, and her face will now appear on screens not as someone debating in Parliament or issuing a political declaration but as an artiste praising her maker. She released a teaser to the video on her YouTube channel on Wednesday.

“It is my first ever video,” she told the Sunday Nation.

“I looked at how we can do a launch with a crowd, but then because of Covid-19 and the President banning all gatherings, I think I’ll just release it on YouTube, and maybe later after the protocols have been lifted, I can do a performance for the people,” said the artiste.

Lay was the Woman rep for Taita Taveta between 2013 and 2017. In the 2017 General Election, she vied to be the Taita Taveta senator on a Jubilee Party ticket. She garnered 35,590 votes, coming second to Johnes Mwaruma of the ODM who had 43,803 votes.

She said she will not be seeking any elective post in the 2022 General Election but she might do so in future “when God guides me on where to stand.”

“I will seek a lot of guidance from God before I give it a shot, but I’m open to it. However, in 2022 elections, I won’t be vying,” she said.

Joyce Lay

Former Taita Taveta Woman rep Joyce Lay who now sings gospel music. 

Photo credit: Pool

Her election loss was a mixed bag. It happened two years after she had parted ways with her husband William Lay, a private man who loathes the limelight.

In 2019, the two would rekindle their love. Their marriage has been on since, but the husband had a condition for her when she told him she wanted to become a recording artiste — that she shouldn’t use her family name in that endeavour.

“He hates publicity,” she said, laughing. “I try as much as I can not to bring him out in the public. Most of the times, you can see even in my social media posts, it’s very rare that I’ll mention him.”

That is why she will be among the gospel artistes with a different stage name from their real name. The name Jewel, she told the Sunday Nation, was revealed to her in prayers. So prayerful has she become that she has converted one of the bedrooms in their house to be exclusively for her prayer time, she says.

“I remember this name Jewel clearly came in one of my prayer sessions. At first, I could not understand ‘Jewel’ and where I was going to use it,” said Jewel.

But after that family name conversation with her husband, she said, she understood why the name had been “revealed” to her.

Noting that she adopted the name earlier this year, she was quick to add that her husband has been supportive of her passion for music.

“He supports everything that I do, only that he doesn’t want to be dragged along with it. I remember even when I started singing, he came on board and bought me a keyboard. He loves my music,” said Jewel.

She noted that while in that spirit of prayers that revealed her name, she was asked to focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning (LGBTIQ) members of the society.

Many challenges

“I heard that voice telling me that God wanted me to share the love of Christ with the LGBTIQ community. This is a community that I don’t know much about,” she said. “I’ve never had any interaction with them to understand them and to know their lives and all that, but then somehow when I heard this voice, I went back into prayer again.”

Jewel added: “The message was very clear; that they’ve been discriminated and most of them are being persecuted. Most of them are being judged and condemned.”

She could have released more songs by now if it were not for the many challenges she has faced, finances leading the list. Producing an audio track, she noted, costs between Sh40,000 and Sh50,000 while a video costs anything from Sh100,000.

“I can say the main challenge is finances,” she said.

With such dire straits, one wonders whether she regrets ever joining politics, an endeavour that can drain a person’s pockets.

“No, I don’t regret. Actually, it has been an experience. It has been like I went to school; to learn so many things. And now I know in every step that I’ve been in my life, it was a learning experience,” she said.

Being a believer, she said, makes a better politician: “There is nobody who can exercise a proper, true, honest leadership if you don’t have God in your life.”

And on whether people will judge harshly a politician becoming a dyed-in-wool preacher, she said it does not bother her: “We are all vessels of God. And God can use anyone.”

The mother of two is studying for a bachelor’s degree and has ventured into business even as she tries to train on how to perfect her vocals.

“I’m sure that once I put everything in order, when the business is up and running, now I’ll have full time to concentrate on my voice. Because the songs just come automatically,” she said.

“There is no point that I’ve sat down to write a song. It just comes, either when I’m worshipping God or having fellowship with the Holy Spirit when I’m praying. I get new songs, record them on my phone and then I go to the studio,” added the politician.

In Parliament, she was most famous for championing a bill seeking to govern in-vitro fertilisation, the process where a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm are brought together outside the body.

In one session, Jewel — who had her uterus removed years ago due to a medical complication — described her ordeal with a surrogate mother of her child. She told the House that she spent four years in court trying to get her child from the other woman.

So, what is the progress of that legislation?

“The mover of the bill was (Suba North MP) Millie Odhiambo,” she said. “People always confused who between me and Millie was the mover of the bill.”

Added Jewel: “And now that she’s still in Parliament, she’s pushing the bill. I asked her recently, and she said it is coming back.”

'Holy holy' video

Regarding her new song Holy holy, she said it is all about recognising the greatness of God.

“He’s our redeemer, He’s our healer, He’s our master, He’s our father. So, it is to exalt God,” she said.

Jewel was once a choir singer at the Jesus Celebration Centre Mombasa, and she said it never hit her that one day she would be singing songs on her own.

“Maybe it’s because then I was not seeking to understand my purpose,” she said.

Jewel asked the current crop of gospel artistes to pray hard and seek God’s guidance in their work.

“You’re not entertaining anyone. Don’t look at it as if it’s to earn entertainment or as a source of money to a point where you get lost,” said Jewel.

“Seek the Holy Spirit because some of your songs can be used to bring healing to somebody who is out there. It can be used to encourage someone who is down, who has been beaten by life.”

She recognised women who have established themselves in the local gospel industry, like Emmy Kosgei, Mercy Masika and Evelyn Wanjiru.

“I know one day I’ll be ready to do a collabo with them,” she said. “But what I need to do is build myself first.”