Lilian Rotich’s rise and rise in the gospel industry

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Gospel artist Lilian Rotich. Photo/Courtesy

Dark chocolate woman with face of a young girl. She gels perfectly with everyone and melts many hearts with charming smile.  Her music is so timely and strategic. Meet Lilian Chepkorir Rotich, a Kalenjin gospel singer from Kericho. 

Lilian was born 44 years ago at Getarwet village in Bureti Sub-County, Kericho County. She is the third child in a family of eight children steered by a single mother who had to return to her ancestral home decades after enduring a marriage gone awry.

Upon the divorce, poverty struck the heart of the young family. Lilian’s mother resorted to brewing traditional liquor and eventually indulged in daily and deadly drinking turning the situation dire. 

It is during this time that Lilian was sitting for her KCPE exam. Despite doing exceptionally well in the exams, her mother believed that education was meant for men not women. According to Lilian, her mother wanted her to get married while in primary school just like her contemporaries in the village.

A woman with unmatched sympathy. She is reported to have almost given her visa card to her colleague Flora Cheptum, she said that she sympathized with her after they were interviewed together but Chpetum was denied the visa at the US Embassy in Nairobi. She told a journalist that maybe they did not accept her because of her injured leg. 

“I felt for her that I went back to tell the officials to change details of my visa and give it to her. However, one of the embassy officers told her that they won’t give her the visa but would just cancel it,” the melodious singer told the reporter tears welling up in her eyes.

The urge for advancing her studies saw her seek solace in her local church. To compensate for the funding, the church gave her responsibilities and funded her school fees until form three. Her unwavering faith became a point of reference and set a good example in her family on religious matters.

It is during this time that her mother turned into a new leaf. According to Lilian, her mother left brewing and gave herself to salvation. She then supported Lilian’s education until the time she completed high school. 

After many years of tussle, hustle and bustle, Lilian landed a job at Brooke Bond (Unilever East and Southern Africa, ESA) where she started as a clerk then rose to quality tea clerk. It was during this time when the marriage bag hit her.

A laboratory analyst at Unilever ESA crossed her path with a marriage proposal. The encounter resulted in the resignation and subsequent relocation to Nairobi. Lilian said their employer did not allow couples to work in the same company and that they also wanted to spend quality time together since her husband was and still is based in Nairobi.

While in Nairobi, she tried her luck in business but gospel music was her only star. She sang with flair while doing house chores unaware that her husband Richard Rotich was listening and had identified her talent. 

According to Lilian, one morning, bright as crystal, her husband told her that it is time to take her singing to the studio. Rotich being a staunch believer and a preacher had been asking her to entertain the congregation who seemed to enjoy her unparalleled voice. She hesitated but who was she to say no to a dream that had come true. Having sung alongside a Swahili musician sometime back, Lilian had an easy time with the producer.

Lilian successfully recorded her first single “Achicha” in 2005. She then gave the song to the vernacular radio station without leaving her contact. The song received an unexpected positive response from the public but no one knew the artist. The radio presenters made a public appeal that whoever did the song should present herself to the studio.

The song sold two thousand copies in a month. This was the year when Kass FM was launched and the song went into the air like wildfire. It is this album that saw her traverse the United States of America. 

In June 2006, Lilian was among the group heading to the United States of American to perform in Kotab Gaa Conference held at Maryland. Others in the group were Joel Kimetto, Emmy Kosgei and Zippy Kosgei. Lilian performed with a knack and pulled and moved the congregants.

While in the US, Lilian sent many berserks that the pastor of Tumaini Baptist Church, Maryland offered to sponsor her second album Kenyit Nelel. Lillian came back to Kenya in September 2006 and recorded the song then went back to the US to launch it in November 2006. She expressed profuse gratitude to Kass FM International staff for facilitating her CD duplication.

Rotich has then recorded more than five albums, starting with Achicha in 2005. It is worth noting that this album has 10 tracks. Her second album was Kenyit Nelel in 2006 which mainly translated to a new year full of God’s blessings. Her third album was Kibendi Tai in 2008 meaning we are moving forward. Her fourth album was Inetkei Isom Nyoetab Kaat in 2009 which means “learn”. The song is a memorial to the infamous post-election violence which rocked the country in 2008. The fifth album was Otonosen, 2013 which means stand up.

Lilian pays a glowing tribute to the Kalenjin gospel maestro, Pastor Joel Kimeto for mentoring her. The accomplished singer owns a music store called Lirok in Zion Mall, Eldoret. She likes reading the bible and watching movies in her leisure time. Lillian who is a staunch fan of Ron Kenoly, a US gospel music star, has mastered the art of survival after working as a vegetable vendor in Marigithi and Muthurwa markets for three years and another three years selling cereals in Komarock, Nairobi to eke out a living. 

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