KENYA: The Revolution Has Been Televised. Read About Sauti Sol’s Incredible Journey To The Top
23 March 2017
When you mention the name Sauti Sol, most people automatically visualise the Afro-pop band known of their flamboyant African outfits and one of the most intriguing and eclectic mix of voices.
Bien-Aimé Baraza, Willis Chimano, Polycarp Otieno and Savara Mudigi are credited to taking the new-age Kenyan music to the international scene with collaborations with Ali Kiba, Iyanya, Yemi Alade and other African stars.
But before they started making noise on the international scene with an MTV Europe Music Award for ‘Best African Act’ and MTV Africa Music Award for ‘Best Group’, Sauti Sol had a long way to go.
And their journey as Sauti Sol began at Alliance Française in Nairobi after they added Polycarp Otieno into their music group which was previously known as ‘Voices in the Light’ back in Upperhill Secondary school where they attended.
On 4th August 2009 Sauti Sol officially announced their presence in the Kenyan music scene with debut album ‘Mwanzo’ which contained classic singles like the generation-spanning ‘Lazizi’, ‘Mama Papa’ (featuring Dela) and ‘Blue Uniform’.
An album that was described by respected writer Oyunga Pala as ‘patriotic and authentic’ and‘world apart from the mindless copycat twaddle that dominated the Kenyan music scene.’Indicating that that this group was breath of fresh air from what we were used to. However, this album wasn’t just handed to them they had to grind for it in the Spotlight on Kenyan Music competition at Alliance Française before getting signed to Penya Records.
Circa 2011, their second album 'Sol Filosofia' came to being and Kenyans developed a generation-spanning love for the Afro-Group who were a gourmet meal in a world of fast foods.
The Fabulous Four had us dancing like constipated crickets to ‘Soma Kijana’ and at the same time teaching us the importance of education before later employing the acting talents of Patricia Kihoro for their heartrending-hit ‘Coming Home’ where a man commits suicide after learning that his girlfriend had smashed his friend.
Other songs in the album were ‘Row Your Boat’ ‘Sofia’ and ‘Private Spice’ but they didn’t get much coverage and hype on the mainstream media.
I feel like the prequel to the release of ‘Live and Die in Afrika’ was Sauti Sol’s game changer; it was then that the silky cocoon became the stunning butterfly we see today. This is because they realised that a little sexiness ‘never hurt nobody’ and decided to hit the gym and sex things up with ‘Nishike’ which is their most divisive song to date.
Sauti Sol was no longer that small band that could sing, they were grown and sexy superstars, they were daring in their ways and that is when the whole of Africa stood up and noticed them. But it also made others uncomfortable as blatant sexuality is not something Kenyans run towards and their new sexy selves came at a price, they lost a few fans and some endorsements with major corporations.
As Bien revealed, most of the brands felt that ‘Sauti Sol was now too out there’, ‘risky’ and ‘had ceased to be a brand that associates with family and Kenyan values.’
But the group put their foot down and remained very unapologetic about their risqué song, with Bien accusing Kenyans of having ‘The Tall Poppy Syndrome’ that is people showing envious hostility once someone looks like they have made it and they are doing well.
He went on to reveal that the reason they were so unapologetic is because they felt it was about time Kenyan musicians sh