The revolution has been televised. Read about Sauti sol’s incredible journey to the top
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.
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 4 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 shunned basic-ness and took a risk away from the overplayed video clichés that were as a result of playing safe.
“Sauti Sol is unapologetic for our actions, which we feel have done the music industry more good than harm…. If the opportunity cost of getting endorsements is to do that which is NOT game-changing, then it’s a cross we’re willing to carry. We have opened the gates for artists to express themselves freely, including sensually without prejudice.” the group revealed in a release.
They may have lost some endorsements and conservative fans in the process but you can’t make an omelette without cracking an egg right?
The pay-off with ‘Nishike’ was great as their brand expanded beyond the East African borders, they got to win awards and even perform at The Global Citizen Festival on 26th September 2015 in New York City, USA.
At the event they got to perform alongside industry heavyweights like Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, Arianna Grande and Coldplay for a mammoth crowd of 60,000 in New York City’s Central Park.
A few months after the release of ‘Nishike’ in October 2014, the band secured the 'Best African Act' at the MTV Europe Music Awards, making it the first MTV EMA award for Kenya and paving way for other East Africans like Ali Kiba and Diamond Platnumz to secure it. Which makes an impressive win of 3 MTV EMAs 3 years in a row for East Africa.
On 21 November, 2015 the band released their latest album ‘Live and Die in Afrika’ which had hits like ‘Nishike’ Sura Yako and ‘Kuliko Jana’ to critical acclaim and it seems to be a fan favorite to date.
After the release of their 2015 album, Sauti Sol bagged so many awards that we can hardly keep up with the number. Their major wins from 2015 include MTV MAMA, AFRIMMA & Soundcity MVP for Best Group and HiPiPo Awards 2017 for ‘Song of the Year’ and East Africa Super Hit for ‘Unconditionally Bae’ with Ali Kiba.
Thanks to their new uptown flair-meets-Afro couture look, Sauti Sol is also killing it in the fashion arena. The group won 'East Africa’s Most Stylish MaleArtistes’at #Asfa2015 and bagged Bag Two Nominations at Abryanz Style and Fashion Awards in 2016. Their award-worthy fashion sense can be credited to celebrity stylist Brian Babu.
Financially, the group has grown exponentially with sold out shows in Kenya and East Africa and the band got to sign a multimillion-shilling brand endorsement with East Africa’s biggest breweries, EABL for their fast-selling ‘Chrome Vodka’ brand.
With such lucrative endorsements and international recognition, its clear that the only direction Sauti Sol is going is up. 2017 is still a young year, we can only hope that Sauti Sol surpasses the success of their yester years.
JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!
Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or: