By Prudence Minayo
Many exceptional bands have graced the music scene for decades but very few remain together for long, and this happens worldwide. People start bands, produce a number of songs or albums then they split leaving their fans wondering what happened. Not Sauti Sol. For the longest time, this boy band has continuously served fans with hits after hits and in quick succession. They have released a total of 5 studio albums and performed in Kenya and beyond. They were the band that performed in State House when the former president of the United States Barack Obama visited the country for the first time since becoming the president of the U.S.
Many have dubbed them the best boy band in Africa, deservedly so. Below is a glimpse into who they are and their music.
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The group is made up of four members:
Bien-Aime (French for Beloved) Baraza
Songwriter, guitarist and vocalist known for his soulful lyrics. Bien proposed to long-time girlfriend Chiki Onweke in 2019. Chiki is a Nigerian who grew up in the UK and came to Kenya where she worked as a fitness trainer. After the engagement, she couldn’t hold her excitement and wrote:
“ I was not expecting this at all! Hiring out a cinema, all my family and friends involved. Thank you, thank you. Easiest Yes I’ve ever said. To my homie, my best friend and sh** my fiancé I love you, ” she wrote.
She’s an alumni of United States International University where he studied journalism.
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Polycarp Otieno guitarist and producer. He fell in love with the guitar after attending free guitar lessons at All Saints Cathedral.
In 2018, he walked down the aisle with his beautiful Burundian wife Mandy in a colorful invite-only ceremony. The ceremony held in Bujumbura Rwanda was a wonderful blend of cultures attended by his band members and some well known Kenyan names.
An alumni of Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology with a degree in Actuarial Science.
Willis Chimano Keytar, saxophone player and baritone. Before joining Sauti Sol, he contested and won in the annual Fete de la musique music competition at the French Cultural Center.
Alumni of the University of Nairobi with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies.
Savara Mudigi drums, vocalist and producer. He recently introduced his girlfriend, Yvonne Endo to fans on social media.
Alumni of Africa Nazarene where he studied commerce and finance.
Background and Career
The band was started back in 2005 by Bien, Chimano and Savara. The three met while studying at Upper Hill and the band started out as an acapella group. They met Polycarp later before they even decided to name the group ‘Sauti Sol.’ Sauti is Swahili for Sound and Sol is Spanish for sun, hence, the translation voices under the sun.
After the four came together, they wrote their first song Mafunzo ya Dunia.
Slowly, they rose to fame and their debut album was released in August 2009 and titled ‘Mwanzo’ (Beginning). It was released via Penya Records.
In 2011, they released the second studio album Sol Filosofia.
In 2012, the group was on a Europe tour. Collaborating with South African rapper Spoek Mathambo, they released Extended Party with the EP being produced in both Nairobi and Johannesburg. Two videos of the featured singles, Range Rover and Love or Leave were shot in Amsterdam
They also collaborated with P-unit for the song Gentleman which was a huge success.
In April 2014, they released the video of the song Nishike (Touch Me). The song did not sit well with the conservative people in Kenya. It caused an uproar due to steamy content. KFCB CEO, Ezekiel Mutua, announced the ban of the song saying it shouldn’t be broadcasted in TV stations.
In November 2015, they released the album Live and Die in Africa. The band allowed for free downloads in the first 48 hours as an early Christmas gift. In the 48 hours, there were 400,000 downloads. The song Sura Yako became a massive success. The people who listened to the song shared their own videos dancing to the hit. The song became so successful prompting them to release the video. Sauti Sol also released a hit single called Melanin. The song was a massive success and was played almost everywhere in Kenya, from vehicles, radio stations to clubs. KFCB CEO was, however, not impressed with the video which did not live up to his and the board’s moral standards.
In January 2019, the band released their fourth album African Sauce which was more of R&B and Afropop. The 13-track album featured songs in collaboration with many African musicians including Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Kaligraph Jones, Burna Boys, Vanessa Mdee, Mi Casa, C4 Pedro and Nyashinski. The group described the album as an art and cultural exchange.
Early 2020, they signed a major deal with Universal Music Africa.
In February 2020, they released the single Suzanna which was shot in Lagos, Nigeria. In June, they released their fifth studio album Midnight Train. The album has featured singles including “Suzanna, ” “Brighter Days, ” “Africa” and “Sober.” The album features a song on hope, especially during the difficult pandemic period and also talks about divorce and social issues. It also features a song done in collaboration with the Soweto Gospel Choir from South Africa.
The group is currently one of the most popular bands in Africa with a massive audience in their country, Kenya, the whole of Africa and even the world. They have toured Europe and the United States performing in various arenas and getting acclaim.
Nominations and Awards
- 2 Kisima Music Awards
- Nominated for the MTV African Music Awards thrice
- 4 nomination and 2 wins for the All Africa Music Awards
- One nomination for the BET Awards.
- One nomination for Nigerian Entertainment Awards.
- Two nominations for HiPipo Music Awards
- One nomination and one win for MTV Europe Music Awards
- Three nominations and one win for the Channel O Music Video Awards.
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