Kenya’s top boy band’s foray into the international arena received a major boost Thursday when they were announced winners of the MTV EMA Best African Act 2014 beating continental giants like Davido from Nigeria and Diamond from Tanzania.
The group, currently riding high with their hit Sura yako started out as underdogs in the competition before they launched a massive social media campaign that saw them getting votes from President Kenyatta, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, among other high profile people who helped their online campaign.
Their #IAintGotTimeIGottaVote has got to be one of the most well run online campaigns in the country. It even saw them win the SOMA “Best use of Social Media for Entertainment” award three weeks ago.
Their win means Sauti Sol is the first Kenyan act to receive the award. They now embark on another round of campaign to get them the Worldwide Act Award category where they are one of ten nominees. They will now be representing Africa. Previous winners of the Best African Act were 2Face in 2005, Freshlyground in 2006, D’Banj in 2007 & 2012 and LCNVL in 2013.
“The boys were very excited and there was a lot of push-ups in the house,” said the band’s publicist Anyiko Awoko. “They were waiting for the call from MTV and they were confident they would win. Having won the wildcard race was a big motivation, and it even energised the fans.”
The group, made up of Bein-Aimé Baraza, Willis Chimano, Delvin Savara Mudigi and Polycarp Otieno was formed in 2005 in Nairobi. They have been transforming the local music scene one hit at a time.
They launched their careers with Lazizi which was an instant hit . They proved not to be one hit wonders when they later released Coming Home, Soma Kijana, Money Lover and Nishike.
Nishike is one of their biggest, but most controversial songs that almost spelled doom for the band. The video saw sponsors ditch them in droves and critics had a field day blasting them for “going off script”.
Nishike garnered an impressive 825,000 hits but that did nothing to help their financial situation which was affected by sponsors refusing to have them grace their events. Most Kenyan artistes make their money from live shows — concerts and corporate launches.
Band members Bien Baraza penned a fiery blog post terming it “disheartening” while defending the video saying Sauti Sol was “unapologetic for our actions, which we feel have done the music industry more good than harm”.
NOT KENYAN ENOUGH
The corporates, he said, had abandoned them because they had “ceased to be a brand that associates with family and Kenyan values” had become “too risky; they show great potential to break up, get into drugs or other vices that don’t represent company values. Sauti Sol is not Kenyan enough”.
Defiant but feeling the heat, the band decided to release Sura Yako and all was forgotten. The corporates, fans and critics were back.
“What doesn’t kill you gets you stronger,” says Anyiko. “The band tested their fans and Kenyans with that song and video. They are grown and can take risks.”
Will they do another Nishike? “We can’t say we won’t do another because we are creatives and we have to sample different things, stay versatile,” adds Anyiko. “The new album will have different songs for our fans.”
But how did the group manage to excite a fanbase that is not known for voting? Anyiko says it was all down to creativity, coming up with different angles to talk to fans.
“We asked fans to post videos of themselves doing the Lipala dance and it was overwhelming, people from around the world recorded themselves dance and it was amazing. We then came up with the # IAintGotTimeIGottaVote Youtube series showing people dropping off everything else to vote.
^ The boys at Sauti Sol are no strangers to winning or international recognition, having been nominated for Channel O Africa Music Video Awards, the UK’s BEFFTA Awards and others. Previous winners of Best African Act have included 2Face (2005), Freshlyground (2006), D’Banj (2007 & 2012) and LCNVL (2013).
^ Locally, Sauti Sol has continuously engaged fans on Facebook and Twitter, thanking and rewarding them for voting. And congratulatory tweets abound from fans who are all too eager to support and celebrate an obviously talented band of entertainers, whose understanding and execution of music has been superior from the very beginning.
^ Who are they?
^ Bein-Aimé Baraza (vocals), Willis Chimano (vocals), Delvin Savara Mudigi (vocals, drums) and Polycarp Otieno (guitar) formed Sauti Sol in 2005 in Nairobi. The quartet have performed at numerous festivals (Blankets &Wine, Rift Valley Festival) and in 2012, was picked to perform all over the country under the Niko Na Safaricom Live tour. But that’s not all.
^ They so far have two albums out – Mwanzo and Sol Filosophia – and an EP released in 2012. Their latest album, Live and die in Afrika, comes out this year, the latest single from it being Sura Yako. Over the years, the boys have proved to be great performers, sending fans into frenzies and gaining the respect of fellow artistes.
^ They all have university degrees in various fields ranging from Actuarial Science to Journalism and Banking
— Njeri Muchai