There is a new sound in town – Afro-soul. And, thanks to the all-boys band Sauti Sol, the fan base for the genre is increasing with each passing day.
Sauti Sol, comprising Bien-Aime Baraza, Willis Chimano, Delvin Mudigi and Polycarp Otieno, stand out for their use of the acoustic guitar.
Though they sing of ordinary issues such as love, their sound is distinct. Their song, Lazizi, off the 14-track album Mwanzo (beginning), has won the hearts of many fans for its soulful lyrics.
Last weekend, it was the only song by a Kenyan group performed at the ongoing Tusker Project Fame 3. To the artistes, the performance by Kenyan contestant Patricia came as a pleasant surprise.
“I started getting calls from friends congratulating us. We were happy that people loved the song,” says Baraza.
Lazizi is a love ballad about a girl by the same name with whom the singer has fallen in love and wants to go out with.
As Patricia sang, the TPF audience sang along with her, just as they did other popular songs by foreign artistes.
Sauti Sol’s is Afro-soul with an appeal across the generations. That is what makes them popular though they sing about everyday issues.
“We use our experiences. When I talk about taking a girl out for coffee at Java, it’s because I have done that and many people frequent that place,” says Baraza.
Their growing popularity, though not totally unexpected due to their unique delivery of the songs and instrumentation, has motivated them to spread their wings.
“We didn’t expect to hit so early,” Baraza says. “We knew people would love our music but we never expected this and we are grateful to God.”
Sauti Sol were expected to start a month-long tour of Europe on Friday. “The tour will take us to Amsterdam and London and we are really looking forward to it,” Baraza told Lifestyle on Wednesday. Having previously performed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, they hop their tour in Sweden and Britain will be successful.
“People (in Addis Ababa) loved our music and even asked for an encore despite it being their first time to hear our music,” Chimano recalls.
Baraza, Chimano and Mudigi attended Upperhill Secondary School while Otieno went to Strathmore School in Nairobi.
They began their group back in their secondary school days but it was after graduating in 2005 that they grounded themselves well in music.
They started their career at the 200 Spotlight on Kenyan Music competition in 2006 where they were finalists.
Originally called Sauti, the group added the Sol – which is Spanish for Sun – because there were several groups in Uganda and Tanzania who went by the same stage name. They began as an a capella group and added the acoustic guitar to cut their unique style.
“Our mentor, John Katana of Uyoga band (now Them Mushrooms), advised us to go the direction we have taken,” Baraza says.
“Ours is a new Kenyan sound and a new beginning in the music industry,” Chimano says confidently.
Education is still important to them and they have joined local universities to study for various professions.
Baraza is a second year journalism student at USIU, Mudigi is a third year banking and Accountancy student at Nazarene University, while Chimano is a fourth year journalism student at the University of Nairobi.
Otieno is studying actuarial science at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. They say the professions will make them manage their music better
“We are not studying so we can have another career away from music, no. We want to use it to better our music. I deal with the group’s finances, Chimano and Baraza handle PR while Otieno can do a lot with his actuarial science,” Mudigi says.
The band is signed by rapper Wawesh’s Penya Label, which also houses another Afro-soul star, Stan. It was Stan who took Wawesh to Sauti’s first gig while he was scouting for artistes to sign.
“He liked what he saw and we signed with him. He is a brilliant manager and we are not yet done with music. We want to change the Kenyan music scene and help build a music industry,” Baraza says.