Afro Pop: The Rise and Rise of Sauti Sol

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Sauti Sol was one of the best music bands in Africa. After more than 18 years of entertaining the world, they announced an indefinite hiatus as the members pursued their personal interests. That said, they remain wildly popular, and their songs still resonate with a lot of us. How did Sauti Sol come to be? Let’s explore.  

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Formation of Sauti Sol

The members of Sauti Sol Bien-Aime Baraza, Willis Chimano, Savara Mudigi and Polycarp Otieno met in high school. All but Polycarp attended Upper Hill, whom they met at Alliance Francais. By that time, Bien, Chimano and Savara had formed the group and named it Voices in the Sun. 

Post their high school lives, they worked on developing their music. During this period, the band released their first album Mwanzo in 2009. They followed this up with Sol Filosofia in 2011. 

Sauti Sol’s Music

Sauti Sol sings in Swahili and English. Their music is soulful (no pan intended) and incorporates artistically played instruments. After the success of their second album Sol Filosofia which had hit songs like Coming Home, they forged ahead and released an Extended Play (EP), ‘Sauti Sol’, with a South African singer. This exposed them to different cultures.

In the following years, Sauti Sol released hit after hit. These include:

“Live and Die in Afrika” in 2015 which had a total of 400,000 downloads within the first 24 hours of its release. Some of the songs in the album include: 

  • Live and Die in Afrika
  • Nerea
  • Kuliko Jana
  • Sura Yako
  • Nishike

The next album ‘African Sauce’ came about in 2019. They worked with artists across the African continent. They include: 

Some of the notable songs include Short N Sweet and Melanin. 

In 2020, Sauti Sol dropped another gem and what is now their last album in “Midnight Train”. It highlights their musical journey and how much they’ve invested in their careers. Some of the songs include:

  • My Everything
  • Wake Up 
  • Rhumba Japani
  • Suzanna
  • Insecure

It’s not clear whether they’ll reunite. In their statement announcing their break, they said they remain friends and business partners. Also, they are looking for new ways to entertain their audience

“While the indefinite hiatus marks the end of a specific chapter, it also represents a new beginning for Sauti Sol. As close friends and business partners, the band members are eager to explore fresh creative avenues and embark on personal endeavours. However, their friendship and shared vision will continue to be the driving force behind their future projects,” said Sauti Sol.

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Members of the Sauti Sol Band

Willis Austin Chimano  

Afro Pop: The Rise and Rise of Sauti Sol
Chimano singing. Image Source: Instagram licensed under CC BY 2.0

Chimano is popular for his baritone voice and playing the saxophone and keytar. His fashion sense has repeatedly sparked controversy about his sexuality until he came out as gay in 2021. In 2022, he released an album ‘Heavy Is The Crown’.

This album, Chimano explained, allows him to express himself.

“It feels good to be authentic, at peace and centred. This EP is who I am. I’m coming out of my shell. It takes time for who you’re to shine bright,” Chimano told Nation Africa

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Savara Mudigi

Afro Pop: The Rise and Rise of Sauti Sol
Vocalist and Producer Savara Mudigi. Image Source: Instagram licensed under CC BY 2.0

Savara is a vocalist, drummer, actor, DJ and producer. Speaking to a Kenyan show, he said that he began to explore his talent when he was in primary.

“I was a very active child. I did a lot of things when I was in primary school and that’s where I realised I had something in me.” 

Bien-Aimé Baraza

Bien is a songwriter, vocalist and guitarist. He says that his father heavily influenced him. 

“My father was a big music collector. Growing up, I listened to a lot of African music from South Africa, Congo and Kenya among others. I also listened to Gospel and a lot of musicians who came before me.”

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Polycarp Otieno

Also known as Fancy Fingers, he’s praised for his prowess on the guitar. His parents inspired his love for music. They largely listened to Lingala and Luo songs. 

“My father listened to a lot of lingala and ohangla. I tried to deviate from that because I wanted to look trendy. However, when I was around 12, or 13 years, I gravitated towards the same music. That’s how it started for me.”

Sauti Sol’s Awards

Throughout their music career, Sauti Sol has scooped a lot of awards, in Kenya, Africa and beyond. Here’s a list of some of their biggest awards. 

Abryanz Style and Fashion Awards

2015: East Africa’s Most Stylish Male Artist  

2017: Most Stylish Male Artiste – Africa

African Muzik Magazine Awards

2015: Best African Group 

All Africa Music Awards

2015: Best African Group 

2019: Afrikan Sauce won Album of the Year & best African Duo, Group, or Band

Channel O Music Video Awards

2012: “I Don’t Want to Be Alone” won Most Gifted East African Video 

Kilimanjaro Tanzania Music Awards

2015: “Surayako” won Best Song, East Africa

MTV Awards

2016: Won Best Group 

MTV Europe Music Awards

2014: Won Best African Act & nominated for the Best Worldwide Act

Sauti Sol is always going to be part of the Kenyan music scene. Whether we’ll see them produce music again as a band or not, they have a place in history. If you’re looking for some music equipment, head over to Amazon

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