The Kenyan afro-pop band, Sauti Sol, was formed in Nairobi by vocalists Bien-Aimé Baraza, Willis Chimano and Savara Mudigi in 2005.The band has had successful tours in Africa and Europe, topped Kenyan charts and gained international attention with shows in Europe and the United States. Initially an acapella group, guitarist Polycarp Otieno joined before they named themselves Sauti.
The band has also received numerous local and international accolades including Channel O Music Video Awards, MTV Europe Music Video Awards and BET Awards. The band was in Nigeria recently and granted PREMIUM TIMES an exclusive interview where they spoke about their career and much more.
PT: What does your name Sauti Sol mean?
Sauti Sol: The name Sauti Sol comes from Saudis, a Swahili word, which means voice. Sol is a Latin or Swedish word which means voice of the light. So, that’s where the name Sauti Sol comes from.
PT: How did you meet each other?
Sauti Sol: We met in high school together, 15 years ago.
PT: What was it like working with 2baba on his hit song ‘Oya Come Make We Go’ and the Disruption Tour?
Sauti Sol: First of all, we will like to thank him because what 2baba has done for Africa music is tremendous. 2baba is a very respectable man, he is a legend in the Nigeria music industry and he’s always at the top of his game. It is an honour to have worked with him because the song has been a long time coming. We met in the United States and when he sent us a song, we jumped at it and then he came to Nairobi where we shot the video.
PT: …And your collaboration with Yemi Alade on ” Africa” and what inspired the title of the song?
Sauti Sol: Working with Yemi was great; she is a dedicated and hardworking artiste. The experience was great and with regards to the title of the track, we just wanted a song that would make people think of Africa and be proud to be Africans. When Yemi Alade came up with the idea of the track and we all begun writing the lyrics.
PT: This is your second visit to Nigeria and the rains disrupted your performance at Gidifest…
Sauti Sol: Unfortunately this time we were not able to perform at the Gidifest because there was a huge storm that swept everything away and you know we came with a live band. But, we will come back for sure. We have been in talks with several show organisers. So, anytime we can an opportunity arises, we will give Nigeria a good show.
PT: Is it true that your band once sent signed copies of your first two albums to the White House in the hope that President Barrack Obama would one day listen?
Sauti Sol: Yes, we did send signed copies of our first two albums twice to President Obama. His sister is a good friend of ours. She was like, ‘You know what if you can sign some of your CDs, I will take them to the president when I’m going back to Washington.’ We sent the CDs the first time and a second time, hoping the president got them. We weren’t sure if he got them but we eventually got to meet with the president.
PT: …Fortunately, you guys got President Obama to dance one of your tracks, “Sura Yako’’ in Kenya during one of his state visits.
Sauti Sol: It felt great dancing next to the America president; it felt really good. We couldn’t believe that he was there live; meeting him and dancing with him meant a lot to us.
PT: Sauti Sol has been dubbed Africa’s newly crowned biggest group. To what do you owe your many successes?
Sauti Sol: We owe it all to hard work and consistency. I think that’s what takes you to the next level; you just have to keep working till you find yourself being in a better position every year without even realising it. So, for us, it’s been hard work and always trying to be on top of our game.
PT: What’s your perception of the Nigeria music scene and which Nigeria artiste is your favourite?
Sauti Sol: The Nigerian music scene is the most vibrant in Africa. We have been getting so much good music from Nigeria. African music is great and the world is getting to know more about African music through Nigerian music. Most Nigerian artistes are our very good friends, I really can’t tell which is our favourite but we love Nigerian musicians. We have worked with 2face, Yemi Alade and we still hope to work with more.
PT: These days, Africa can barely boast of long-standing bands. What’s the secret of the longevity of your band?
Sauti Sol: First of all, we were friends even before music. We met in high school, and then we played soccer together, enjoyed life together until we felt we could make good music together. Music has brought us together first, not money, not girls. Overtime we want to always maneuverer our ways around and always want to be able to escape the challenges of going solo. It has always been our prayer to continue this way because we also have the same goals. We know where we are headed not just because of music.
PT: The video for “Nishke” one of your favourite singles from Live and Die in Afrika album, was banned from many Kenya stations for its ” steamy content” back when it was released. How did you feel about the uproar after these years?
Sauti Sol: Steamy? I feel like Africa just needs to embrace sex as a society because sex is a part of us. We are very comfortable watching other people and races having sex or engaging in sexual acts without being able to accommodate it ourselves. So, we need to open up to this fact because at the end of the day we do it(sex) and live by it.
PT: Did the ban boost your popularity?
Sauti Sol: Of course, because it was banned on Kenya Television, people went searching for it on YouTube. It was our first video on YouTube to get a million views and hitting a million views is really a big deal. It put us on the world map. It was our first song to be played in Nigeria properly; the song shot us to superstardom.
PT: Since 2011, you have won over 15 awards, including MTV Europe music awards. This is huge
Sauti Sol: I don’t think they are our major successes because there are many artistes who haven’t won any awards yet they are phenomenal. Although we thank the companies and different awards for the nominations and everything but we are aiming higher, so we will keep working.
PT: Tell us more about your upcoming collaboration with top Nigeria Artistes
Sauti Sol: This trip to Nigeria was also for business not only for the show. We managed to record some songs with Davido, Adekunle Gold, Tiwa Savage, Phyno and Masterkraft, and Burna Boy. It’s been an amazing experience with Tiwa, Davido and Adekunle is such a perfect singer; his voice is so nice. MasterKraft is one of biggest producers in Africa and we hope to work with even more artistes like Olu Maintain.