The music band, Sauti Sol, was performing in NYC last week. We couldn’t pass the opportunity to have a little chat with the members of our favorite Kenyan band composed by Bien-Aimé Baraza, Willis Austin Chimano, Polycarp Otieno, and Savara Mudigi.
Can you introduce yourselves please?
We are an afro pop band from Kenya. We are playing music together since high school. As students, our old name was ”Voices of the Light”. We are gathering up 15 years of friendship and 8 years as a professional career. We play afropop which is basically pop music from East Africa, by Africans for Africans.
Could you describe your style?
We started as an acappella band and after high school, Polycarp joined us and we evolved into something with more acoustic guitar and voice. It started as a hobby, to staying out of troubles. We were jamming at the park then people started recognizing us and offering small gigs to perform at birthdays, weddings and parties. We did not even have a name, so people started calling us Sauti which is Swahili for voice, but too many bands had the same name. Before our first album, we had to register our name but Sauti was too common so our manager gave us ”Sol” as a second name, this is Latin for ‘light’. It worked perfectly since our high school’s name was ‘Voices with Light’. Our music evolved with time.
Where do you get inspiration from?
From our immediate surrounding, travel, people.
People…Can you be more specific?
I mean human beings we meet through travels. We see how they process different information. For example, our album is entitled “Live and Die in Afrika”. For the longest times our stories have been told by western media, this time, African musicians are the ones telling African stories. Just like your magazine, the Afropolitain does. I have learned just by being here in America. People from here inspired me a lot of songs in a different way that will address their issues.
So how do you guys work together?
I (Willis Austin) sing, and I am more into the fashion and style image. Polycarp is the guitarist, composer and producer. Bien-Aimé is a singer and songwriter, and Savara is more of a producer.
So there are no tensions when you guys are working?
If we are getting along fine, it is also because everybody sticks to their lane. Yet we still share ideas and process together.
What do you think of this huge trend about the African continent and music that is popping lately?
I would not say it is now popping. For generations, Africa has always been a new trend if you look at the 70’s when Fella was filling arenas in America and Europe, he was not playing for the African diaspora but for Americans. Nowadays it is just because of social media, there are more eyeballs and also more collaboration with western artists but they’ve always been trying African things for a long time.
But you look at the nightlife, 6 years ago you would hear African music in clubs whereas now they have African sessions?
I do believe it is that way because of the world opening up, thanks to Internet. People are more connected, yes it was popular but not pretty much as what it is right now. Seeing afrobeats in the top charts was unheard of!
Is it your first tour in America? Are you going somewhere else?
We started touring immediately, since 2009. It was the only way to represent our music. We started in Europe, a lot of festivals because they liked the acoustic thing, we are going back there in July. With this album we started touring in Africa, 12 cities in Kenya, South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambic, Rwanda, Tanzania…then we came to America to push the album.
Besides you who’s hot in Kenya?
There is a new guy, DJ Shinski, he was in the states for 10 years then he came back and it has been phenomenal. You have people who have always been on the scene like Nameless. Then there are a lot of young cats coming up, a new wave of kids who are inspired by Sauti Sol but who are just doing their thing differently.
Do you have any collaboration coming up?
Yes, all the time. Right now, we just finished a song with ‘C4 Pedro’ from Angola, we have worked with Fally, Toofan, the South African band ‘Mi Casa’. There are a lot of stuff going on.
Any U.S singers?
We are working on it.
Where can we find you?
Sautisol on instagram, twitter and Facebook
Last word for the new African generation?
The message would be live and die in Africa. Put your mindset on live and die in Africa. Whatever you do, do it to paint a better future for the African continent.
If you are a journalist, write positive stories. If you are a musician, write songs that make Africa look beautiful and amazing. If you are an accountant or in the corporate fields, be the light for the continent and change the lives. So that people who are looking at you can feel that you are representing and changing the lives of people all over the world by being from Africa.