Sauti Sol is a Kenyan ishukuti dancers band formed in Nairobi, Kenya, by vocalists Bien-Aimé Baraza, Willis Chimano and Savara Mudigi in 2005. Initially an a cappella group, guitarist Polycarp Otieno joined before they named themselves Sauti Sol.
Sauti Sol released their debut studio album Mwanzo on 1 November 2008, to critical acclaim. Their second studio album, Sol Filosofia, was released on 25 February 2011, earning the group a number of accolades and nominations in the process. On 18 June 2012, the band released a self-titled extended play in collaboration with South African rapper and record producer Spoek Mathambo. Their third studio album, Live and Die in Afrika, was released online on 21 November 2015 as a free download, available for 48 hours as an early Christmas present.
The band has had several successful tours in Africa and Europe, topped Kenyan charts and gained international attention with shows in Europe and the US, as well as television appearances and various accolades and nominations, including their 2011 concert performance in Kenya with South African a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The band has also received both local and international accolades and nominations, including at the Kisima Music Awards, the Channel O Music Video Awards, the MTV Europe Music Awards, and the BET Awards.
History of Sauti Sol
Formation and early years (2005–2011)
The band was formed in 2005 as an a cappella group by Baraza, Chimano and Savara, who had met at the Upper Hill High School and performed in Voices in the Light, a music group at the school. They then met guitarist Otieno, who attended Strathmore School, at the Alliance française in Nairobi, where they would frequent and decided to form Sauti (Swahili for “sound”) and immediately wrote their first song, “Mafunzo ya Dunia” (Literally: lessons of the world), which would later feature in their debut studio album Mwanzo. The band later added the Spanish word “Sol” (sun) to their name and formed Sauti Sol (supposed to mean “voices in the sun”). In 2006, the band participated in the Spotlight on Kenyan Music competition, hosted by the Alliance française in Nairobi. They were included in the album compilation recording and later got signed to Penya Records. The four members all completed their university education in Kenya. Baraza studied journalism at the United States International University, while Savara studied commerce and finance at Africa Nazarene University. Chimano studied journalism at the University of Nairobi, while Otieno studied actuarial science at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.
Sauti Sol released their debut studio album Mwanzo on 4 August 2009, via their record label Penya Records, to critical acclaim, and followed up with their second studio album Sol Filosofia two years later. The music video for the album’s second single, “Coming Home”, earned them the Best Music Video award at the 2011 Kisima Music Awards, with the group itself also winning the Best Fusion Artist/Group of the Year award.
2012–2015: Sauti Sol and Live and Die in Afrika
In July 2012, Sauti Sol released a self-titled extended play, a collaborative effort with South African rapper and record-producer Spoek Mathambo, who produced the EP in Nairobi and Johannesburg. The music video for its lead single, “Range Rover”, was shot at the Hembrug in Zaandam, Netherlands, in an old ammunition factory that is now an official cultural heritage site popularly referred to as “the cathedral”. Kenyan singer Dela, who previously collaborated with the band “Mama papa” from Mwanzo, appeared in the song “Slow”, which also features Mathambo. Its music video was shot in Amsterdam. The band then released “Love or Leave” as the EP’s second single, with its music video also shot in Amsterdam during the band’s stop in the city as part of their European tour in 2012. Their song “Gentleman” with rap group P-Unit earned them a nomination for the “Teeniez’ Group or Collabo” award at the 2012 Chaguo La Teeniez Awards, losing out to alternative hip hop group Camp Mulla. It was the second time they were nominated for the award, losing to P-Unit the previous year.
Sauti Sol’s recognition continued to rise in 2012, as they were nominated for and won the Most Gifted East African award at the 2012 Channel O Music Video Awards for their song “Shukuru” with Tanzanian rapper AY.
On 29 April 2014, the band released “Nishike”. Its music video caused an uproar in the media due to its steamy content, and ended up getting banned from most local TV stations. Baraza later expressed his anger with the ban, stating that he refuses “to be a secular artist boxed by society to restrict my freedom of expression.” They received a nomination for the Best Group award at the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards, but eventually lost out South African group Mafikizolo. The music video has received a 2014 Nomination as East Africa’s Most Gifted Video by Channel O Music Video Awards
After “Nishike”, Sauti Sol released their third studio album, Live and Die in Afrika. The album, released online on 21 November 2015, was available to Sauti Sol fans globally for free download (48 hours) as an early Christmas present. The album was released under their imprint label Sauti Sol Entertainment as a self-produced work by Sauti Sol for Sauti Sol. A total of 400,000 downloads were made during the free download period. The band released their fourth single off Live and Die in Afrika entitled “Sura Yako” (Your Face). This was introduced by a spin-off Lipala dance competition run on Instagram that sparked an online dance movement in Africa and across the globe. Following the success of the competition, the band released the single’s music video on 12 September 2014.
Sauti Sol 2018–present: Afrikan Sauce and Midnight Train
Sauti Sol’s fourth studio album Afrikan Sauce was released on 31 January 2019. Primarily an Afropop and R&B record, Afrikan Sauce marked a departure from the traditional acoustic sound of their previous albums. It features guest appearances from Patoranking, Tiwa Savage, Burna Boy, Vanessa Mdee, Yemi Alade, Khaligraph Jones, Nyashinski, Bebe Cool, Mi Casa, Toofan, Jah Prayzah and C4 Pedro. The album comprises 13 tracks and was supported by the previously released singles “Melanin”, “Girl Next Door”, “Afrikan Star”, “Short N Sweet” and “Tujiangalie”. Sauti Sol described the album as an “art and cultural exchange” project and said it would be released towards the end of 2017. They also announced plans to release a new track with a different African artist every month. However, this plan did not materialize due to financial constraints.
Sauti Sol’s fifth studio album Midnight Train was released on 5 June 2020. The album had songs featuring guest artists from Africa. These included “Disco Matanga”, featuring Sho Madjozi and “My Everything”, featuring India Arie. The album’s most popular song “Suzanna” was released on 7 February 2020. Sauti Sol recorded five different versions of the song before settling on the one they released. The accompanying music video for “Suzanna” was shot in Lagos, Nigeria and was directed by Leki Isama. However, the lead song for the album is “Midnight Train”, which is where the album gets its name from. Other songs in the album are Rhumba Japani, Sober, Feel My Love, Insecure, Nenda Lote, Brighter Days, Set Me Free and Wake Up.
The band members have named musicians such as Fadhili William, Daudi Kabaka and other established African artists such as Salif Keita, Lokua Kanza and Fally Ipupa, as well as British band Coldplay and American singer Jason Mraz as their influences.
Sauti Sol Band members
- Bien-Aimé Baraza – Songwriter, Guitar, Piano
- Willis Chimano – Baritone, Performer, Keytar
- Savara Mudigi – Vocalist, Producer, drums, Bass guitar
- Polycarp Otieno – Guitarist, Producer, Composer, Guitarist
Sauti Sol Discography
- Studio albums
- Mwanzo (2008)
- Sol Filosofia (2011)
- Live and Die in Afrika (2015)
- Afrikan Sauce (2019)
- Midnight Train (2020)
- Extended plays
- “Gentleman” (with P-Unit) (2011)
- “Sura Yako” (2014)
- “Nerea” (feat. Amos & Tosh) (2015)
- “Live and Die in Afrika” (2015)
- “Shake Yo Bam Bam” (2015)
- “Unconditionally Bae” (feat. Alikiba (2016)
- “Kuliko Jana” (feat. RedFourth Chorus) (2016)
- “Melanin” (feat. Patoranking) (2017)
- “Mbozi Za Malwa” (Bebe Cool x Sauti Sol) (2017)
- “Rewind” (feat. Khaligraph Jones) (2018)
- “Short N Sweet” (feat. Nyashinski) (2018)
- “Afrikan Star” (feat. Burna Boy) (2018)
- “Extravaganza” (feat. Bensoul, Nviiri the Storyteller, Crystal Asige and Kaskazini) (2019)
- “Insecure” (2020)
- “Suzanna” (2020)
- “My Everything” (feat. India.Arie) (2021)
- Songs featured in
- “Africa” (Yemi Alade feat. Sauti Sol) (2016)
List of awards and nominations received by Sauti Sol
The following article outlines the awards and nominations received by Kenyan afro-pop band Sauti Sol. Formed in 2005, the band has since grown to become one of the most successful musical acts in Africa, gaining considerable attention, praise and recognition for their work.
While neither their debut studio album Mwanzo nor any of its songs were nominated for any awards, the group received a nomination for Best African Newcomer at the 2010 African Music Awards. They received their first major accolade the same year, winning Best Group at the Museke Online Africa Music Awards. In 2011, Sauti Sol was named Best Fusion Artist/Group of the Year at the Kisima Music Awards, while the music video for the song “Coming Home” from their second studio album Sol Filosofia won Best Music Video. The following 3 years saw them pick up a further 6 awards, most notably winning Best African Act at the 2014 MTV Europe Music Awards, becoming the first Kenyan musicians to receive the award.
In 2015, the release of their third studio album Live and Die in Afrika saw the group receive continued recognition. The song “Sura Yako” was nominated for 9 awards, winning Most Downloaded Single, Most Downloaded Afro-Pop Single and Most Downloaded Song at the Mdundo Music Awards, while its music video won YouTube Video of the Year at the Pulse Music Video Awards. The song “Nerea”, featuring the duo Amos and Josh, also received numerous nominations, winning Best Collaboration of the Year at the Pulse Music Video Awards. The group was also nominated for Best International Act: Africa at the BET Awards, but lost out to Ghanaian musician Stonebwoy.
1. Abryanz Style and Fashion Awards
2. African Entertainment Awards
3. African Music Awards
4. African Muzik Magazine Awards
5. All Africa Music Awards
6. BEFFTA Awards
7. BET Awards
8. Bingwa Music Awards
9. Chaguo La Teeniez Awards
10. Channel O Music Video Awards
11. East Africa TV Awards
12. Google Recognition
13. HiPipo Music Awards
14. The Headies Awards
15. International Achievement Recognition Awards
16. Kilimanjaro Tanzania Music Awards
17. Kisima Music Awards
18. Kora Awards
19. Mdundo Music Awards
20. MTV Awards
- 20.1MTV Africa Music Awards
- 20.2MTV Europe Music Awards
21. Museke Online Africa Music Awards
22. Nigeria Entertainment Awards
23. OLX Social Media Awards
24. Pulse Music Video Awards
25. Soundcity MVP Awards Festival
26. tooXclusive Awards
27. Uganda Entertainment Awards
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