Sauti Sol

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Sauti Sol
From left to right: Polycarp Otieno, Savara Mudigi, Willis Chimano and Bien-Aimé Baraza in 2013
From left to right:
Polycarp Otieno, Savara Mudigi, Willis Chimano and Bien-Aimé Baraza in 2013
Background information
OriginNairobi, Kenya
GenresAfro-pop, kapuka
Years active2005 – present
  • Penya Africa
  • Sol Generation
  • Universal Music Africa
  • Bien-Aimé Baraza
  • Willis Chimano
  • Savara Mudigi
  • Polycarp Otieno

Sauti Sol is a Kenyan band formed in Nairobi,[1] Kenya, by vocalists Bien-Aimé Baraza, Willis Chimano and Savara Mudigi in 2005.[2][3][4] Initially an a cappella group, guitarist Polycarp Otieno joined before they named themselves Sauti Sol.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] The band has also received both local and international accolades and nominations, including at the Kisima Music Awards,[9] the Channel O Music Video Awards,[10] the MTV Europe Music Awards, and the BET Awards.


Formation and early years (2005 – 2011)[edit]

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.[2][3] 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.[5] The band later added the Spanish word "Sol" (sun) to their name and formed Sauti Sol (supposed to mean "voices in the sun").[11] 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.[12] 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.[11]

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.[13]

2012 – 2015: Sauti Sol and Live and Die in Afrika[edit]

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".[14] 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.[15][16][17] It was the second time they were nominated for the award, losing to P-Unit the previous year.[18]

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.[19]

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.[20] 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."[21] They received a nomination for the Best Group award at the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards, but eventually lost out South African group Mafikizolo.[22] The music video has received a 2014 Nomination as East Africa's Most Gifted Video by Channel O Music Video Awards[23]

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.[24][25] 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.[26] Following the success of the competition, the band released the single's music video on 12 September 2014.[27]

2018 – present: Afrikan Sauce and Midnight Train[edit]

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.[28] The album comprises 13 tracks and was supported by the previously released singles "Melanin", "Girl Next Door", "Afrikan Star", "Short N Sweet" and "Tujiangalie".[28] Sauti Sol described the album as an "art and cultural exchange" project and said it would be released towards the end of 2017.[29] They also announced plans to release a new track with a different African artist every month.[29] However, this plan did not materialize due to financial constraints.[30]

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.[31] The album's most popular song "Suzanna" was released on 7 February 2020.[32] 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[33] and was directed by Leki Isama.[citation needed] 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.[34]

Band members[edit]


Studio albums
Extended plays
  • Sauti Sol (2012)


  • "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)
  • "Lil Mama" (2022)
Songs featured in

Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ Mdundo: Sauti Sol Autobiography, Who is Sauti Sol? and Where is Sauti Sol from
  2. ^ a b "Sauti Sol". Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  3. ^ a b Minda Magero (9 September 2012). "Sauti Sol, Kenyan Afro-fusion Band". Africa on the Blog. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  4. ^ "Penya Africa | Sauti Sol". Penya Africa. Archived from the original on 30 January 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Sauti Sol: Refreshing Kenyan music now available to the world". Rafiki Kenya. 1 August 2009. Archived from the original on 11 October 2014. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  6. ^ "Audio: Sauti Sol EP [prod. by Spoek Mathambo]". Okay Africa. 20 June 2012. Archived from the original on 30 January 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  7. ^ "Sauti sol presents Live and Die in Afrika — dreams of greatness —". Safaricom. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  8. ^ Odidi, Bill (3 October 2011). "Ladysmith makes Kenya debut". Business Daily Africa. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  9. ^ "Kisima Awards 2011 Winners". Archived from the original on 29 January 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  10. ^ "Channel O Africa Music Video Awards 2013 nominees announced". Biz Community. 6 September 2013. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  11. ^ a b "Sauti with a Soul". Archived from the original on 20 August 2011.
  12. ^ "East African Music Label Brings New Sounds". Okay Africa. 8 January 2014. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  13. ^ "The 2011 Kisima Music Awards Winners". Kisima Music Awards. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  14. ^ "Sauti Sol's Range Rover Illuminated". Ghafla Kenya. 27 September 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  15. ^ "Chaguo La Teeniez Awards 2012 Winners". Nairobi, Kenya: 21 April 2012. Archived from the original on 24 April 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  16. ^ "Chaguo La Teeniez Awards 2012 – Winners". Nairobi, Kenya: VibeWeekly. 21 April 2012. Archived from the original on 24 April 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  17. ^ "Here Are The Winners of the 2012 CHAT Awards (According to Ghafla)". Nairobi, Kenya: Archived from the original on 21 April 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  18. ^ "Chaguo La Teeniez (CHAT) 201I...The Losers & The Winners". Ohaga Ohaga – Notes & Quotes. 23 April 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  19. ^ "D'Banj dominates winner's list at 9th Annual Channel O MVAs!". Channel O. 21 November 2012. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  20. ^ "Sauti Sol Release New Dirty Song "NISHIKE"". Nailbuzz. 29 April 2014. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  21. ^ "After TV stations banned Sauti Sol's Nishike video … Corporate sponsors pull out". Daily Post. 31 May 2014. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  22. ^ "Mafikizolo, Uhuru, Davido lead nominations for MTV Africa Music Awards". Sowetan Live. 17 April 2014. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  23. ^ "SautiSol and Elani among Channel O Africa Music Video Awards 2014 nominees". Hapa Kenya. 8 September 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  24. ^ Buzz Team (29 November 2015). "Sauti Sol's new album already a huge hit online". Daily Nation. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  25. ^ "Sauti Sol | About". Sauti Sol. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  26. ^ "Sauti Sol's Lipala Dance Winner Crowned". Ghafla Kenya. 22 August 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  27. ^ "Sauti Sol- Sura Yako Official Music Video". Standard Media. 14 September 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  28. ^ a b "Listen to Sauti Sol's New Album 'Afrikan Sauce'". OkayAfrica. 31 January 2019. Archived from the original on 25 December 2019. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  29. ^ a b Beverly Wakiaga (17 March 2019). "Not Enough Sauce on Sauti Sol's 'Afrikan Sauce' album". Tanga Magazine. Archived from the original on 29 December 2019. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  30. ^ "Sauti Sol reveal financial constraints have affected their 2018 plans". Capital FM. 20 December 2018. Archived from the original on 29 December 2019. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  31. ^ "Sauti Sol's 'Midnight Train' To Feature Sho Madjozi, India Arie". Kenyan Vibe. 12 February 2020. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  32. ^ "Sauti Sol's New 'Suzanna' a Visual Ode to the Golden Age of Afro- Music". Nate's Crest. 13 February 2020. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  33. ^ "Sauti Sol's Bien reveals unknown details about their hit song "Suzanna" (EXCLUSIVE)". Pulse Live. 20 February 2020. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  34. ^ "Sauti Sol – Biography". Penya Africa. Retrieved 3 August 2014.

External links[edit]