Looking back at Sauti Sol’s road to stardom

Kenyan band Sauti Sol

Kenyan band Sauti Sol

Today I just want to give a shout out to one of my favorite (yeah, me spell Americano till Monday) bands in Kenya… drum roll SAUTI SOL!!!

They are doing great but I am not as moved as much by what they are doing now as by how much they’ve endured to come this far.

Too bad (and I speak out of experience) our local journalists are pathetic at interviewing artistes. Clueless about what to ask and focus on very trivial matters so our artistes’ true stories never get out. They should probably hire me to advise them.

I have recently heard discussions and arguments about Sauti Sol and how they’re getting more airplay than other equal or better acts and from the comments I could tell how little people are actually aware of. So I’ll help clarify some things.

1-MUSICIANS WORK TOO!

I’m not talking about working out (hehe) I mean seriously working. Too many people think that it’s all booze and orgies then in the middle of a fivesome you light up a joint of weed, get high, a song comes into your head and you call your producer who you didn’t realize was in the fivesome with you until you heard his phone ringing underneath the girls booty, then you record the song there because you were actually having your orgie in the recording studio itself.

Record today, hit tomorrow, and back to your raving with the millions you made as you sign the three girls you and your producer were banging to form a terrible trio call ‘CSW’ who release an equally terrible song titled ‘Ringtone Booty’ that ironically becomes an instant hit, club banger, gets a lot of youtube views and wins an award for ‘New Song of The Year’. NO! NO!! NO!!!

I personally knew Sauti Sol around 2008/2009 but I gather that they got together in high School. These guys have been cooking for a long time. About 10 years, AS A UNIT.

How long does it take a doctor to study??? Exactly! So it doesn’t matter how talented you are or how many people dig your new hit song, it will take more than talent and ‘likes’ to beat years and years of hard work and dedication.

So please some respect for Sauti Sol’s work. Aging like fine wine. Don’t compare them with someone who only came onto the scene two years ago. It’s not about talent alone. Musicians have to work too.

President Obama showing his dancing skills with Sauti Sol over the weekend in Nairobi, Kenya

President Obama showing his dancing skills with Sauti Sol over the weekend in Nairobi, Kenya

2) CONSISTENCY: Above I’ve told you why recent acts need more than “better’ songs to top Sauti Sol. What about those who have been in the industry as long or much longer than Sauti Sol and are equally gifted?

Well, another commendable thing about the band that is rare to find in local bands is that the group has remained TOGETHER with the same members all along. Back in 2009 I used to play with a band called Aziza led by best of friends Enos Olik and Sequiera Manasseh aka SQ. These guys although friends with Sauti Sol were hot on each other’s heels. They had a large following, even had an album out and were indeed a force to reckon with, even Sauti Sol knows.

Although they are both still artistes worth their salt today they did not keep their group together. The group broke up; Enos Olik now does videos and he is one of the best in his trade and SQ is now a solo artiste at Sub Sahara with a new banging jam coming very soon.

The time they separated to start building afresh individually, Sauti Sol continued building on what they already had but together. We have also seen what lack of consistency did to Kayamba.

When they seperated and everyone started their own Kayamba ie. Kaymba, Kayamba Africa, Kayamba Roots, Kayamba Fiesta, etc. So Big up to Sauti Sol for keeping it together.

3) RESPECT:

The first time I truly interacted with these guys was at some restaurant that used to be on top of the National Theater called Wasanii. They were not anything much then. At first Polycarp was just playing his guitar alone, he looked very young like he was just from collecting caution money from high school.

I had my saxophone and he asked me to join him and I did. Thereafter I would occasionally meet them at Alliance Francaise. I didn’t interact with them that much but they thought I was good at playing my sax.

Years later these guys are big celebrities. However anytime I meet them they still greet me with the same respect. I can’t say that for other people. A lot of people don’t understand the difference between liking and respecting.

When I look at their current band members I see people who are there on merit. Like guitarist Isaac Mugunda. I love that they recognized that this guy is on top of his game and took him up on merit.

Unlike others who will compromise quality just to get the cheapest cats in the game or mindless pseudo-sycophants. Also I like that they respect the input of other people and that’s why they have a manager and I’m sure they also get other professionals to help in their imaging, marketing, production, wardrobe etc. Too many musicians think that they can make it on their own, they don’t need other people. Respect someone else’s expertise accept to be helped and you will get more mileage.

4) ART:

These boys did not start up in a studio throwing random patches of thoughts relying on the golden needle of technology to stitch them up into a song. They started doing it live. They had to compose a whole song and be able to perform it from start to finish.

Polycarp could not loop. He had to pick and strum that guitar from start to finish. Bienne had to sing the whole of that song in the right pitch. Chimano had to eat a sad frog in the morning to keep his bass down there. They mastered the art first. That’s why they sound so authentic. Technology is a complement not a substitute