Kenya: Coffee Break With Sauti Sol

Who knew that if two journalists, a business finance personnel and an actuarial scientist met, they would make beautiful harmony? Yet that is Kenyan boy band Sauti Sol for you.

In Uganda, where they have performed several times, they are best known for their hit song, Sura Yako. They were recently in Kampala for the Club Mega Fest concert held at the Kampala Sheraton hotel gardens. Johnson Grace Maganja had an exclusive interview with the quartet at Talent Africa.


The Kenyan afro-pop band was formed in Nairobi by vocalists Bien-Aime Baraza, Willis Chimano and Savara Mudigi 11 years ago. Initially it was an acapella group, before guitarist- Polycarp Otieno joined.

It was after many people always commenting that they had nice voices in 2007 that they coined the name ‘Sauti Sol’.

“Everywhere we used to go people used to say, ‘Vijana hao wana sauti nzuri’,” Baraza says, as the other three nod in agreement. “Then ‘Sol’ means light in Spanish. We used to have a gospel acapella group in High School called Voices in the Light.”

To keep a bit of their humble beginnings and their present day success, the young men called themselves Sauti Sol.


With talent such as theirs, one would think these young men have been musicians forever, or that they set out for careers in music in the first place. Well, Baraza wanted to be a pilot because he loved traveling, but later qualified as a print journalist; Chimano dreamt of becoming a neurosurgeon because it sounded complicated and fancy, but he ended up in broadcast journalism.

Mudigi wanted to be a doctor but ended up studying business finance, while Otieno dreamt of being a doctor as well, but ended up studying actuarial science.

But strangely, the four gentlemen are still single despite having zoomed up the ladder of success since 2005, where they have won several awards and nominations including the Kisima Music Awards, 2014 MTV Europe Music Awards, Channel O Music Video Awards and All Africa Music Awards.

They sheepishly acknowledge they are married to their music. As they all chuckle at this, Baraza says: “Of course you hit on girls; some say no some say yes… “


It is common for music groups in East Africa to part ways after a few years, with each individual wanting to go solo. The quartet attributes their success in working and staying together to respecting one another.

“Our friendship started in high school many years ago, even before the music; so, we understand one another well,” says Otieno. “We understand what has brought us together; though we have different characters we have a common goal.”

This is a hardworking group, putting 100 per cent in their rehearsals, eating well and exercising. They have had a lot of good times in their music career, but some definitely stand out more than others.

“Our best was when we danced with President Obama,” Otieno says.

Who can forget that YouTube clip of the POTUS grooving to Sura Yako with the boys in Nairobi!

Not that they have not had their share of the tough times that include a 24-hour stint in a Tanzanian police cell. But above all Baraza believes hard work and giving out positive energy brings positive things.

Chimano gives the glory for their success to God, echoing Otieno and Mudigi, who also believe it was God’s timing.


Otieno says five years is a long time. “It is only God who knows.”

Baraza adds: “You can’t know what will happen, because it has been God’s blessing even for the past years.”

The group pens its songs and has released three albums so far, with an average of 14 songs on each. The songs are a mixture of Kiswahili and English.

SuraYako, Unconditionally Bae, Nerea, Kuliko Jana and Shake Yo Bum Bum in particular, have taken these guys places. Already, they are planning to perform in Kampala again in December. Watch this space.

Source: The Observer.