Featured

The 10 Best Sauti Sol Songs

Here are the 10 best songs from East Africa's biggest band, the Kenyan afro-pop outfit Sauti Sol.

Sauti Sol is East Africa’s biggest band right now.


Through their nearly decade-long career, the Kenyan afro-pop quartet—made up of vocalists Bien-Aime Baraza, Willis Austin ChimanoSavara Mudigi, and guitarist Polycarp Otieno—have been celebrated by fans and critics for their marriage of soulful pop vocals and Kenyan rhythms.

If the band had to sum up their sound in three words, they mention: “Soul, style, and attitude.”

All three can be felt in the Sauti Sol’s latest album, Live and Die in Afrika, which has climbed the Kenyan charts and gotten wide global attention with the help of some massive singles, a Barack Obama endorsement, and its share of controversy.

Sauti Sol recently completed a major Kenyan tour, playing six big cities with a full production.

The group is now set to bring their show to New York City this month, on October 30, for a concert at the Highline Ballroom. Make sure to grab your tickets here and check out the rest of their American tour dates.

Ahead of their trip to the states, we round up the 10 Best Sauti Sol Songs.

Sura Yako

“Sura Yako (Your Face)” is the lead track on Live and Die in Afrika. Produced by Sauti Sol alongside Cedric "Cedo" Kadenyi, the single blends intricate guitar lines with a bumping beat and vocal harmonies from the group to make for an undeniable ear worm.

“Sura Yako” was released alongside a Lipala dance competition that sparked a dance craze across social media. Even President Obama was spotted dancing to the track at the Kenyan State House in an incredible clip.

According to the band, the song’s music video plays out a typical Kenyan pre-wedding ceremony, or, ruracio.

Buy on Amazon/iTunes

Lazizi

“Lazizi” was the first single from Sauti Sol’s debut album Mwanzo. A more laid-back and serene song, it follows the story of a workingman pleading to get a girl’s number so he can take her out on a date.

The track, which introduces the band’s alluring guitar work and group vocals, sparked a large amount of covers across East Africa when it dropped and helped started their rise to fame.

Buy on Amazon/iTunes

Kuliko Jana

Sauti Sol returned to their old high school, Upper Hill School, in Nairobi to record the music video for “Kuliko Jana,” a standout single from Live and Die in Afrika that is quickly growing into a global hit.

The beautiful a capella song, which features the Upper Hill school choir (Redfourth Chorus), speaks on the “steadfast love of the Lord,” the band has mentioned.

Buy on iTunes

Blue Uniform

The second single from their debut album, “Blue Uniform" sees Sauti Sol addressing the issue of police harassment against Kenya’s youth.

As Sauti Sol explains, the song’s three verses are split to depict three different sides of the story: “an innocent arrested youth, a bad police officer and another who explains why police officers sometimes get into corruption, with the story ending with the policeman releasing the youth with a stern warning.”

Buy on Amazon/iTunes

Nishike

Sauti Sol’s “Nishike” (Swahili for “Touch Me”) is a slow jam for late night playlists everywhere built on undulating synth chords and smooth vocals.

The song’s Enos Olik-directed music video features the members of the group, sans their shirts, seducing their leading ladies. The video was steamy enough that it caused an uproar on social media and was banned across Kenyan TV stations.

Buy on Amazon/iTunes

Soma Kijana

"Soma Kijana" was released as the lead single from Sauti Sol’s sophomore album Sol Filosofia. The song was inspired by the late Kenyan Benga singer Daudi Kabaka, who the group cite as one of their biggest influences.

“Soma Kijana” is a song for the youth, urging them to take their education seriously and stay in school.

Buy on Amazon/iTunes

Unconditionally Bae

Sauti Sol connected with Tanzanian star Alikiba for “Unconditionally Bae,” a dance floor track about how hard it is to find love in the modern world.

The East African connection makes for pop gold in this one, as its music video—shot across Kenya’s North Coast of Mombasa at the English Point Marina—has racked-up millions of views, and still counting.

Buy on iTunes

Coming Home

“Coming Home,” a quiet and melancholic acoustic guitar ballad, was released as the second single from Sol Filosofia.

The song’s gloomy music video, which features singer and reality star Patricia Kihoro, follows Sauti Sol guitarist Polycarp Otieno as “he finds himself rejected by his girlfriend soon after the band returns home from tour, pushing him to take his own life as his fellow band members try to save him,” the band explains.

Buy on Amazon/iTunes

Shake Yo Bam Bam

“Shake Yo Bam Bam” is Sauti Sol's party track. The single, which is built on a bouncing bass line, was written in the mindset of 1990s Kenyan music styles. The track’s Nairobi-shot music video was directed by famed Nigerian director Clarence Peters.

Buy on Amazon/iTunes

Nerea

“Nerea” was co-written by Sauti Sol and Kenyan duo Amos & Josh. The single, another one from Live and Die in Afrika, is an uplifting and soulful composition showcasing what can go down when two of Kenyan music’s contemporary forces come together.

Buy on Amazon/iTunes

 

Interview
Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou Sangaré proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.