It's said that Sauti Sol put Kenya on the map.
That's if we are talking musically, not geographically or historically. We can't appreciate them enough for this. I am pretty confident that if you walk in the streets of Ouagadougou or Antananarivo and ask random people to name a Kenyan song, they most likely won't know any. And if they happen to know any, it'll be a Sauti Sol tune.
Bien, Savara and Chimano are beasts in the business. They form the holy trinity of vocal mavens. And when you loop in Polycarp with his guitars and smooth beats, you get the boy band extraordinaire known as Sauti Sol. They are men among children. They are definitely Godzillas in a world of lizards.
But... ... .you knew there was a 'but' coming right? There is something about them that needs to be addressed.
Lately, it's becoming obvious that Sauti Sol are resting on their laurels. They have reached a point where they are just okay with themselves. They are walking in a plateau, with no interest in climbing a hill. They are on autopilot. In short, they are not pushing themselves hard anymore.
Over the past two or so years, nothing has changed. No new level has been reached. No special recognition, no performances on highly rated festivals or platforms. It's just the same old Sauti Sol. Whenever they release a song, we know what we'll be getting. We know it'll be good but nothing extraordinary. Their latest song with Vanessa Mdee is proof enough.
For a while now, Sauti Sol haven't put us fans in that position where we really don't know what to expect. Even though their music is infectious, it doesn't manage to quite skirt away from being platitudinous.
Their current state causes concern but it is normal. There are always two types of humans in existence at any given time. There are those that become a little successful and feel that they don't have to try so hard anymore. They've made it. Then there are those that always remain hungry for more. They keep pushing until there's nothing more left to achieve.
Some people become millionaires and they immediately start working to become billionaires. Some people become millionaires and say "Thank God! Halleluyah! I have finally achieved my dreams. It's time to enjoy."
Sauti Sol can currently be categorised among the former.
Lately, their career has been littered with false promises too. There were plans that were boastfully announced and extensively teased but ultimately, they were unceremoniously tossed far away.
For example, right after the success of their pièce de résistance dubbed "Melanin", the band members promised to release a new track every month. This never happened. A collaboration with Wizkid was also advertised but it now seems stuck forever in purgatory. It has never been delivered to the market.
A couple of days ago, Bien tried to explain why the group has been rather passive lately. He mentioned that Polycarp has been busy doing a certificate copyright course at Havard while Savara has also been doing a course at Stanford. It sounds like they took time off. I am not sure how urgent Polycarp's course is, unless he is looking to vie for a position at MCSK
When you are the top, you really can't afford to take time off. You either have to multitask or you focus on your main hustle.
The group has also set up a new record label called Soul Generation. That name doesn't create much excitement. They ought to have gone with a Swahili name that can be pronounced with flair like 'Wasaaaaafiiiiiii!;.
Starting a record label is a good move but I'll be more hard-hitting and say they might have only done it to look like they are supporting other Kenyan artistes. After all, they have been called out time and time again for not helping other artistes reach the level they are currently in.
NO NEED TO START A LABEL
They didn't need to start a label, especially not now. They still have a long way to go. They should have channeled their resources into spreading their wings to other parts of the world rather than stretching their claws to pick up the upcoming talents.
As Africa's most popular boy band, Sauti Sol's list of collaborations is also not that impressive. Logically, by now they should have worked with the likes of Diamond and Davido. They should have asked for collabos with artistes from Europe and America too. But to date, the biggest artiste they have worked with is Pato Ranking, who is kind of like the Timmy Tdat of Nigeria. By that I mean he's good but not that great.
Something needs to change. Whether it's their management or their attitude, it's hard to tell. But something needs to change.
As a fan and critic, I pray for a bigger and better Sauti Sol. I would like to see a Sauti Sol that is getting begged for collabos, not struggling to find big artistes that are willing to work with them. I pray for a Sauti Sol that that fills stadiums wherever they go, not curtain raises for foreign artistes. This will happen if only they get out of their comfort zone.