Sauti Sol are an influential Kenyan Afro-pop vocal group whose rich harmonic blend, organic arrangements, and message-driven songwriting helped set them apart from other African acts at the end of the 2000s. Beginning with 2009's Mwanzo, they consistently charted their own course, infusing traditional Kenyan styles and rhythms with upbeat melodic pop and mixing edgy themes of police violence and political corruption with smooth R&B-flavored love songs, earning numerous awards and a multitude of fans in the process. Following 2015's Live and Die in Afrika, the band strayed into more electronic-oriented pop territory with the highly collaborative 2019 set Afrikan Sauce.
Formed in Nairobi in 2005, the initial trio of high school friends Bien-Aimé Baraza, Willis Chimano, and Savara Mudigi began as an a cappella group before introducing guitarist Polycarp Otieno into the mix. Taking on the name Sauti Sol ("Sauti" being the Swahili word for sound and "Sol" the Spanish word for sun), they participated in a local competition that earned them a spot on a 2006 compilation and a deal with Penya Records. After all four members graduated from college, Sauti Sol recorded their debut album, Mwanzo, in 2009. Its eclectic mix included romantic odes, political protest songs, and sunny paeans to the natural beauty of their home and earned the group a significant fan base around East Africa. Sol Filosofia followed in 2011 and earned the band a pair of Kisima Music Awards. A 2012 collaborative EP with South Africa's Spoek Mathambo increased their visibility, as did the controversial 2014 single "Nishike," whose sexually explicit video was banned by numerous Kenyan television stations. It appeared on their expansive 2015 release Live and Die in Afrika, which was the first on their own Sauti Sol Entertainment label.
Taking a more significant step toward modern R&B and contemporary Afro-pop sounds, the quartet teamed up with a variety of collaborators for their fourth album, Afrikan Sauce. Released in 2019, it featured high-profile guests like Bebe Cool, Yemi Alade, Burna Boy, and Patoranking. They quickly followed it up in similar fashion with 2020's Midnight Train, which included collaborations with the Soweto Gospel Choir and India.Arie. ~ Timothy Monger