Commercialized music about trivial subjects receives the most attention these days so when uplifting music appears, it deserves to be celebrated. Kenyan singing group Sauti Sol likes to spread positivity with their music and unlike many music groups, they weren’t manufactured. The quartet met in high school as members of a gospel music group in 2005. They were writing and composing for three years before they released their first album, “Mwanzo,” in 2008. Buddha Blaze, a Kenyan producer is impressed the group has been able to sell records in an industry dominated by rap and party music. “It was rare to find a young band that crafted live music onstage, with rich three-part harmonies,” he said to NPR. ”They were the first that actually sang, the first from that generation of young Kenyans who were actually singing and telling stories. So obviously they were different. Here are some young people who don’t want to be rappers.”
Before former Kenyan dictator Daniel arap Moi retired in 2002, musicians had to be careful but thankfully, Sauti Sol is able to enjoy more freedom. Still, there are boundaries. “Now you can stand and criticize the president really harshly, and you can get away with it,” said member Willis Chimano. “The media freedom nowadays would be unthinkable just 10 years ago.”
One incident in particular comes to mind for Bien-Aime Baraza, member and songwriter. The group sang lyrics to a song criticizing the police on a radio show once and got a strong reaction from the owner.
The owner of the station is a billionaire. He’s a tycoon,” said Baraza. “He just called because his friends are the police, and he said, ‘Why are you singing stupid things on my radio? I’ll kill you! Never come back to my station again! I’ll look for you and find you!’ He just really threatened me, you know.”
Still, incidents like that doesn’t stop the group from singing about subjects like education and child abandonment. They hope to influence youth and the people of their country during the country’s transition out of dictatorship and tyranny. “A lot of the people we speak to through our music are young,” Baraza added. “Injecting some moral obligation into them is one of our biggest goals. And in every album we do, there is a song that is just about a new generation.”