Ten years ago, if you met the lanky Sauti Sol lads, then virtually unknown, strapping with their guitars around Alliance Francaise, you would have dismissed them as wannabes.
When releasing their Friendzone hit on Classic 105, mid-last year, the grateful quartet thanked Larry Asego who risked giving them Sh 20,000 they used to record one of their first songs. Thank Larry Asego for opening the door a crack, for the future superstars.
Sauti Sol are the most successful boy band in Kenya, giving us hit, after hit. After hit. And some of the greatest collaborations: Gentleman (with P-Unit), Melanin (with Patoranking), Afrika (with Yemi Alade), Girl Next Door (with Tiwa Savage), Dawa ya Moto (with the Grandpa Record stable, even though they had only nine words).
Few musicians in Kenya have been more consistent, few bands have their staying power. Lyrically, they have been versatile, talking about grand ideas, like education (Soma Kijana), the place of the boychild (Friendzone), taking us down the memory lane with that one crush (Still the one), unleashing a contender for the African anthem with Yemi Alade. In between they have afforded to be religious, Kuliko jana (an acapella with their former high school, Upper Hill). And they have been raunchy, with their controversially risqué Nishike that was eye candy to both men and women, (anyone who swings both ways). Of course, not forgetting their masterstroke with Bebe Cool, Mbozi za Malwa, that is criminally underrated and underperforming on YouTube with less than a million view, despite being the club banger of 207 and still the most favoured East African dance song.
Three albums down the line, several accolades later and performing for US President Barack Obama at State House (where Bien broke protocol and shamelessly hang on Obama’s shoulder), Sauti Sol seem unstoppable.
In between, they have written and produced some of the best recent Kenyan songs for various artists. And of course, we all wish they could collabo with more Kenyan artists. Nonini, anyone? Nameless? Wyre? Surely they still have some currency, and still can make some perfect collabos.
And that is why their collabo with Khaligraph a.k.a Papa Jones is a contender for song of the year. It is a throwback song. It is a reflective song of their journey to their present success, praying if they could turn back the hand of time. Bien reflects on his opening verse.
Tukachezwa kwa matatu…
Ona leo tunachorwa Kwa matatu…
Indeed, there is no greater compliment than being drawn on a matatu, space hitherto reserved to African-American hip-hop and gospel artists. Sometimes, we don’t appreciate the far we have come.
And Sauti Sol is classic grass to riches story. And no better person to collabo on with on a similar theme than Khaligraph, whose Kayole upbringing is well documented. Khaligraph has grown to curve his own niche, and quite a celebrated MC, among young people. His cocky attitude is just infectious though some thinks he tries too hard. He can rightfully brag about the far he has come and he adds some hip appeal to Sauti Sol's African Pop's sound.
Vocally, everyone delivered. The hook will definitely be a great sing-along in clubs, taking you back to your days of innocence when you dressed like people in a village church choir. The video is equally well done, playing a montage of pictures and footage from the humbler times as toddlers, or the grainy videos of their earlier songs and more successful ones, including the shoulder rubbing with the who is who in the world (read Obama).
Instrumentally, the song employs a pop sound, with the signature Sauti Sol guitar. I still wish they made the song more danceable. But the slow beat may be is what you need as the song takes you down the memory lane.