Posted: September 16, 2010 in Uncategorized

Nothing against boy bands, my adolescent self was quite taken by Backstreet Boys, NKOTB, N’Sync, New Edition and their ilk. Yet  when I read a press release vaunting my adored Sauti Sol as Kenya’s ‘freshest boy band ‘ early this year, I almost promptly spat into my chai ya Tangawizi. . For a minute I was tempted to  give away my cherished  copy of their début album Mwanzo to one of my Kenyan friends who is a certified Sauti Sol stan. Sauti Sol a boy band? Never! Nahi! Ayie! Ninalia viu! Jamais! Nunca! Asilani! Abadan! Kamwe! Hasha!  Here are my gajillion reasons why Sauti Sol is way too talented to be referred to as a boy band.

  1. The Oxford dictionary defines a boy band as « a pop group composed of attractive young men (or young women) whose music and image are designed to appeal primarily to a young teenage audience.” Correct me if I am wrong but Sauti Sol seemed intent on capturing the wazees and vijanas in one fell swoop and not just catering to the fickle tastes teenagers are known to have.
  2. The Urban Dictionary defines boy bands as “a group of 4 or 5 men who lip sync other people’s music while pretending to like girls » Now am not an authority on thèse musicians love lives but the solid and stellar song-writing on the Mwanzo album is definitely by the guys themselves
  3. Another gem from Urban Dictionary « A musical group ……main fan draw must be how attractive they are. «  If there are people who only like Sauti Sol for their looks and not their musical acumen all I can say is « Riswaa! Shindwe! «  and recommend that they see Dr. Frank Njenga or Dr. Ndetei.
  4. Msn Encarta a boy band is “a pop group made up of personable young men who sing and dance to synthesized music but do not play instruments » Last time I checked Sauti Sol’s live performances are with a live band.  Also  all of them play instruments : Polycarp-acoustic guitar, Bien-aime-Lead guitar, Delvin-drum kit, Chimano-a gourd(Help whaddya call that instrument he plays? )
  5. Boy bands are the only reason makers of hair gel are still in business and last time I checked , Sauti Sol seem to prefer their hair au naturel.
  6. On a more serious note, what boy band ever had their song banned from radio because it castigated the current political status quo? …..Can’t come up with anything? Well Sauti Sol did have a song banned from radio by some Kenyan politico so there!
  7. Boy bands are synonymous with chronic lip licking, running their hands through greasy hair while singing in the water dressed in white linen—–ermm please please Sauti Sol never ever do that. That will consign you to the footnotes of history.
  8. Sauti Sol is more Kenyan griots than boy band. The 13 songs on their Mwanzo album are evenly divided between love songs and social commentaries. Social commentaries include: Mafunzo ya dunia – a treatise of life’s vicissitudes, Wera- an ode to music as both a real profession and a calling, Blue Uniform- a made for TV depiction of the plight and power of policemen in Kenya, Nairobi-an ode to the green city in the sun, the capital of Kenya, Asante sana Baba- an overdue recognition and appreciation of the fathers in our lives and Sunny days-a summery feel good song. I would also include Subira here, which is more of a cautionary tale than a love song. Now if I knew Libya I would have told you where « Mushivala » belongs on the list.
  9. Unlike boy bands whose chests are flaunted with all the finesse and subtlety of a peacock, Sauti Sol seem rather shy about exposing their anatomy except for Delvin. Lately he seems to enjoy drumming bare-chested.

10. Choreographed lame dancing is the sure clue to boy bandedness (if that’s a word) and even though Sauti Sol have created some moves to liven up their live performances, they are rather accented on fun than trying to seduce some teeny bopper.

11. Out of the four music videos they have produced so far, 3 feature the same girls over and over again. I have my theories that will be kept to myself but what self-respecting boy band would risk alienating their female fans by rehashing the same video GIRLs over and over again?

12. In their song “Wera” which seems to be a reaffirmation to themselves and others of their dedication to and respect for music as a profession, the band depict themselves as using music to “elimisha and rekebisha” i.e. to educate and to put things aright. Name me a boy band that set out such a mission to change their world. Name me a boy band that has the style and substance evinced by Sauti Sol. …Thanks you just made my point very salient.

13. Yes they harmonise prosaically, sing some indelible love songs, hit some crazy notes, have a huge female fan base that according to Rumour like to throw their undergarments on stage when the guys perform and make my cynical heart skip a notch but nooooooooooooooo Sauti Sol is not, cannot ne and will never be a boy band.

14. Lastly, the more I listen to their album, stalk their interviews, watch their youtube videos etc, I am convinced that my very first estimation of Sauti Sol when I watched their Lazizi video is true. There is a thirst for longevity, a need to leave a legacy that  permeates everything these guys do.  It is no accident that their first album is called Mwanzo. Methinks these guys know that we have just scratched the surface of the musical richness they will continue to afford us for years to come. All factors held constant, Sauti Sol have crafted songs that will stand the test of time and not cause me any embarrassment should my grandkids come across them. They are artists with a conscience, who do not esteem style over substance, whose work captures this  particular moment in Kenyan history with great aplomb. That is why we should not denigrate them by calling them a boy band.

This Sauti Sol Stan now lays her case to rest.

*If they are coming to Canada please let this rabid fanatic know.


  1. Uno Nilsson says:

    Right all the way!!!

  2. Espan says:

    I totaly agree that Sauti soul is way above boyband ish, sauti soul is a bona fide band period!!! Keep up the good work guys.

  3. Well said my friend, well said! Bearing all that you have said in mind, what shall we call them then? Boy /Man group? Talented quartet? Sauti Sol the Band formerly-and annoyingly-known as the boy band?..and as one of the video GIRLS (video girls smile sweetly, video vixens gyrate seductively) in the three videos what is this theory? Kindly share with the class 😉

    • Hey Wanjeri,

      Correction noted about the video vixen/video girl dichotomy: you are totally right, will change it in my rant. Now what indeed shall we call them? The thing with human beings is we are confounded by what we can’t name. And sadly I can’t come up with a name for this Sauti Sol phenomenon: ensemble, pop group,…????Talented quartet,me gusta mucho lol. But I can understand the challenge Penya Africa and those marketing Sauti Sol have in finding a term that encapsulates :the innovative brand,mature sound,powerful impact on the Kenyan scene and actual youthfulness of these artistes. Other than talented quartet, I can’t come up with anything so methinks Wanjeri you hit it the nail on the head.

  4. Peter Martinsen says:

    thanks for this great article. I couldent agree more! One thing for sure is that this is about the music first of all…trust me I know.
    Peter- sauti sol musician

    • Hey Peter,

      Thank you so much the cosign given your relationship with Sauti Sol. I think I might have seen you on the drums at their debut album release. Keep creating the great music, it inspires for sure.

  5. Nåmalaine nora says:

    Sauti sol manze i lke there songs they so ncy educating,thy bring meaning abut lfe and they are clear and well understood. Thy hve good moves there dnces are nice and thy are alwys smart on stage. Manze my God guide them in the more songs to come even whn thy go to dfrnt cuntrys to perfor God be wth u manze am there big fun guiz jo b4 up all the bst in ur lfe and songs.

  6. ujo says:

    which of their songs got banned frm radio and by whch politician?

    • Hey Eugene

      I am yet to establish which one it is specifically but am dying to know. I would hazard a guess it’s one of the songs they performed at their homecoming concert but if I find out I will definitely let you in on it. 😉

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