Sauti Sol formed in Kenya in 2005, initially as an acapella group. The group’s style pivoted shortly after formation, leading them to become the world-famous afro pop powerhouse they are today. Their music remains focused on the vocal skills of Bien-Aimé Baraza, Willis Chimano, and Savara Mudigi, but also features the guitar prowess of Polycarp Otieno. Baraza, Chimano, and Mudigi met at Upper Hill High School where they had performed in a school musical group. The three later met Otieno, himself an aspiring guitarist from a young age, and formed Sauti (meaning ‘voice’). Shortly after its formation, Sauti became Sauti Sol (‘voices in the sun’). During the group’s early years, all four members completed college degrees.
Their first album, Mwanzo (‘beginning’) was released in 2009. This was followed by 2011’s Sol Filosofia, a self-titled EP in 2012, and their latest album, Live and Die in Afrika, in 2015. Live and Die in Afrika was temporarily available for free as a Christmas gift to fans. Their songs “Sura Yako,” “Nishike (Touch Me),” and “Coming Home” have won awards, while “Shake Yo Bam Bam” and “Gentleman” have received various nominations. Sauti Sol has used their international success to fuel their altruistic goals. Their SOMA SOMA Initiative, launched in 2012, seeks to connect students in Kenya with mentors and resources. The group remains directly involved with SOMA SOMA by doing yearly Read-Alouds with the Initiative.
While Sauti Sol remains active and the primary focus of its members, Otieno has also launched his own guitar side-projects. He has released a series of YouTube guitar tutorials under the name FancyFingers and most recently released a branded guitar under the same name. In recent months, the group has done a tour throughout Africa. In September, they released a new single and music video, “Kuliko Jana,” which features Redfourth Chorus from Upper Hill School – the same school Baraza, Chimeno, and Mudigi attended and performed.