SAUTI SOL UNCHAINED

With the release of our third album around the corner, a bi-weekly meeting to discuss general progress is paramount. This morning we (Sauti Sol) met with our overall management to discuss the way forward. The meeting started in a rather disheartening tone. All our potential corporate sponsors pulled out after the release of Nishike. After months of meetings and presentations, below are their reasons for the sudden change of heart.

  1. ‘Sauti Sol is now too out there’
  2. ‘Sauti Sol has seized to be a brand that associates with family and Kenyan values.’
  3. ‘Sauti Sol is too risky; they show great potential to break up, get into drugs or other vices that don’t represent company values.’
  4. ‘Sauti Sol is not Kenyan enough.’
  5. ‘Sauti Sol has lost more fans than they have gained’

In one particular boardroom during talks involving artists; the mention of our name was met with sarcastic laughter and attention was quickly shifted to other upcoming bands and artists in general.

‘HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.’

With two game changing albums and one EP. After releasing crowd favorites such as Lazizi, Blue Uniform, Soma Kijana, Coming Home, Gentleman, Money Lover, Still the One and now the monster of a viral that is NISHIKE. After writing and producing for the new sensation Elani. 2 Kisima Awards,2  Chat Awards, A Social Media Award, MUSEKE Online Africa Award, 2 Mdundo Music Awards, 1 Chanel O Music Video Award and 3 Nominations of the same, and finally 2014 MTV Africa Award Nomination (Best Group In Africa). WE DON’T MAKE THE CUT? WOW!!!!!!!

I have never heard of such a problem as a musician being too out there. From my school of thought, that has always been a plus. I mean isn’t Sauti Sol a mass product at this point? I totally understand that Nishike alienates us from the bracket of being called a ‘family brand’. What are ‘Kenyan values’? With our kind of leadership and the tainted reflection of our society—Nishike is indeed too appropriate. Too much double standards if you ask me. I refuse to be a secular artist boxed by society to restrict my freedom of expression.  As for Sauti Sol being a risk, kindly note the above accolades and give me any Kenyan group that has shown such consistency within the period we have been on the scene. Numbers don’t lie. Since the release of Nishike we have witnessed colossal increase in numbers across all our social media and interactive platforms. The only fans I’d say we’ve lost are the ones we never had. As for not being Kenyan enough, no comment. SMH.

Kenyans largely suffer from tall poppy syndrome—a  social phenomenon, in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticised because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers. So forgive Sauti Sol for taking a two-month intense gym programme, a low carb diet and risking the road less travelled in the attempt to rise above. KOT (Kenyans on Twitter) were salty at Lupita during Shuga and embraced her after the Oscars. To date, some people still hate claiming she’s not Kenyan enough or doesn’t dress in Kenyan designers (who btw didn’t dress her for Shuga’s red carpet). In retrospect, are you waiting for Sauti Sol to win a Grammy to then come on board? Note I am not only fishing for complements; I am very open to constructive criticism because social media is a two-edged sword. Nonetheless, let’s face it – there’s just too much hate on social media. If all that negative influence is carried to the boardroom it directly affects critical decisions that upset a whole industry.

Sauti Sol is unapologetic for our actions, which we feel have done the music industry more good than harm. The truth is nobody ever made history by playing it safe. Playing safe explains why most of our adverts on local TV look the same. If the opportunity cost of getting endorsements is to do that which is NOT game-changing, then it’s a cross we’re willing to carry. We have opened the gates for artists to express themselves freely, including sensually without prejudice. Will it take 10 more Nishikes from 10 other artists for us to embrace publicly what we enjoy in private? I’m sure most of you watch Nishike during your private moments. I mean how else could you explain 500,000 + views in 21 days? I bid farewell to all corporates who have walked away from what we felt would be classic industry changing partnerships, Sauti Sol will continue haunting you by trending and setting trends for your consumers. To our fans, aluta continua. We will always count on you to be ambassadors of the new generation of epic thinkers. Our value will never decrease based on someone’s inability to see our worth.

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52 thoughts on “SAUTI SOL UNCHAINED

  1. Well put. Corporate will always pour money to make more, humanity will always win souls. The latter is the most important, and it won!

  2. For them to react to one song is just silly… maybe y’all should target bigger and better corporate brands coz clearly you have out grown the so called “family branded ones” Nishike as a song isn’t my favorite from y’all ( its growing on me) but as an artist I appreciate where y’all are from and where y’all are headed… it would be stupid to stay stagnant and not grow from the lazizi period … always been a fan always will be a fan… Got you homie!!!

  3. Maybe Trust or Durex can sponsor you guys. Seriously, or even an alcohol brand. Kenya likes to bury its head in the sand let it.

  4. Bien, it just means that Sauti Sol has grown beyond Kenya. Congrats. You’ve actually made the cut. Lupita is a perfect reference.

  5. Forget those corporates, they’re too busy looking at their own shoes as they walk, instead of looking up at where they want to go. As you said, these are probably the same people who’ll come back looking for you as your success grows. Their problem is most likely that Sauti Sol is now a bigger brand than theirs, and they believe that the attention of the fans/general public will be more focused on you and not them. Anyway, I’m still a fan and you guys will always have my support.

  6. As a super fan of you guys I kinda disagree. I absolutely loved loved your 2 albums. Oh my the message, the tune the everything was soooo awesome. I mean everyone in the house hated me coz I overplayed them. BUT, nishike is the complete opposite of the norm. If I listen to the song it’s just blaagh. But the video *fans self* was great, top notch infant. But with this day and age of crazy teens and all these crazy thing, do you wanna be the people who promote sex? Why not continue being great role models? Or is the money too sweet? Coz it seems even with the tone that it’s gotten to your head. My two cents….

    • My two cents….i think feedback from your fans is important..both positive and negative. It’s what helps any person grow. I think Monique has put it quite well. No one denies that you guys have great talent but ‘nishike’ came as a surprise and please don’t underestimate the kind of influence it can have on impressionable souls.

  7. Please, you knew that video would elicit such reactions…Why act like you are surprised about it?
    I was one of the 500k hit you are talking about, but i watched it because one of my friends posted it on FB like ”Have you guys checked out this saudi sol video, steamy”

    And being you being fickle as you are trying to keep the fire burning a month later with a post,should seat down and read the ‘corporate’ missions and visions first before acting like they made a personal decision regarding you! They are answerable to a large group of stakeholders……

    But the bigger question is WILL NISHIKE BE A CLASSIC LIKE SOMA TEN YEARS FROM NOW?

    You were are a niche,but that was just generic

  8. Truth be told I am a huge fun of you guys!!!!! There is something about your album that screams to me ” proudly kenyan!” These are albums that are definitely going to be classics 10years down the lane. But lets be honest nishike was another ball game. I also watched the video because of utter curiosity but i don’t care about the song one bit. To me it does not scream sauti soul at all. I understand that you are trying to expand your horizon and rightfully so, but remember the reason why you are doing this. Why is music so important to you? Don’t let fame and money overpower the humble and cool guys you all are.
    These are just from a fan

  9. I WAS a fan. Sauti Sol has classics. great songs that changed the industry. NISHIKE…i cant even remember the chorus! It seemed like a desperate attempt to get attention…too Lil’ Wayne-ish. Poleni. As for being the first musicians to allow artistes to openly express themselves sensually,I believe Nikki ft Kshaka,Nonini and Nameless already beat you to it. Humbly change tact and acknowledge that the 500k may be the many ‘hypocritical Kenyans’ who just want to gawk and spread the walala! news.

  10. This post came at the right time,we where just having a discussion about the song and how Kenyans are reacting towards it.We live in a hypocritical society where its wrong when its exposed yet that is our daily life.I appreciate your growth and the bold step you took, one because you want (are) to be an international brand and two because your fans are not only based in Kenya.What everyone is complaining about is child play in other places.Our TV stations are OK with showing a western song that is in everyone’s standards obscene yet they have a problem when our own comes out and does something that is out of the norm.About the investors saying that the song is not Kenyan,what is Kenyan anyway,Fundamentals?????? Watch them claim you when you start getting international recognition.Ohhh and by the way just so you know I learned about this song from my American best friend here in Dc so this song did put you on the map.

  11. Kenya has which values… its just a pretentious society..
    Successful people follow the road less traveled.
    remember back in the days nonini’s leo niko kwa keja and keroro… didn’t hear any complaint then….
    kudos continue your excellent

  12. This was my reaction when I saw ‘Nishike’ for the first time, ‘OH! MAY, WHAT HAPPENED TO SAUTI SOL?!’ I have no problem with the abs being displayed and all that but what happened to SAUTI SOL?, I mean your songs always have this thing that lure you to want some more of ‘Sauti Sol’…Nishike does but more of the visual aspect, which is not a bad thing, to be honest its a song i would not listen to as much I would watch it, I have been your number one fan for as long as I can remember but Iam sure you guys knew you were targeting a certain audience as compared to what you always do, I mean its an adult video and I agree, but it also means I cant go with my 10 year old sister to your concert because i don’t know what to expect, right? but you guys know better than I do, what you want and your target so I have no right to judge you, nor does any one else but I just hope this is the same sauti sol unless you are re-branding? It is not wrong to explore, no one wants to be caged up forever but I hope you are still the one. Anyway all the best but don’t let all the fame get into you, I wonder if I meet any of you anywhere and say hi I would get a positive respond, my gut tells me I wont, that’s just my gut.
    I do hope I made sense, hope you win the award.
    Lots of love..

  13. Sauti Sol;
    Mko vizuri.

    Climb every mountain.
    Search high and low
    Follow every rainbow
    Till you find your dream.

    We experienced these same stereotypical corporate (mis)conduct a while back. But we understood why. They were confined and still are. Endeleeni mbele! Just keep going. The world is your oyster. Just thank them and proceed. ‘Gucci this’ and ‘Fendi that’ are waiting for you hukoz mbelez.
    Amen.

  14. I’m no musician myself and would be the last person to critique any artists out there, but I do know what I like listening to and some of Sauti Sol’s songs, I like. The reason I like them is solely based on the music and not what I like to call the “show”. I believe that a video should enhance a song, but not substitute it. In other words, I should like a song irrespective of the video. Kenyan music has come a long way, producing many great artists in the process. I respect every artist’s right to express themselves. I also greatly respect artists who have perfected their craft to the level that they don’t depend on “sensationalism” to generate interest in their work. You don’t need to see Elani in semi-nude states to love their songs, like Kookookoo. I’d be quite disappointed if they ever went down that road.

    It’s a sad reality, though, that gone are the days when music was rated solely according to the quality of the music. In the increasingly competitive world of music today, the emerging criteria for success is as much (or more) about the “show” as it is about the sound. Sex sells and it’s a fact that the more racy the video, the more interest the song will generate among the public, especially the youth, even if it isn’t such a great song to begin with. You only have to tune-in to KISSTV to understand what I’m talking about. Using sex to sell music is not new, except locally. Whether you agree with employing sex to generate interest is a personal decision, but as an artist, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the interest was in the music or the “show”. Like when you fall in love with a girl mainly for her looks, without caring so much about her character. I guess the question one needs to ask is would the song have generated as much interest as a work of art if it did not have the explicit video? Perhaps we’ll never know.

    Having said that, the song and video for Nishike is appropriate for a very specific market segment, comprising the liberated youth, for whom traditional/cultural inhibitions like nudity are not so taboo. It is also a big change in direction from previous Sauti Sol releases and they have to realise this when it comes to dealing with corporate sponsors. When you make a drastic change to your look, you must be aware of the fact that the change may affect other aspects of your life. A guy working in a top-tier bank, who suddenly decides to grow dreadlocks, must realise that his conservative employer will require that he either gets rid of the locks or quits the job. You can’t blame a corporation with an image of strong family values for dropping you when you decide to change your look to one that doesn’t advocate those same values. Their support for you is not solely about your success in the music industry. It’s also about how well their customers relate to your image. Changing that image to the extent that a good number of their customers could change their attitude towards the corporate brand is enough reason for them to rethink your association with them. It’s not personal. It’s just business. Remember that choices have consequences.

  15. Keep the creativity alive. A certain local radio station told Tedd Josiah and myself that Unbwogable by Gidi Gidi and Clang Clang by Necessary Noise (when we produced/managed them under Audio Vault) were not station compliant…….clearly they went on to swallow their words later as these became massive hits. A true artist creates then shares……not seek prior approval. That would be tantamount to censorship. Agreed one must listen to the fans and reactions thereafter and engage them and see whether there is any validity in their claims. However, an artist must strive to stay true to their realest expression. Awaiting “Nishike the Remix” ft. VICTORIA KIMANI 😉😈

  16. drugs….? wow… i think they just took a time machine back into the 60’s into the days of Jimmy Hendricks and Janice Joplin. meanwhile that grandpa that came up with that has not yet understood that this is not just entertainment… its business. and don’t even get shocked when you find that guys “standing up” for Kenyan values are busy trolling koinange street and hurlingham.. its a real shame! Bien and co.. keep your heads up and be encouraged small businesses like mine might find themselves in the sponsorship game real soon. 🙂

  17. Hahahahahahahahahaahhahahahahhahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahahahahahahhahahahahahhahahahaha…. Is what a sane minded person would have to say

  18. It is very easy to get comfortable as a band, brand, artist group etc with success. However success is measurable and every person and institution will tell you that. Most have targets, and goals and work towards them. In many instances we have even seen companies in our country rebrand twice or thrice for reasons of affiliation and brand positioning. AIG to Chartis, ICEA to Lion Group, Kencell to Celtell, to Zain then finally to Airtel. Each affiliation comes with its plus and minuses but i want to believe no change was made to revers previous success, but to perhaps acquire new values, attributes, successes, challenges, new markets, new clientele etc! Every change is a well calculated move that realigns the brands to a fresh goal or path to success. However there are always casualties as in these endeavours. You win some and lose some. Point is What SautiSol have done with Nishike is not by accident! The amount of success they have achieved over time can not be taken for granted! And every one time when a brand reaches its peak it is only natural to want to expand its horizons! For the looses, it is part of business! For the gains, it is expected! I can guarantee SautiSol blowing the world over in the near future! Lupita is a perfect example. She does a sex scene in Shuga, everyone complains! She does another in a hollywood movie everyone applauds! At the end of the day she wins! The most people can do is talk! SautiSol are doing! They are definitely on a winning streak! Most of you hating, what have you done lately that deserves anyone’s attention! Let alone 500,000 views! If you take sausages and dont like what farmer’s choice are doing lately, walk away! Find another brand that suits you! For those that love the new, fresh and constantly evolving, we remain aboard the ship!

  19. I agree with Monique, I have Mwanzo and Sauti Sol and I love them. Whilst it is true as artists you have lots of artistic liberties my challenge is if this is the direction your music is headed, how will I justify owning your previous albums to to my children 15 years from now. I will definitely miss the Sauti Sol that made Kenyan music different; the Sauti Sol that made timeless music. Yes Kenya has lots of double standards in so many areas but that does not mean that we can’t rise above and set a good example.

  20. Keep doing you, guys, and upping the game…Kenyans have an impressive knack for double standards. I recall you released “Nishike” right around the time polygamy was legalized. Yet surprisingly, the outcry was about how “Nishike” was a sign of the moral breakdown of society…Smh.

  21. Get off the high horse Sauti Sol. You were more of a Family entertainment group and for that you gained prominence. Families loved you, bought your music, spoke highly of you. That was your audience, and to repay them you venture into soft porn and you expect the same audience to appreciate you? Yes that Nishike video is nothing short of soft pornography and here you are trying to justify it? If my company does not want to be associated with people embodying images of half naked women being told how they will be laid in bed, does that make me a bad company? By choosing to be morally upright makes it look like I am not supporting talent? Negroids please, do not abuse our intellect by seeking cheap sympathy. You chose your path, now walk it. You knew the consequences of your actions. Even in developed countries artistes gauge their market first and find out who their audience are before production. Choices have consequences, now stop your whining and face yours like real Men who have had a “two month” intense gym session.

  22. Bien.. You guys.. are playing on a different league now! So f**k them..use your momentum right now and go for the big bucks ..especially those tryna enter the African market. They are looking at Kenya as THE door to Africa, not Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa.. #KENYA!! so go for undeterred! No apologies for your direction.. you have to grow man! So you go back out there and get whats yours! No Limit!!

    P.S similar walk-offs happened to U2, No Doubt, New Edition, Elizabeth Hurley, Destinys Child, LL Cool J among others..(check their strategy)

  23. I find it uber hillarious how kenyans manage to pull the ‘Holy mother Teresa’ card whenever anyone does in public what we (let’s face it) ALL wish we had the balls to do in public.You are a group that has grown over time and I don’t think people’s comments should stop you from reaching greater heights!

    P.S ~> I LOVE what you did in the video plus in this article.Nailed it! I keep voting

  24. Big up to you Sauti Sol all the way from Canada!!! Your music insipires me and leads me to believe more and more that Kenyans have so much to offer this world…and the best is yet to come. I love, love, love your music and share it with people here in vancouver; to the point where I have chosen to use your “Mama Papa” as the song I will walk down the isle to :). Now what I would like is to find someone to bring you here to Vancouver or Seattle Washington. Would be extremely nice to have a concert featuring you guys out here.

    As for the bashing on social media and otherwise ignorant companies refusing to move forward with you. They will realise very soon that they shot themselves in the foot,…and it will hurt. Big things are yet to come. Ama?!

    Bless!

  25. Well put.No regrets,no shame.Be brave and contunue to take risks.What family values are these? Isn’t the whole concept behind “Nishike” what made families anyway? Hypocrites.The music industry needs to change and Sauti Sol is bringing the change.Everything sounds the same on radio because artists(who don’t really deserve the title) are too busy conforming to what society accepts.To what brings in the money.That is not the point of any artistry,including music.The point is expressing yourself.If sexual expression is known as ‘tabia mbaya’ in Kenya then it’s no wonder our music industry is so basic,these corporates should know that well behaved people,those who conform to societies’ standards and moral boundaries of right and wrong,those are the people who never make history.#SAUTISOLFORAGRAMMY

  26. I watched your video all the way from Uganda out of curiousity coz of all the hype that was being generated on facebook. I have been an avid fan of your music. I but I gotta tell you guys, Nishike that was a WRONG MOVE. Sauti Sol has been for long been associated with beautiful Kenyan music that touched the soul and spoke to both old and young. It was real music. So you see from the onset you guys branded yourselves as disctinct level headed musicians who churned out clean almost inspirational music. Thats what you were known for. So for you guys to go explicit and canoodle with semi naked women in your videos not only cofused your audiences, it disgusted many of them. Its like for example Michael Bolton suddenly featuring half dressed women gyrating wildly in his new video. It plain brand lunacy. If you guys had started out from the onset with sexy videos then people wouldnt have minded. But you got all confused and jumped the gun. No corporate sponsor is going to bank on you if your brand is hot and cold. You need to make up and minds and stick to that.

  27. My apologies for the long comment I am about to leave here.

    As you rightly put it, “Nishike” simply “embrace[d] publicly what we enjoy in private”. And that is just but a fact. However, personally, “Nishike” doesn’t sit well with me – The same way some of Trey Songz’, Rihanna’s or Beyonce’s music doesn’t sit well with me. Allow me to elaborate on this.

    Sometimes we forget that we too, have a responsibility to others in our society not only to deliver, through our crafts, respectively, something that people can enjoy but something that builds and not destroy. The world today has evolved to such a point where even if PG is advised, things are still at the easy disposal of everyone and anyone – tv screens, phones, cafe screen, computers, e.t.c. An adult watching “Nishike” is mature enough for the content, a young kid, not so much. To the influence of videos, i’ll quote Gizla “I don’t think music videos create trends … we tend to take what’s on the periphery around the edge and bring it to the mainstream”. It has been proven the effect sexualised content has on young men and women out there.

    That said, i’d beg to differ with the statement “the only fans I’d say we’ve lost are the ones we never had”. Your music, from “lazizi” to “still the one” was something enjoyed by nearly all groups of audiences (perhaps this is what was meant by “family brand”?). “Awinja”, “blue uniform”, “lazizi” was something I could comfortably watch with my 16 year old in the room and jam to. “Nishike”, not so much. And here is where the questions of double standard comes in; “If she’s not watching Nishike then she’ll still be out there listening to, and watching videos that tell her “bad bitch” is something to aspire to and those that tell her to “go down low” so why then is Nishike different and why is it a problem?”

    “Nishikie” is not, but Sauti Sol is. And I know it is very wrong to put artist in a little box (as a writer – explains the long essay – I don’t appreciate it when people say something I wrote is “not my style” simply because they are used to old works and this was just different). Artists evolve and so having a particular style is a myth. But do give me a chance to explain. I believe Sauti Sol to be amazing artists – the only one of your kind in Kenya today, not because of Nishike but in spite of, as you have always had a unique style and the ability to reach out to all kinds of audiences, without having to go the overly sexual way. I cannot think of any Kenyan artists in the industry at the moment, so urban in their style, but so unique in such a way that they can appeal to my grandma, my sister, and an international audience. The only people I could possibly compare you to, not in terms of style of music, but uniqueness, are “Official Mafikizolo” (allow that is official is not actually part of their name).

    That said, regarding the “too out there” comments, what in the world does that even mean? Isn’t the point of the whole hustle to “be out there” and the reasons the cooperations were interested in them to begin with was because they had the potential, arguably the best in the industry today, to be “out there” and even take the Kenyan industry to the global levels other artists from other countries have done? But hey, too out there means you are doing something right, whether we agree or disagree, all that matters is that it feels right to you guys and you don’t want to “gain the world and lose [yourselves]” At the end of the day, the discretion is yours, as artists, and people can either choose to love your work, or hate it, or like me, choose what to love and what to hate. I just thought i’d let you know, constructively, where some of us are coming from, out of the respect I have for you as artists.

    Again, I really do apologise for the wordiness of this, I just felt it necessary.

    I look forward to your next release!

  28. Quite honestly you had me from the moment I heard Lazizi. Sauti sol have been and still ARE my favourite Kenyan musicians hands down! Nishike isn’t my favourite song but it certainly didn’t diminish you in my eyes, it only added another dimension to your artistry (and fuelled my crush on Bien hehehe). Sauti Sol are still a cut above most. I look forward to buying your new album.

  29. Kenyans like to pretend that they shop for babies in the supermarket,they only endure sex under blankets,in darkness-its the same way that we are pretending that this sexually charged hot video is negative.I hear no one complain when its Sean Paul or snoop SMH
    Sauti Sol keep giving us that-You will have a grammy!

  30. i honestly don’t get this whole indicency vibe about Nishike. if anything it has to be the classiest simplest video i have seen from our artists in a while.(though Huddah could do with tighter undies in the video) we have heard nastier songs and more ratchet videos. Nishike still has more African vibe than most of the local videos nowadays yet they are able to bring out sensuality in a dignified manner. Bien, haters gon hate…… just keep doing what you’r doing.

  31. You knew the consequences of releasing Nishike(Which I find very sexual rather than sensual). Its time now to face the Music (Forgive the pun). You found it was time to take a step further and I am sure you had all your calculations.

    You took a risk with Nishike and thats the nature of risks. You loose some and you win some. You dry up before you rise up. Stop looking for the Fans appeal (Wachia Kleptomeniacs). The Fans never did anyone good. Charge on. Fix what is broken. Buy up Elani if thats what is needed to maintain your household family name. But don’t do sorry blogs. Act like men with 6 packs.

  32. Tall poppy syndrome…thank you for naming this backward phenomenon!
    Sauti Sol keeps raising the bar, keep on keeping on!

  33. …Nishike was and is so international….which of course should make as feel proud and appreciate the group…yet you find that its denied air play but they can afford to play explicit videos from other countries.SMH!

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