Kenya’s popular band Sauti Sol calls on Kenyans to vote

The World

Sauti Sol/YouTube

Sauti Sol, one of Kenya's most-famous bands, is known for their vibrant Afropop hits and swoon-worthy love songs.

But ahead of Kenya's presidential election on Tuesday, the four-person group is lending their voices for a more political purpose — encouraging Kenyans to vote.

 They recently released a series of politically conscious songs under a project dubbed #Tujiangalie, which in Swahili means, “We should look into ourselves.” 

The title comes from their popular song by the same name a few years ago.

“It's like a man in the mirror situation. Because, you know, we have always pointed the finger at whoever is doing something wrong without being reflective on how much we contribute to the wrong," band member Bien-Aimè Alusa said. 

The songs call out the socioeconomic and political ills in Kenya while also encouraging listeners to think about what they can do as citizens to improve society.

In one song, "In My Head," featuring Kenyan rapper Khaligraph Jones, they sing about issues such as high youth unemployment and corruption.

“In my head, I want to believe what my favorite politician is telling me. I would love to believe the fairy tales and fantasies that they are building the castle,” said Alusa about the message behind the song’s lyrics.

"But I would be lying to myself because they have promised things before that they haven't delivered.” 

The superstar isn't alone in feeling that way.

Political candidates are making huge promises during this election, but voter apathy — especially among youth ages 18 to 35 — has been a noted concern for election officials.

The song "Tano Tena," or “Five Again,” featuring Nviiri the Storyteller and Bensoul, reflects the voter frustration that may underlie the apathy. 

The song title refers to Kenya's five-year presidential terms.

“I'm not going to give you another five years to ruin my life. I'm not going to give you another five years to be on the driver's seat and drive me in the wrong direction," Alusa said. 

"It's just a song that really speaks to the moment in terms of, ‘Who are we electing?’ Are we doing a background check on these guys?" he explained.

Later in the song, they sing: "I won't die for five again" — bringing to mind how in past elections, Kenyan youth have been used for political gain and incited toward violence.

Sauti Sol and other musicians have been calling for peaceful elections and for youth to push for change in positive ways.      

"Give the power to the youth, we’ll kill them with the truth,” they sing in “Tano Tena.”

“The end goal of this particular project is to make as many youth as possible go to the ballot and express themselves, because a lot of the youth in Kenya feel like their voice doesn't really count,” Alusa said.  

In the song, “Girls on Top,” featuring musicians Brandy Maina and Maandy, they encourage Kenyans to vote for women — one of the most underrepresented groups in the country. 

“We need a lot more representation from our sisters because it's important for a gender balance to be there in society, in our leadership.”

Polls open in Kenya on Tuesday, Aug. 9.