Sauti Sol’s Midnight Train… A jubilant gift for turbulent times

Sauti Sol: Polycarp Otieno (left), Savara Mudigi, Willis Chimano and Bien-Aimé Baraza<br />

Kenyan afro-pop quartet band, Sauti Sol recently dropped their fifth studio album, Midnight Train, and reactions from fans and music critics indicate it is a jubilant gift for the undeniably turbulent times the world is experiencing at the moment.

The new body of work, a 13-tacker, is a rich and uplifting record, with standout tracks in Suzanna, Nenda Lote, Sober, and Brighter Days, which featured the prolific Soweto Gospel Choir. It was the first track to be released in the run-up to the album launch.

As a testament to the group’s evolution over the past few years, the album explores sobriety, personal insecurities, love and hope. It takes listeners through the journey of life, embracing the trials. It is the group’s first work under Universal Music Africa, following a major recording deal they signed earlier this year.

At a time when the world is reeling from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as mass protests against racism, the project soothes and provides some relief from the current reality.

Andre Harris, a producer that has worked with Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Jill Scott, produced the title track, Midnight Train, and it is a representation of their never-say-die attitude.

Speaking about the album, Austin Chimano, a member of the band, said the group has had an amazing journey so far and it’s like an ever-moving train.

He said, “Each time we make it to a destination we realise the road doesn’t stop there. We continue to better ourselves and look forward to bringing our fans along with us as we grow.”

“Signing with Universal was a long time coming because the negotiations took quite a while, almost three years. I remember it was exciting at first, but then also having been independent artistes and having done a lot by ourselves, we were looking for a tailor-made deal for us and not just a normal artist contract. Which is why it took so long.

“Once that happened, it was all systems go with recording the album. I’d say the significance of it is for us to gain new ground in having a machine push us to different markets and new audiences. Just working with Universal’s network to take us globally, that’s what the significance is and they’ve been really supportive,” he added.

On the inspirations behind the songs that went into this body of work, Polycarp Otieno, a guitarist said, “Our inspiration and how we write our music comes from where we are at in our lives – what we go through as human beings, as men, as husbands to our wives and as friends.”

“Writing stories that relate with other people and just things that normally someone would not speak about in song. We try to put that into song and still make it groovy,” he added.

Commenting on India Arie on the track My Everything, Chimano, said Arie has been and still is one of the group’s biggest inspirations when it comes to how they write their songs and arrange their music.

“We used to be big, big fans of her when we were starting our music. It’s a dream come true to just have her bless our album. The funny thing is we randomly met at an airport in Atlanta last year. We just bombarded her with all our love, telling her how much we love her music, where we’re from and that we are also musicians. She was very gracious. She listened to us. You could feel that positive energy coming from her.”

According to Otieno, recording with the Soweto Gospel Choir was amazing. “They were pretty dope and such fun people. Even with shooting the video as well, I remember it was such a fun day. They were so easy-going. How they just picked up the song and recorded it did it so much justice.

“When we left South Africa, they had to keep recording to finish it off. When they eventually sent it to us, it was magical. We were just like, “That’s our song, he stated.

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