By now you’ve heard that Kenyan pop sensations Sauti Sol dropped their hotly anticipated album Live and Die In Afrika yesterday (21st November); and judging from the responses online so far, the album has certainly struck a chord with their fans.
We don’t do album reviews that often on HBR, but for a project this massive it’s only fitting that we make an exception. So after spending a day immersing ourselves into Sauti Sol’s third studio album, here are 5 stray observations on Live and Die In Afrika:
1. Is Bien the default leader of the group?
– For an act that consists of 3 talented vocalists, we sure do hear A LOT of Bien’s voice on the 15 track album. Sure Mugidi also features prominently, but it almost feels like Bien is the Beyonce of this group while the rest fight for the positions of Kelly Rowland and Michele.
2. Sauti Sol might benefit from working with a talented songwriter
– Sauti Sol have an ear for melody (just listen to how they close out Isabella), but sadly that is not matched by their writing. A cringe-worthy lyric like “Everybody needs somebody to kiss” as heard on track 9 should have been vetoed by at least ONE person during their studio sessions.
3. Placing a gospel song on the same album as Nishike just doesn’t feel right
– One of the more surprising inclusions on the album was Kuliko Jana, a gospel jam that features Aaron Rimbui. of course there is nothing wrong with Sauti Sol praising the lord on a “secular” album, but just not on the same disc that contains the romp fest that is Nishike.
4. “It’s Okay” is easily the BEST song on the album
– On an album that has one hit song after another, it’s hard to pick one stand out single. But track 5, It’s Okay, makes for one of the catchiest break-up songs EVER made, and is an immediate favorite on the album. And I think it is no coincidence that Chimano (the least utilized member of the group on this album) headlines that song.
5. Does the music live up to the album’s title? Yes…but also, No.
– With a title like Live and Die In Afrika, one would assume that Sauti Sol would use the album to summarize the African experience as they see it. And what does it all come down to according to the group: Love, Aspiration and Rhythm. Yes, those are things that help define our existence as African people, but that barely scratches the surface.
As “negative” as this review may sound, Live and Die In Afrika is a pretty good album that solidifies the group’s position as the leading musical act in the land. It has everything you’d want and expect from a Sauti Sol album: melody, emotion and of course, dance.