By Dayo Yussuf
‘’We all need love. We all need affection. And the way that you looking at me I can feel the connection….’’
Just speak out those words anywhere in the streets of East Africa, nay, anywhere in Africa and someone will hum to a tune, if not burst into song.
Very popular song by the boy band Sauti Sol titled ‘Unconditionally Bae’ that went on to garner over 15 million views on you tube.
The song plays in the background in William Tuva’s studio, where he runs a popular radio show in the Kenyan capital Nairobi that features African music.
‘‘Am telling you Sauti Sol are just on their own level, the way their sounds blend together,’’ Tuva tells TRT Afrika.
‘‘I have seen them grow from not just young boys but also a young band, to one of the biggest names in African Music.’’ He adds.
The Kenyan Afropop band, Sauti Sol, was formed in Nairobi in 2005 by vocalists Bien-Aimé Baraza, Willis Chimano and Savara Mudigi attracting millions of fans from across the continent.
However, the four- member band last month announced that it would be taking an ‘’indefinite hiatus,’’ saying the bandmates ''are eager to explore fresh creative avenues and embark on personal endeavours.''
Fans hungry for bands
The fall of music bands in Africa usually follows bitter or controversial break ups, or sometimes little is known on the actual reasons behind separations.
For Sauti Sol, it said although its members would pursue individual interests, their musical separation did not mean the end of their inter-personal relationship.
The fall of one group often leads to the rise of another in the entertainment industry.
Music and entertainment publicist Anyiko Owoko, believes there will always be room for music groups and bands to spring up, as she says, the continent is hungry for them.
‘‘Apart from a few well-known groups here and there, there are not enough groups to call out,’’ she adds.
‘‘The industry is ready and would benefit to have more groups and bands. I haven’t seen any band that came out that didn’t have a legion,’’ Owoko says.
Over the years, various groups have popped up from across the continent yet fizzled out too soon, leaving their fans hungry for more.
‘‘It is more exciting to follow a group more than an individual artist. They have so much to offer. They give you more vibes. A variety of talents in one,’’ Owoko explains.
Saidi Fella, is credited for starting up and managing a famous Tanzanian boy band known as Yamoto.
The group has since split and some of the members have grown to be the biggest artist in East Africa.
Saidi says it is hard to keep a group of free spirited and creative individuals together for too long.
‘‘You will find one member wants to outshine the others,’’ he explains. ‘’Some do not want to hear the opinion of others. They want to make all decisions and run the group alone. This won’t work, with such groups.’’
Band is a marriage
But talent manager Owoko says sometime the differences are what can make a good band, they just need to know how to tap from their strengths.
‘‘One person could be a better song writer or better at fashion or more business minded and administrator. You will need to bring out and make use of everyone’s talent so that they all feel equally appreciated.’’
Ali Suleiman, a founding member of the Lafrik Afro-pop band in Kenya says working as a band is easy but you must put in the effort to keep together.
‘’It is like a marriage. Some do work, others don’t. You have to learn to be together, understand each other, you have to work on it,’’ he tells TRT Afrika.
Lafrik band was established nine years ago and it is still operating. Suleiman says he has seen a growing popularity of bands among young people.
‘‘They are really accepting us now. I have worked with older bands like Les Wanyika. I have seen different age groups filling up our shows. We see young people coming out even more now to see us perform,’’ he says, adding ‘‘we are selling out all our shows.’’
Majority of these groups, the measure of success is how they are recognised outside their home countries.
‘‘We just came back from performing in Tanzania in April. I was happy to see how well they received us,’’ Says Suleiman.
Despite the challenges the groups face, the music industry is rapidly growing in Africa.
Music beyond Africa
The diverse culture, sounds, language and lifestyles provide for a deep well of creativity. Music experts say the industry is expected to grow and contribute more economically and in the creative and entertainment space.
According to Music and entertainment publicist Owoko, many groups fail due to poor administration either caused by having incompetent managers or being overstaffed.
‘‘Groups should have the most lean management team. Having many managers is not practical. Each one has to be paid individually and you end up having the management team making more money than the actual artists in the group,’’ she opines.
Recent trends on social media have proven that African music, when done well, can attract markets beyond the continent. Songs like ‘Jerusalema’ form South Africa took the world by storm.
Amapiano is currently the biggest hit genre globally which has formed ‘cult-like’ fans.
Publicist Owoko says it is a sign that people out there are looking at what Africa is going to produce next.
‘’When Amapiano happened no one expected that it would end up uniting the whole continent the way it did. And it went beyond Africa and the whole world is tapping along to the beat,’’ she says.
She sounds optimistic. ‘’I don’t know what is next but something big is coming,’’ she says.
Guitarist and vocalist Suleiman grins when he thinks of what is coming ahead. His band Lafrik is planning its next concert outside Kenya, where it is based.
‘‘Guys want to sample from neighbouring countries as well. It means there is room to grow and play further from your home country,’’ he suggests.
‘’Some groups are spending more time touring outside than inside their home country,’’ Suleiman adds.
Meanwhile, the separation of the Sauti Sol band artists will take effect after their ongoing musical tour of US, Canada and Europe.
Some commentators still do not believe the group would be dissolving citing the long-standing bond of its members and given there is no known frictions within it.
But Music DJ Tuva says the splitting up of the famous Kenyan-based Afro-pop, if it eventually happens in reality, could be heart breaking for many of their millions of fans across Africa.
He however, he says the decision is likely to provide more opportunities for upcoming bands and artists that will ‘’amaze’’ people.
He suggested that several bands shone and dissolved in the past but more later sprang up.
‘‘I have worked with many groups and band. I will never forget Yamoto Band from Tanzania, they gave us some of the biggest names that transformed bongo music.’’ He adds. ‘’I respect H_art the Band from Kenya, I wonder how they have managed to stay together all these years. But I know many more are coming,’’ he concludes.