Sauti means "sound" in Swahili, and Sol is Spanish for "sun", and, to date, the Kenyan afro-fusion band's name has reflected their music, a vocally-harmonic, mid-tempo, acoustic-driven, liquid-guitar-lines, laze-in-the-sun-with-a-drink, afro-latin sound that made hits of tracks like Sunny Days, Soma Kijana and Coming Home.
A very nice sound it is/was, too. With songs about issues Kenyans could relate to, it endeared them to music lovers at home and across Europe, and earned them some "Best Music Group" awards. But after two successful albums of this - Mwanzo and Sol Filosofia - perhaps the band got a bit fed up with being categorised as "World Music" (Apple/iTunes, we're looking at you).
Whatever their reasons, bringing South African musician/producer Spoek Mathambo and his production crew Nombolo One on board for this self-titled new 6-track EP was an inspired idea.
We've written about Spoek Mathambo aseveral times in the past, but if you missed any of those articles, let's just say he's one of a handful of true sonic explorers whose always got something interesting and surprising up his sleeve. House, groovy electro-rap, kwaito, melodic guitar, electronic blips and noises, dub step, rock, the guy seems comfortable playing around with all of these and more, and when it works it can be exhilarating; listen to War on Words, Mshini Wam and Control, and to his tribute to classic South African tunes on Nombolo One.
He and his production crew bring just the right amount of this eclecticism to the Sauti Sol EP; not so much as to frighten the horses, but enough to shake things up a bit - we hear bits of electronica, psychedelic rock guitar, funk, blues, disco. It gives the band that extra bit of oomph or edge, if you prefer, and lets those of us who consider ourselves fans know that we haven't got the band pegged quite yet.
Sauti Sol say they're on a mission to break musical stereotypes and borders, and by ramping up the tempo and blending these new sound elements to their signature harmonies, they're on the right path to doing just that. We especially dig the dub on Slow, featuring Dela (one of Kenya's finest vocalists) and Spoek.
Listen to the lot, download Love or Leave for free, enjoy, and go grab the rest. It's only €5. CD available from the 1st of July.