SXSW Showcase Reviews
Reviewed by Dan Oko, Fri., March 16, 2012
Sauti SolFlamingo Cantina, Wednesday, March 14
Hand it to these top-selling Kenyan purveyors of modern Afro-pop on their U.S. debut in Austin: Sauti Sol showed no fear. Considering that six months ago they played before a crowd of 12,000 in their native Nairobi, it makes sense that this hearty sixpiece didn't flinch when faced with a half-full club. With the two main vocalists, diminutive Willis Chimano and lanky Bien-Aime Baraza, dressed in wide-shouldered jackets cut from bright colors recalling both Michael Jackson and Sgt. Pepper, the band started off at a gallop, letting the love shine through ("I'm giving you my heart, my soul," sung over braided guitar lines). A reggae interlude, then a ballad of sorts – introduced as "The Ones You Love" – left the impression that Sauti Sol's Pandora stations feature both Marley and Fleetwood Mac. Boasting coordinated dance moves, Chimano on alto sax, and the drummer on high harmony, the band's vigor returned on continental hit "Nairobi," sung in English and Swahili. With the growing crowd swelled with cheerful expat Kenyans who call Austin home, the energy peaked. Soon those fancy jackets were shed, and dance lessons given to those in need.