One of the most anticipated Kenyan events in Seattle almost went up in smoke on Sunday night at the EMP Museum when some members of the popular boy-band, and BET Awards Best International Act Nominees, Sauti Sol missed their flight into Seattle for the 2015 Madaraka Day Festival (May 31st).
While One Vibe Africa, the hosts of the annual charity event known as Madaraka Festival had arranged an amazing array of musicians for the night, it was very clear from the onset that the main attraction for the majority of Kenyans in this internationally diverse audience was Sauti Sol.
But what the audience was unaware of even as the event was underway was that Sauti Sol, who were jetting in from Atlanta GA for what was to be the last event of their USA tour (dubbed #SautiSolUSATour), had been split up while going through airport security in ATL.
Only Bien-Aime Baraza, his manager Marek, and keyboardist had managed to make the flight, scheduled to land at the Seattle Tacoma International Airport at 2pm barely six hours to the event.
Speaking to Michelle and Theo, hosts of a K360TV show Keeping It Real at the airport, Bien explained that the rest of the crew (Polycarp, Delvin and Chimano ) would be coming in on a later flight expected to land in Seattle at 10pm. Sauti Sol was slotted to take the stage at 10:30 pm in the event that kicked off at 8pm and with an 11:15 pm projected end time.
Bien, while admitting that the flight was cutting too close to the expected stage time for his band, remained optimistic that he and his fellow band members would not let their Seattle fan base down.
Meanwhile, Founder and CEO of One Vibe Africa, Simon Javaz Okello while speaking to K360TV stated that event officials were on hand at the airport to route the rest of the band straight to the event venue immediately upon their arrival and that he was optimistic that Sauti Sol would be a full effect on stage. The event that saw hundreds of Kenyans from within the Pacific Northwest and beyond congregate in Seattle went smoothly with artists Arunga Awuor (Kenya/US), M1 of Dead Prez (FL), Dax Lion (Jamaica), Jus Moni (WA), Aisha Fukushima (CA), Babaluku (Uganda/Canada), Project Lion Heart (WA), LaRue (WA) and Zack Okello (Kenya) giving it their all leaving the attendees swaying, dancing and rocking to the different genres of music on display.
However, it was easy to detect some level of restlessness even amongst reggae lovers towards the end of the program and especially when Dax Lion (Jamaica) stayed on stage a little too long. But it was only at the end of a riveting performance by Blitz the Ambassador (Ghana/UK) that the mood dropped when he became the unlucky messenger to announce only one member of the boy-band had made it to Seattle. And it didn’t take long for the crowd to find out which of the boys was in the house.
Clad in a hand-made leather jacket with the name Rongai emblazoned across the back, Bien came on stage and spent a few minutes pumping the crowd alongside Blitz. It was however a turning point for the pumped crowd when without warning, he left the stage at 10:15 pm. Blitz who had until then charmed the crowd with his Ghanaian sounds found himself staring down at a confused audience that had quickly lost its flow. His attempt at cracking jokes to re-ignite the crowd was only met with muted boos.
For many in the audience that had purposely put off personal commitments to make to this Sunday event, the disappointment was almost palpable especially due to the lack of an official explanation on what was going on. By then, K360TV had reliably established that while Bien was ready to take it on solo, the popular vote behind the scenes was to give it a little more time as there was still hope that the rest of the crew would make it in. But at 10:30 pm, there was no holding him back.
Bien was back on stage to a thunderous applause and what followed was one of the most electrifying act of the night. The bi-spectacled lead of Sauti Sol belted out popular numbers that have propelled Sauti Sol to the top of the charts in Kenya, Africa and beyond.
Between singing Nelea while strumming his guitar, serenading Nazizi, and driving many a lady wishing when he sang the popular Nishike song, there was no doubt who was in-charge.
At one time he went on to invite the audience onto the stage to keep him company taking a poke at his colleagues with a quip that they had made him a lonely fellow. It was evident that he was having a good time by how relaxed and at ease he was with the fans. And then finally, Bien choreographed the crowd into dancing to Sura Yako sending the packed auditorium into a dancing frenzy. And by the time he was done with the crowd, it mattered less that the rest did not make it at all to the event.
Like a boss, Bien-Aime Baraza had saved the day for Sauti Sol in Seattle. He promised a make-up event for Seattle when they return for the BET Awards later this month in Los Angeles.