Meet Sauti Sol's fifth band member
Marek Fuchs takes care of business for Sauti Sol, the band that has been rocking the Kenyan music industry lately. He sat down for a chat with Wendy Watta
What were you doing before?
I’m only 30 so I’ve done a lot. I’m originally from the Czech Republic where I lived till I was 11, then went to Cape Town for seven years and Los Angeles for another eight. My mum was the Czech ambassador to Kenya by the time I came here in 2008. In 2010, I started a company called AfricaCentric, creating sustainable business solutions for companies keen on investing in Africa.
What you are doing now definitely seems more interesting...
Managing Sauti Sol does seem to be much more fun, but I’ve never worked so hard in my life! There are tours to set up and while touring, I have a group of ten people to look after and there are promoters trying to knock you off on venue and sound costs. I also have to focus on the business side; photo shoots, merchandise, media interviews, single and album releases, video shoots
How did you get to start managing Sauti Sol?
While studying at University of California in Los Angeles, I played around with artiste management managing DJ’s and a few digital artistes and painters — but it was never really a full-time endeavour. In Kenya, I was always going around to festivals and following the scene, which is how I ran into them and we became friends. I initially had no intention of getting into the music business here. When I got to know them, I saw the drive, talent and passion they had and that interested me.
Around 2011, I was heading to Europe to attend a couple of summer festivals in the Czech Republic, and I asked if they would be interested in coming to play. I called up a couple of festivals and they all said yes. The guys came a month later and met my family and friends. The crowds were receptive and that’s my hood so we just had a blast. They say that was one of their favourite tours to date.
When we came back, they suggested we should just find a working relationship. Having little experience in music here and since I had my company, I didn’t see how it would work. We went back and forth for six months and in that time, I got to know them and the business more and it finally made sense.
What should Sauti Sol fans be on the lookout for this year?
In the last two months, we’ve filmed four exciting videos — two of which were filmed by Clarence Peters — and have exciting collaborations with Vanesa Mdee of Tanzania, Chidinma of Nigeria and Mi Casa of South Africa.
We also have an album called ‘Live and Die in Afrika’ coming out in August, and that’s been in the works for two years. There will be several promotional tours to Australia, US, Asia, Africa and of course, Kenya. We’re also working on merchandise and four or five more videos off the album.
My focus was on getting the guys to the top and now that we’re somewhat there, we can spread our wings. We are working on starting a record label and also have a reality show coming up. It will be centred on what happens on tours, backstage, tours, making an album, meetings, fights, drama — all of it.
You're always very fashion-forward. Does that come with dating a stylist (Annabel Onyango)?
I have to give Annabel some credit. She helps me buy clothes and I put everything together. Her being a stylist, I guess I must have caught her eye because I was already a little fashionable. She will say that’s not true! She does an amazing job with the guys as well.
When is the wedding?
In September. She hates me right now because I’m always travelling so helping her has been a challenge, but she’s a G and is doing a great job handling it. She’s lived in five countries - being born in Ivory Coast to living in Zimbabwe, UK, Canada and only coming to Kenya at about 25, and I have a similar story so it’s exciting getting our friends from all over the world in one place.