What Next For Sauti Sol: Fancy Fingers

It’s been a whole month since Sauti Sol announced their indefinite hiatus. Fans have had their say, with opinions divided about if it is a good thing or bad thing that the four artists are pursuing their solo careers full-time for now.

I have dedicated myself to exploring what the immediate future of these musicians would look like. Starting with Bien and Chimano, I looked at who they were, their music style as solo acts and their cultural impacts. This article follows the same pattern for the composer and producer Polycarp Otieno, also known as Fancy Fingers. 

Who Is Fancy Fingers?

Polycarp Otieno better known as Fancy Fingers is the silent one in  Sauti Sol- quite literally. In the over ten years the boy band recorded and performed music, the composer stuck to his guitar like this and that, never vocalizing on any song. He only spoke with his guitar, so eloquently that the other three members were ready to include him in the group.

Unlike Bien Savara and Chimano Polycarp never went to Upper Hill Secondary where the others met. Even when telling their stories about their days at the University of Nairobi his name never comes up much. Fancy Fingers might have impressed the singers at a function of some sort. Naturally, a laid-back person, the eccentricity of his bandmates tend to make him lost in their shadows more often than not. I do not intend to ruble rouse but public perception concerning his prominence in the group is not flattering. It is also not necessarily an issue that requires anyone to be faulted, rather it was the nature in which the band represented itself to the public for years.

Mr. Otieno, is married to a  Burundian woman named Amanda, who is also known as Lady Mandy. Not much is known about the wife and the couple as a whole, except that they met after a performance in Amanda’s country and that they welcomed their first child, a son, in 2021. The couple opted for a home birth for their son, which Fancy Fingers describes as the right thing for them. He has always spoken of his wife with love and dedication, describing her as the anchor of his life.

Solo Efforts

 Fancy Fingers is a talented producer, composer, and more specifically, an excellent guitarist. His skills on the latter are phenomenal they earned him his stage name from his bandmates. His unique guitar-playing style, which has earned him a lot of recognition and admiration from fans and fellow musicians alike, has been described as soulful and passionate. Playing with a flair that is compatible with many sounds like jazz, blues, and African rhythms, he struck the right chart-topping chords with Sauti Sol over the years. He is skilled in fingerpicking, which involves plucking the strings of the guitar with his fingers instead of using a pick, and is famous for his ability to play complex guitar riffs and solos with ease.

Obviously, the guitar is at the center of Fancy Finger’s music as a solo artist. His sound is decidedly Afropop whether he is vocalizing over instrumentals or not. His production draws inspiration from a wide variety African sounds with the most popular being Rhumba, evident in songs like  Rhumba Toto and the beat Salt Shaker as well as Amapiano found in songs like Fancy Feeling and One In A Million.Moreover, a raw intimate version of blues music also seems to be present in his catalogue. Amanda Pressure with Nyashinski is a great example. His most recent song, Ego featuring Bananasoverdose is a soulful piece that incorporates elements of traditional Somali music. He uses very light drums and 808 patterns, even in the amapiano number, the pulsating patterns are low-pitched and dimmer than those heard in the standard South African sound. 

Thematically his music is about love both romantic and familial. His laid-back sound underscores the idea that relationships should be calming and solace from the world. His discography boasts of two albums Father Studies released in 2021 and Pot Luck which is an instrumental pack released in 2022. He collaborates a lot on the songs that he has vocalized. I have mentioned some of the artists he has worked with in a solo capacity: others include Bensoul, Indie Arie, Karun and H_@rt the Band’s Mordecai. 

How Fancy Fingers Has Impacted Popular Culture

By virtue of being in Sauti Sol, Fancy Fingers is a modern-day Kenyan music icon. As stated before, his unique guitar-playing skills and ability to morph sounds as producer and composer do him silently lead each stage of the boy band’s sonic evolution. As a member of the popular music group Sauti Sol, he has been instrumental in creating music His love for jazz and blues was very much evident in Sauti Sol’s first album Mwanzo. As he and the group adopted more African rhythms, their music became even more popular and flavourful while sacrificing nothing in terms of artistic integrity. His compositions, have helped to put Kenyan music on the map and has earned Sauti Sol a lot of recognition and awards

Alongside his bandmates, Fancy Fingers adopted the same Afro-centric style his bandmates so often donned, shifting perspectives about khanga prints within popular fashion for males. He was often styled in a way that exudes quiet confidence, donning patterns of less bright patterns to enable his bandmates to get the spotlight. He has been featured in various local fashion magazines. Another way in which he and his bandmates shaped culture collectively is by raising awareness about various socio-political issues in Kenya, such as corruption, police brutality, and gender-based violence. He has been vocal about these issues on social media and has also used his music to address them. For example, Sauti Sol’s song “Tujiangalie” is a commentary on corruption and social injustice in Kenya. 

In December 2021, the singer released a children’s book as part of merchandise to accompany his album Father Studies. The title of the book is “Written in the Stars”, and was co-written by Melissa Wakhu. It tells a powerful story about a little boy’s pursuit of a musical career. Some elements of the story are based on Polycarp’s real-life story. The book is conceptualized to spark conversations about children’s dreams and possibilities. A review on RafuBooks.com describes the book as “a powerful story about the naming ceremony of a newborn baby and the wonderful journey of life” and another on Buzz Central describes the book as “a beautiful and relatable African story that is perfect for children”. On Amazon Books, it enjoys a 5-star rating. It is great that a popular figure is championing stories for African children to see themselves in, enabling them to grow up with the idea that they can achieve whatever they dream of. 

Predicting The Future

And now, an attempt at predicting the future. Polycarp has only started vocalizing on songs when the bandmates started solo careers just as the pandemic was ending.like I pointed out before, whether rightly or wrongly, fans experience him slightly differently than the rest of his band mates. On paper, it would seem that he will have a harder time connecting with fans. However, to his credit he has been the most active, putting out more music than his bandmates. He has two full-length projects and collaborates a lot. This tried and tested strategy will pay off soon, as it will cause a crossover of fans. In terms of producing he is established and has an ear that is respected in the region, if not the continent.I see a situation where he balances doing his own songs and producing for others as well. He is project oriented which means he will be slotting time to specifically deal with the two entities of his music. As a composer, he should work with an entirely different artist, preferably not under Sol Generation so that listeners can better appreciate his craft without bias. However, this is easier said than done-contracts are contracts. With Ego he showed that he can work with relatively unknown acts like Bananasoverdose and make them produce exciting jams-the true mark of a master, influencing a new generation.