Multi-award winning group from Kenya, Sauti Sol, best known for their hits “Kuliko Jana”, “Sura Yako” and “Unconditionally Bae” return to Coke Studio Africa – 2017, for the third time this year paired alongside Nigerian songstress Chidinma who is making a return to the show for the fourth time. The pairing will be produced by top Nigerian music producer Masterkraft.

While speaking about their hot collaboration in Nairobi during the show’s recording Chimano of Sauti Sol said, “We thank Coke Studio Africa for having us for the third time, we are glad to be back on the show! Our collabo with Fally Ipupa from last season was such a success! When we went to Congo for a show this year, the audience was singing all the songs we recorded with Fally Ipupa at Coke Studio word for word,” adding, “Third time is always a charm and Chidinma is amazing! Our fans should expect one of our best Coke Studio collabos so far. Plus, we love Chidinma’s music—this will be fire!”

Chidinma also talked about being back to Coke Studio and working with Sauti Sol: “This music experience is always one I look forward to. More so working with one of the biggest groups in Africa is simply amazing. Thank you Coke Studio Africa for the opportunity, we are definitely cooking something hot!”

The repeat appearances of the group, and singer may point to a deeper issue. Coke Studio Africa is a non-competitive music show that brings together diverse African music talent for world-class showcases, while giving upcoming artistes the opportunity to work with some of the best local, and international music and production talent. Sauti Sol and Chidinma although they are among some of the best continental talent, and being more seasoned in the music business cannot be all that the continent has to offer. Especially in that the two have been paired together as opposed to being paired with the various upcoming artists on the show. The pairing may be good for driving up ratings as they are already fan favourites, but goes against what the show is ideally for i.e. bringing together artistes from different genres, eras and regions to create a modern and authentic African sound through music fusion. What was the purpose of Coke Studio merging Coke Studio Africa and Coke Studio South Africa into one bigger and better Coke Studio Africa 2017 only for the pairings to remain predictable?

Multi-award winning Kenyan group, Sauti Sol. Photo: Wikicommons

Sonically other pairings would likely yield better music. For example Chidinma could make soulful artistry with newcomer Shekinah known for her unique Rhythm and blues style. Alternately, with the more upbeat direction Sauti Sol’s music has taken lately, Busiswa, another South African would add her quirky flavour as showcased in her latest collaboration “Gobisiqolo” for quite a musical experience. It stands that more dynamic artist pairings could rectify the lack of diversity on the show.

Read: Kenyan rapper Khaligraph debuts on Coke Studio Africa, collaborates with Rwanda’s Bruce Melodie

As for the upcoming artists that are asked to join the show, it is evident they are selected for their commercial value. We are yet to see underground artists revealed on the show in that most newcomers already have some semblance of a presence and following in their home countries. Instead of recycling the same acts it may be useful to explore the continental music scene in totality. The show could be a platform to launch talented underground artists into the commercial sphere instead of launching locally famous artists to continental fame.

Nigerian songstress Chidinma. Photo: Coke Studio

Last year, Sauti Sol was paired with Congolese Star Fally Ipupa while Chidinma performed with Kenyan group Elani. This year’s show promises to be a ‘melting pot’ of music talents bringing together renowned music producers and top-notch artists drawn from various parts of the continent. The merger increases the number of participating countries to 16, up from 11 in previous edition. Artists this year include: Rayvanny, Izzo Bizness and Nandy, Ugandan artists Bebe Cool, Eddy Kenzo, Ykee Benda and Sheebah, Khaligraph Jones and Band Becca from Kenya, Sami Dan from Ethiopia, Nasty C, Busiswa, Mashayabhuqe from South Africa, Youssoupha from Democratic Republic of Congo, Runtown and Yemi from Nigeria.

Read: The Global Fusion Edition of Coke Studio Africa kicks off with a bang

Adding to the list are Dji Tafinha from Angola, Laura Beg from Mauritius, Jah Prayzah from Zimbabwe and Slapdee from Central Africa Republic, Bisa Kdei and Worlasi from Ghana, Betty G from Ethiopia, Bruce Melodie, Shellsy Baronet & Mr. Bow from Mozambique, Denise from Madagascar and Ozane from Togo, Freeda from Namibia.