By: Leann Bescript
The Very Best is a dynamic duo comprised of Swedish producer Johan Hugo (of RadioClit) and Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya. Together, the two are bringing forth a colorful mash-up of global influence, not just strictly combining their own individual cultural impacts, but also pulling from varying classical musical genres and melding them to their own new-age hybrid.
The Very Best are set to release a new record this spring, entitled Makes A King, from which they have already released two vastly different style songs.
The first song was released on Pitchfork in November. The upbeat track “Hear Me,” features Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio on bass and is accompanied by a video which was made by Esau and Jonah themselves.
The video was produced by Jonah, using time lapse footage of landscapes that were filmed in M’dala Chikowa, a small village 5 hours outside Malawi’s largest city, where the pair hid away from the hustle and bustle to write their new album.
Makes A King will be the band’s most recent release in two years, since 2012’s MTMTMK, which also boasted some familiar names, such as Ezra Koenig, another member of Vampire Weekend, and also Sri Lankan rapper and activist, M.I.A.
The second song released from Makes A King is a single, “Let Go,” which is musically touching but carries a much heavier weight than the upbeat “Hear Me.”
In “Let Go,” Esau explores very personal feelings on his distaste for the politics in his home country. According to The Very Best press release, Esau feels such politics are the reason for a lack of progress in Malawi, since the country’s recent independence from England. The song begins with a clip from a speech by Malawi’s president, that Esau and Jonah had listened to on the radio.
Makes A King is expected to be one of the most eclectic albums in modern music. Not only does the album feature contemporary artists, but also incorporates many elements inspired by a traditional live-band set-up, while staying true to Malawi culture, with lyrics by Esau in his native tongue, Chichewa. The album also features local choir singers and musicians from the M’dala Chikowa village.
It is increasingly important to The Very Best to maintain their identity in a music industry that is constantly trying to market them to a western world.
In an interview with The Observer in the earlier days of the project’s musical journey, Esau discussed the band’s ideals when making such an interesting mixture of music: “It’s no longer a question of people stealing music from somewhere,” explains Esau. “Or people going to Africa and making music there. People like me are here now. Just like I knew about western music growing up in Malawi, European people know about African music. And it’s not a fusion or any of those kinds of words people use – we’re just sharing.”
The Very Best are set to release Makes A King on April 7, 2015, via Moshi Moshi Records.