Friday, November 16, 2012
The Very Best of Malawi
‘The very best’ of Malawi? This was the question that I asked when someone told me there is a ‘Malawian’ Musical group called ‘The Very Best’. I was like; most musicians and bands have albums of that name and what band is that?
Then the one who had directed me to ‘The Very Best’ said this is the name that the London based DJ/production duo Johan Karlberg whose showbiz name is ‘Radioclit’ and Esau Mwamwaya gave themselves.
The reason why ‘The very best’ music is still not popular in Malawi, four years after they stormed the international musical arena, leaves one wondering whether they have marketed themselves well enough, or that they have failed miserably to strike a chord that moves the hearts of the music local consumers.
The Very Best plays a kind of music described by international music critics as an Afro-Western mix of dance, hip-hop, pop and the traditional music of Malawi the traditional music of Malawi.
But listening to their music I understood why they are yet to be popular in the country.
Just to show how best ‘The Very Best’ is in the ears of the international audience they are the Winner of 9th Annual Independent Music Awards: World Beat song for "Warm Heart of Africa" in which they featured Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig.
They have really tried to sing and at least all if not most of their music has been sprinkled with some Chichewa but still it has failed to captivate the local ear.
Adani – starts like a House music genre which is made out of electronic dance music and originated from Chicago in the US in the early 1980s. In-between the same track adopts a reggae drum beat.
Bantu, collaboration with Amadou & Miriam, Baaba Maal & Jose Hendrix sounds like the Salif Keita kind of music, perhaps because of the artists that are featured.
Chichewa is dominant in the music that even some of those track that have English titles like ‘I wanna go away’ have Chichewa lyrics.
You might also think that may be the kind of music played by ‘The Very Best’ is because even the Malawian in the band is just of this country’s nationality by name but he was in fact born and raised up somewhere in the West.
This is also not the case because Esau Mwamwaya was born in Mzuzu,but then grew up in the capital, Lilongwe, where he played drums in various bands and numerous artists including Masaka Band and Evison Matafale.
Mwamwaya is said to have moved to London in 1999 where he established by a second-hand furniture shop .
As fate had it, one day Mwamwaya sold a bicycle to Radioclit’s producer, Etienne Tron and since the band’s studio was on the same street as Esau's shop, Esau eventually became friends with both Tron and Johan Karlberg the Radioclit.
It was in 2008, that Mwamwaya, Tron and Radioclit worked together to create a project known as 'The Very Best', releasing a critically lauded free mixtape through the label GREEN OWL.
The mixtape was produced in collaboration with other artists like M.I.A., Vampire Weekend, Architecture in Helsinki, BLK JKS, Santigold and the Ruby Suns.
But it was the first full-length album, ‘Warm Heart of Africa’ that was first released in August 2009 in digital form followed by CDs in October 2009 by the same GREEN OWL and Moshi Moshi labels that won them international acclaim.
Looking at how Malawian artists shine in the outside borders like Stain Phiri, Masauko Chipembere, Chris Kandoje, Eric Paliani, Chris Kelly, and Ray Phiri you really tend to wonder why little is known about them locally.
The one question that one has to settle for more would perhaps be: “Do they need some local front to promote their music or artistry locally or there is need that they come back home regularly?
The Very Best just like Mte. Wambali Mkandawire have been nominated for Best African Act at this year’s MOBO Awards.
This is one of the toughest categories this year, considering that they will have to compete with the rest of the nominees that include by Psquare, D’banj, Fatoumata Diawara, Spoek Mathambo, Fally Ipupa, Sarkodie, Cabo Snoop, Camp Mulla and Amadou and Mariam.
This nomination, their award winning streak and their international popularity explains more of why Malawians need to appreciate them and cherish their music for if such experiences is fused with the local talent, you never know, we might find the much sought after Malawian genre.