There’s been plenty of hype to go around in 2008, but easily one of the most exciting and anticipated projects is the collaboration between Esau Mwamwaya and producers/faithful-proponents Radioclit, now recording together under the name The Very Best. Esau, a Malawi-via-London artist with a penchant for pop music rooted in the sounds of his home continent, has already traveled quite a path over his 33 years. Born into a particularly repressive period in Malawian history, in which self-appointed “king for life” Hastings Banda imposed rigid restrictions on music, art, and broader culture, Esau still managed to be very active in the music scene of the small African nation as a vocalist and drummer for a number of bands. In 1999, he moved to London with the ambition to simply start a new life, worked a few different jobs and eventually opened a used furniture store which is where he apparently met Etienne Tron of Radioclit completely by chance.
And the rest is certainly far from history; The Very Best have not yet released an official album, EP, single, or mixtape, though Esau has already been featured on Gorilla vs. Bear, Stereogum, Pitchfork, and has even graced the cover of Fader (peep the Fader article for a more detailed account of Esau’s past and present). What they have done, so far, is continually shore up interest by bombarding the internet with a myriad of tracks (some originals, some reworked covers and remixes). Virtually all of them have been great, and just recently The Very Best announced that the pre-album mixtape drops on November 1st, with the official record to follow in early 2009 (by the way, that as-of-yet-untitled debut will feature Vampire Weekend, The Ruby Suns, Santogold, ex-Bonde do Rolê vocalist Marina Vello, and others). They also posted three high-quality (320kbps) mp3s for free download on their myspace. “Kamphopo”, a reworked/improved version of Architecture in Helsinki‘s “Heart It Races”, returns the original to its roots by brilliantly transforming it into a glorious afropop anthem, while “Tengazako” finds Esau seizing the beat from M.I.A.‘s “Paper Planes” and working similar magic. The third track, “Get It Up”, was originally produced by Radioclit for the Santogold/Diplo Top Ranking mixtape, but here it’s remixed for their boy with typical results. And for a little added bonus, I’m also posting The Very Best’s take on Vampire Weekend’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” which completely blows the original out of the water (and I really like the original).
Those who are following Esau Mwamwaya closely have probably heard all of these before, but also probably don’t have nice, high quality rips on their hard drives. And for those who haven’t been following him closely, it’s never a bad time to start.
Download: The Very Best – Kamphopo
Download: The Very Best – Tengazako
Download: The Very Best – Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa