A strong effort, if not their best
By Catherine P. Lewis
Friday, August 10, 2012
The Very Best, a collaboration between Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya and London-based producer Johan Hugo, sounds like the sum of its parts -- an Afro-Western dance-pop project that’s full of electronic beats and vocals in both Chichewa and English.
On the duo’s sophomore album,
“MTMTMK,” Mwamwaya and Hugo find an early groove. Droning opener “Adani” has a vibe that’s laid-back (if a bit repetitive), while second track “Kondaine” is magnetically joyous, with a fluttering beat and jubilant vocals. Lead single “Yoshua Alikuti” mixes a political theme with a danceable tempo, and “I Wanna Go Away” has an elated energy that’s barely containable.
Despite so many great moments,
“MTMTMK” doesn’t have the consistency of “Warm Heart of Africa,” the Very Best’s debut. “Bantu,” the track with the most notable guest stars -- Amadou & Mariam and Baaba Maal -- is one of the album’s most tedious, sounding aimlessly fluid and directionless. The Very Best fares only slightly better with Somalian rapper K’NAAN on the bland “We OK,” and the use of Auto-tune on “Rumbae” feels markedly out of place.
Still, with its blend of Western dance beats and African vocals, the Very Best has concocted some engaging music.