About a year ago, Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya released a mixtape of songs he made with DJs Johan Hugo and DJ Tron, which included samples of songs by Vampire Weekend, M.I.A., and Architecture in Helsinki. Recently, their first studio album, "Warm Heart of Africa", was released on Green Owl and Moshi Moshi.
Previously, the first single, "Warm Heart of Africa" was released. It is a collaboration with Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend and this track stood out as an immediate favorite from the first time I heard it. It's one of the best songs released by any artist so far in 2009, in my opinion. This is the second time Esau has collaborated with Vampire Weekend, the first being the Very Best remix of "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa", a song from VW's debut LP.
Also on "Warm Heart" is another track with M.I.A. called "Rain Dance", which sounds exactly how you would expect from hearing the title. The Very Best sampled M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" on the mixtape with a song called "Tengazako". The song "Kamphopo" from the mixtape, originally a sample of Architecture in Helsinki's "Heart it Races", also makes a reppearance on "Warm Heart of Africa".
But the Very Best shine even on their own on this debut effort. Songs like "Angonde", "Julia", and "Ntdende Uli" blend the music you would expect to hear from Mwamwaya, a native of Lilongwe, Malawi, and the music you would expect to hear from Johan Hugo and DJ Tron, two American electronic stars. Had somebody told me, without me having ever heard anything by Mwamwaya before, that vocal music in Chichewa, the national language of Malawi, would mix well with American techno, I would've been hesitant to believe it. Esau Mwamwaya, Johan Hugo, and DJ Tron have changed my outlook on this, as well as a number of things. The Very Best may be a one-trick horse, but for now they've given us one of the most interesting and powerful albums of the year. "Warm Heart of Africa" is a good record...worth picking up.
Key Tracks: "Warm Heart of Africa", "Angonde", "Julia"