Copyright ©2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Finally this hour, techno pop from London with roots in Sweden and Malawi. This very international music group is called The Very Best. The collaboration began when a Swedish producer met a singer from Malawi in a London thrift shop. Reviewer Banning Eyre says their new album is an alluring summer escape with a message.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KONDAINE")

BANNING EYRE, BYLINE: The high-tech pop intro to The Very Best's song "Kondaine" suggests a carefree summer party. There's Afro-pop uplift in the sound and top 40 melodiousness in the vocal.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KONDAINE")

THE VERY BEST: (Singing) You walking on water. You walking on air. You sever like sleight of hand but hit me like a stadio man. You have a good diver. I'm down to the water, but I will walk you through and fly this thing away.

EYRE: The lyrics mix English and Chichewa - that's Malawi's official language - and tell an absurdly frightening tale of a witch doctor's potion. In the song's video, three musicians partake in a gory animal sacrifice ritual in an African village, at the end of which they turn into goats. That's The Very Best: sun and fun in the sound, but the problems and ambiguities of African life in nearly every lyric. Like this song, "I Wanna Go Away," which talks about escaping life amid civil war.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WANNA GO AWAY")

EYRE: The Very Best is a fusion of African rhythm and melody and cutting-edge pop and dance music. Founders Johan Hugo and Esau Mwamwaya started out with a successful mixed tape posted on a blog. They followed up with a strong debut CD, and now "MTMTMK." The band has yet to reveal the meaning of this title, but we do know the basic tracks were recorded in Esau's hometown, Lilongwe.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

EYRE: The songs on the album range from folksy melodies like this one to dense reggae, pumping techno club grooves and quirky pop songs. There are some impressive cameos, including from Toronto-based Somali rapper K'Naan.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE OK")

BEST: (Singing) The sky could fall down any day. Nothing lasts forever, anyway. As long as I've got you here with me, we OK, we OK. In my dreams, if all the stars should fall, you the first person I would call. We'll just sit back and watch it all. We OK. We OK. I've met this girl before. It wasn't long ago. She was so beautiful. She looked like Tamado. She's from the tougher Taffa, an African ghetto.

EYRE: This song, "We OK," perfectly expresses The Very Best's bold ethic. Even amid poverty, warfare and the privations of ghetto life, happiness is possible. You've heard of Afro-pessimism? Well, call this Afro-optimism: savvy, in tune with life, paradoxical perhaps, but in the hands of The Very Best, hard to resist.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE OK")

BEST: (Singing) Who said we don't dance no more? Someone point him out. You, who said we don't move no more? Someone show him how we move. Who said we don't dance no more?

CORNISH: Banning Eyre is senior editor at afropop.org. He reviewed the album "MTMTMK" by The Very Best.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE OK")

CORNISH: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: