Music We Missed: The Very Best Musicians Johan Karlberg and Etienne Tron first met Malawi-born Esau Mwamwaya running a junk shop outside their studio. The two were eager to befriend Mwamwaya, in part because they thought he was an African drummer. Turns out, he was much more. The three have formed a group called The Very Best and released Warm Heart of Africa in October.

Music We Missed: The Very Best

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Every year NPR reviews hundreds of musicians, but we can't cover them all. So at year's end, here are three more we want you to hear. Today, we begin a short series called Music We Missed.

And we start across the Atlantic in London. That's where music producer Johan Karlberg and Etienne Tron have a studio. Down the street was a second-hand furniture shop. The owner was Esau Mwamwaya from Malawi. Karlberg and Tron got to know him and they discovered he had musical talents.

Mr. JOHAN KARLBERG (Music Producer): We always used to call Esau the African Phil Collins because he was a drummer and a singer.

WERTHEIMER: The three teamed up to produce an album. Johan Karlberg liked the sound of Esau Mwamwaya singing in his native Chichewa.

Mr. KARLBERG: The melody was what hit me the first time I heard him sing.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ESAU MWAMWAYA (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. KARLBERG: The harmonies and the way he makes everything sound like a big chorus. And I always say that it feels like he is standing on top of a mountaintop singing to this big group of people.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MWAMWAYA: (Singing in foreign language)

Since I was in high school, I used to compose a lot of songs. And I still remember that I had a 40-page book full of songs. So it's like, when Johan gives me some tracks, some of them, it's like, I have the words already. I just translate them to the beat. That's what I do. "Kamphopo" is one of them.

(Soundbite of song, �Kamphopo�)

Mr. MWAMWAYA: (Singing in foreign language)

It was kind of like African, like Malawi kind of reggae, you know, traditional reggae, so I guess translated to, you know, the beat.

WERTHEIMER: That's a little sample of the music of Esau Mwamwaya and Johan Karlberg, two members of the band The Very Best. Their recent album is called "The Warm Heart of Africa" and you can hear songs from that album at Tomorrow, West Coast Jazz from a Danish born violinist.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

(Soundbite of song, �Kamphopo�)

Mr. MWAMWAYA: (Singing in foreign language)

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.