The Very Best is a music group comprised of Malawi’s Esau Mwamwaya and London based producer Johan Hugo.
By all accounts, the far-flung variables that comprise The Very Best shouldn’t coincide – but then again, how many bands can say they met in an East London (Hackney) junk shop? The chance introduction over the purchase of a bicycle in 2008 led Johan Hugo to invite Esau Mwamwaya into his studio to collaborate on the mixtape that would launch their career. Containing an infectious cross-pollination of samples and rhythms anchored by Esau’s soaring vocals, the mixtape quickly went viral (with approx. 1 000,000 downloads to date). Pitchfork offered them a slot at their festival for their U.S. debut, and worldwide tour dates for their infamous live shows followed.
Esau Mwamwaya was born in Mzuzu in Malawi, East Africa. He grew up in the capital, Lilongwe, where he played drums in various bands such as Masaka Band. He was a good friend of the legendary Evison Matafale (of the Black Missionaries) and they played together for several years before he was killed in Malawi police custody in 2003. In 1999 Esau Mwamwaya moved to London, England and ran a second-hand furniture shop in Clapton, East London. Esau's shop was on the same street as Radioclit's old studio, and after the Radioclit boy's bought a bike from Esau they invited him to one of their house warming parties and eventually, Esau became friends with both Tron and Johan Karlberg aka Radioclit.
Just before The Very Best signed their first record deals in America (Warner Brothers) and UK (Moshi Moshi/Universal), Esau Mwamwaya moved back to his native country of Malawi and he has been living in Lilongwe ever since, travelling the world but always returning to his bellowed homeland.
2010 saw the release of The Very Best's first full length album Warm Heart of Africa - featuring Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig and MIA – which led them to share the stage with Florence & the Machine, The XX, Mumford and Sons, and of course Vampire Weekend across Australia, Europe, and USA.
The first single from the album was also called Warm Heart of Africa and featured Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend. The video for Warm Heart Of Afrika was directed by Nabil Elderkin, Kanye West's personal photographer (and award winning video director of artists such as Diddy, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, Seal, James Blake etc)
The second album MTMTMK was first recorded in Sweden and then during 6 weeks in New York. When the band had finished they realised that they were not happy with the album and decided to go to Malawi to record some new songs. During 6 weeks in Nyimbo studios in Lilongwe, Malawi, The Very Best recorded 9 songs which, together with a few songs from Sweden and New York, became the MTMTMK album.
MTMTMK stands for 'More To Malawi Than Madonna's Kids' and was a tongue-in-cheek reference to ignorant journalist all over the world who know nothing about Malawi than that it's the country where Madonna adopted from. Esau Mwamwaya has been instrumental in telling journalists and music lovers all over the world about his beautiful home country and found it frustrating that a lot of people had never even heard about Malawi.
The first single from MTMTMK was Yoshua Alikuti, and it gained instant attention world wide for its futuristic sound and the amazing video shoot in the Kiamayko slum in Nairobi, Kenya. The video was a spoof on Lil Wayne's 'A Milli' video and saw Esau Mwamwaya do everything Lil Wayne did in his video, but in the African slum. The big America hiphop website Worldstarhiphop.com posted the video and it became a internet sensation over night with close to half a million views on worldstarhiphop alone.