This album has been my jam for several months, but I wanted to wait until the end of summer (and attending their show in Chicago) to make sure. The duo are Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya and Swedish producer Johan Hugo, who met in a London thrift shop and soon became musical collaborators as The Very Best.
We’ve come a long way from Paul Simon’s Graceland, but I can imagine what it must have felt like the first time people heard Ladysmith Black Mambazo emerge from a sea of new wave and hair metal. Inherently danceable, with Hugo’s infectious, bouncy, edgy beats offset by Mwamwaya’s joyous multilingual vocals, MTMTMK embodies the spirit of modern globalism. This music would not be possible without internet technology and travel capabilities, and TVB’s growing mainstream notoriety is (hopefully) indicative of Africa’s broadening appeal beyond typical “world music” enthusiasts.
Recording for the duo’s second LP began unsuccessfully in New York, but their inspiration flowed once the duo ventured to Lilongwe, Mwamwaya’s hometown. You can practically taste the heat and the pent-up, flavorful energy of West Africa’s clubs in each track. With distinguished featured guests such as Baaba Maal, Xuman, and Mo Laudi, and a wide range of instruments from flutes to synths, it’s a zazzy, eclectic mix whose range from hip-hop to dancehall to dubstep and reggae-inspired (inspiring?) cuts.