Album review: The Very Best, Warm Heart of Africa (with video)

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Left to its own devices, The Very Best delivers the goods, with originals that balance the sing-song cadence of Afropop with processed and chopped 21st-century beats. The title track — which features Vampire Weekend singer Ezra Koenig — is the obvious standout, but the LP’s other tunes don’t fall off, offering intriguing variations on a sound that should appeal to any in the U.S. who fancy Paul Simon’s Graceland.


The Very Best with Ezra Koenig performing "Warm Heart of Africa" in NYC.

Used to be that a Western pop singer could pilfer from Third World sounds and never think twice about the source material. Just check the tangled copyright issues surrounding “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” for proof. But in 2008, that tradition got flipped, when The Very Best — a trio comprised of production duo Radioclit and Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya — dropped the mixtape Esau Mwamwaya and Radioclit Are the Very Best. (You can download the tape for free here.) The unofficial release found Mwamwaya singing over tracks copped from underground stalwarts such as M.I.A. and Vampire Weekend, two artists who repay the compliment by delivering great guest turns on The Very Best’s official debut, Warm Heart of Africa (Green Owl).

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