By Mary Chang on Monday, 24th September 2012 at 4:00 pm
What do you do when the singer of your band can’t enter a country and you’ve got a gig scheduled? You do some crazy planning like the Very Best did for their first-ever appearance in London, at Dalston’s Shacklewell Arms. Ahead of time, singer Esau Mwamwaya (unable to enter the UK on his Malawi passport) worked with a technical team from AnalogFolk, who all flew to Mwamwaya’s hometown of Lilongwe and filmed the singer on a green screen. This came together with the rest of the act’s live show in Dalston, and you can watch the behind the scenes footage below.
By Mary Chang on Tuesday, 8th May 2012 at 10:00 am
Mother’s Day in America is fast approaching. (In case you didn’t know, it’s this coming Sunday, the 13th of May.) The Very Best have come to your rescue with a credit crunch-busting present (read: it’s absolutely free). Their Super Mom Mixtape’ can be downloaded in exchange for your email address on their official Web site.
The band is gearing up for their second album to be released later this year; watch first taster ‘Yoshua Alikuti’ here.
By Mary Chang on Saturday, 28th April 2012 at 6:00 pm
(Editor’s note: We’ve gotten a sudden and large influx of great videos (!) we want to show all of you, so we’ve resorted to posting four of them this weekend.)
The Very Best are back with a new album coming out soon, and here’s the first single from it, ‘Yoshua Alikuti’. The video was shot in Nairobi, Kenya by Village Beat and described as “a play on the clip for Lil Wayne’s ‘A Milli’.” Watch it below.
By Luke Morton on Wednesday, 28th March 2012 at 11:00 am
One of the scariest ideas for a newspaper editor is to let the public into your offices. Just think of the havoc they’d cause? Stories leaked, interviews ruined and coffee supplies exhausted: it just doesn’t bear thinking about. But what if you invited your loyal readers into your hallowed domain and actively encouraged them to get involved and contribute to the success of the stories happening around them. But what newspaper would be daft enough to consider this notion? The Guardian.
This past weekend (24-25 March) saw the Guardian doors flung open for all to see as 5000 Guardianistas filed into Kings Place for two days of eye-opening discussion, heated debate and high quality journalism.
The charismatic, charming and ever-so-slightly odd Grayson Perry took the hot seat in Hall One as he was interviewed by Decca Aitkenhead who took the bulk of her questions from tweets that had been sent in, including one from Grayson’s wife who asked “What’s for dinner?” Grayson talked openly about his influences, the art world and other artists, stating “the only interesting thing about Damien Hirst is probably his bank accounts”. As Grayson answered questions both from Decca and the audience for an hour, he had the room hanging on his every word. Despite being quite media-friendly, Grayson is always a joy to listen to as he describes his relationship with Alan Measles, therapy and Claire. You can watch highlights of the interview here.
It wasn’t long before the Guardian heavyweights arrived at the Open Weekend to show the public how journalism is done. Chaired by Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow, a debate entitled “What does the phone hacking scandal tell us about Britain?” featuring investigative journalist Nick Davies, Tom Watson MP, former Daily Mirror editor David Banks, Guardian journalist Amelia Hill and as a special treat the editor himself, Alan Rusbridger. Tom Watson – who has been at the forefront of the Leveson enquiry – blamed “weak political leadership” from as far back as Thatcher and that there almost certainly had been occasions when MPs refused to speak out for fear of a tabloid backlash against them. Nick Davies – the man who broke the Milly Dowler phone hacking scandal – even suggested that ‘dark arts’ were prevalent in TV news and that we’d have to wait until it came out. At times it was a gang of Guardian journos against the ex-tabloid leader, but even Davies slammed the Guardian for covering the ‘tabloid story’ of Jade Goody’s death. But for an audience of Guardian readers, it was like watching the masters at work.
One of the heroes of the phone-hacking scandal closed the Saturday in an interview with Alan Rusbridger himself. Steve Coogan revealed that overall it cost him £400,000 in legal fees and to gather enough evidence to take News International to court, and he only received £370,000 in compensation, but it was about the principle. Coogan had no qualms about the fact that the stories reported by News of the World were true, but they were “no-one’s fucking business” and that what happened to him wasn’t extraordinary but “typical”. He talked freely about being stitched up by Andy Coulson’s “bad behaviour” and how he was trapped by NotW. Watch highlights of the interview here.
One of the most hyped talks on Sunday was the “Will the internet ever be open?” debate, with guests Richard Allan (director of policy of Facebook in Europe), Rachel Whetstone (global head of communications and public policy for Google) and internet boffin favourite Clay Shirky (professor at NYU). China and Iran’s internet policies dominated the discussion as each of panel gave their thoughts on an internal internet and censorship. There was a definite degree of animosity between Allan and Whetstone and the audience were very aware of the online privacy issues that Facebook is the poster child for. Allan tried to quash these stories by explaining they don’t sell personal data, targeted advertising could go to all people of the same age with the same interests, but advertisers don’t have your personal information. This still didn’t settle with the audience.
For something musical (don’t forget you’re still readingTGTF), the Guardian’s music editor Caspar Llewellyn Smith hosted a discussion on “Music’s global revolutions” with guests DJ Abrantee, editor of fRoots magazine Ian Anderson, co-founder of Africa Express Ian Birrell and DJ/producer Johan Hugo, part of the Very Best. The primary theme of the talk was that African music, especially traditional music from Mali and Madagascar. As western music tries to reinvent itself and bands keep trying different things, bands such as Vampire Weekend are notable for being influenced in their later material by African tribal beats. Hip hop too has made itself known across the globe with different countries and institutions stamping their own sound firmly on it. But it’s the traditional, original sounds from traditional African instruments that impress these seasoned musical aficionados and are keen to see more African artists gain more exposure in the UK. Make it happen, people!
There are already rumours of another Open Weekend happening next year and if so then try your hardest to get there. Where else can you find some of the best journalists in the UK – arguably the world – under one roof, ready for your questions and input? The Guardian.
By Mary Chang on Wednesday, 28th March 2012 at 10:00 am
It’s unbelievable to me that I first heard ‘Warm Heart of Africa’ 3 years ago and saw them live at DC9.The Very Best have pretty much in hiding except for the odd Tweet about their studio work and family life. This has been around for a while but they’ve just spread it round on Twitter again: it’s the Douster remix of ‘Yalira’. Listen to and download it from the Soundcloud widget below.
By Mary Chang on Thursday, 5th November 2009 at 2:00 pm
To my friends, I’m starting to sound like a broken record. When I said I was going to DC9 Monday night to see the Very Best, they all asked, “where did you hear about them?” And as usual the answer was, “BBC Radio, where else?” In the case of the Very Best, their ‘Warm Heart of Africa’ was added to the 6music playlist, making sure that I’d hear it enough times to have it imprinted on my brain. Mind you, I wasn’t dragged to this conclusion. I was happily led away to sunnier equatorial climes.
‘Warm Heart of Africa’ (specifically the song, not the album of the same name) features guest vocals from Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend alongside the Very Best’s singer Esau Mwamwaya, and you can’t make a song any brighter. As a Vampire Weekend fan, I wondered if Koenig would be coming along on this tour (he did, after all, cowrite the song). (Tour dates listed on VW’s MySpace confirmed this was impossible.) So how exactly would the song be recreated live? With the magic of samples and DJaying equipment plus the sweet voice of Mwamwaya…
But before I get carried away, let me tell you about the opening act, Javelin. The duo is comprised of two cousins from Providence, Rhode Island, that have been working on music together since their families spent their summers together by the New England seaside. If you only knew that about them, you would probably guess incorrectly what they sound like. They make enjoyable, danceable, electro noise pop/hip hop. The singer alternately pogo-ed up and down and would work his wide array of synths, while the “drummer” would beat his drum pad or grab maracas or a cowbell from under the table to add to the noise. Songs like ‘Twyce’; ‘Vibrationz’, and the set ender (and incidentally the first song they ever recorded) ‘Oh Centra’, an ode to a housecat, were just plain fun. Cool stuff.
So then it was time for London trio the Very Best. Well, I thought they were a trio. Somwhere on the way over to America they lost Etienne (DJ) Tron (I guess he stayed home) and then there were two – DJ/compere Johan Carlberg and singer Mwamwaya. Carlberg kicked things into high gear with his electronic gizmos as Mwamwaya grabbed his microphone and then brought everyone’s attention to two somewhat scantily clad dancers that had also been brought along with them from England.
Songs like ‘Wena’ (from the band’s 2008 free, downloadable mixtape that first put them on everyone’s radar late last year) and ‘Julia’ and ‘Warm Heart of Africa’ from their first official album-length offering turned the crowd at DC9 into one giant, lively mass that was moving and grooving to the engaging music. DC9 is rapidly becoming one of my favourite venues in town because of its size (about 200 capacity) and intimacy: Mwamwaya and their dancers were at times just inches away from me. The only disappointment: the only had 8 songs prepared, so that’s all we got. I hope they could tell from the raucous reception the Washington audience gave them that when they’ve got more songs put together for live performance, they are most certainly welcome back in our town.