With the departure of Radioclit’s Etienne Tron, The Very Best now consists solely of adventurous Swedish producer Johan Karlberg and co-writing singer Esau Mwamwaya from Malawi. In keeping with that densely populated southeast African nation’s many Western influences, The Very Best’s tougher and poppier sophomore album is a thriving global concern. The video for “Yoshua Alikuti” (“Where Is Yoshua?”), for example, is a local political critique in the form of a ghetto parody of Lil’ Wayne’s “A Milli,” and much of MTMTMK resembles Billboard’s Hot 100 transformed into dynamic populist-party anthems. “Moto” echoes The Wanted’s “Glad You Came,” while album closer “We OK” resembles many a Bruno Mars number — perhaps due to his being one of its six co-creators.
Like Warm Heart of Africa, its predecessor, MTMTMK is all over the African map. Along with Mwamwaya belting compellingly in Malawi’s Chichewa tongue, the duo’s top-of-the-Afropops guests — including Nigerian singer Seye Adelekan (“Kondaine”), Senegalese rapper Xuman (“Mghetto”) and South Africa DJ Mo Laudi — represent a new wave of African talent still awaiting Western introduction. The water percussion in “Nkango” might suggest an old-fashioned ramble through “world music,” but tracks like the explosive “Adani” (“Enemies”), in which Angolan kuduro appears to meet the Chemical Brothers, breaks new ground on at least a couple of continents.