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THE VERY BEST PETRCANE Green Room

Croatian Kitsch Florian Obkircher discovers a festival halfway between the romance of Robinson Crusoe and the camp of Barbarella. The perfect venue for London’s hippest Afro-European dance music act, The Very Best Johan Karlberg and Esau Mwamwaya are slouched on cushioned sun-loungers. A glorious sunset is shaping up on the horizon. The sea roars before them, while muffled bass sounds emanate from the small pine forest behind. Cardboard signs with ‘Massage’ writ large in marker pen are propped up against both loungers. On this warm September evening, it’s a service both musicians would happily avail themselves of. But a masseur is nowhere to be seen. “We got to Petrcane yesterday,” Mwamwaya says with a blink and a shrug. “Last night we went straight to the festival warm-up party. It was wonderful. We danced ’til 3am.” For Mwamwaya’s band to be entertained rather than do the entertaining has been a rarity this summer. The Very Best have played more than 20 gigs at festivals around Europe in recent weeks and this one at Stop Making Sense will be the last for a while. You could hardly imagine a more idyllic end to 92

summer. This three-day beach party takes place on a headland the size of a football pitch near Petrcane in southern Croatia. It’s normally a favourite holiday spot for the elderly and families, but this weekend, young Brits have descended and occupied the Barbarella beach club. The place lives up to its name: circular dancefloors, orange and brown wallpaper and lava lamps meet ramshackle little bamboo huts in among the pine trees. The DJs’ console, right by the sea, is covered in palm leaves. It’s somewhere between the romance of Robinson Crusoe and dated ’60s ‘modern’ – a place that will play host to electronic acts such as Carl Craig, Theo Parrish, Optimo, Friendly Fires and The Very Best for the next three nights. The Very Best is a band made up of Mwamwaya and London DJ duo Radioclit: Karlberg, from Sweden, and Etienne Tron, originally from France. “Esau had a small

furniture store in East London five years ago. And it was on the same street as the Radioclit recording studio,” Karlberg explains. “One day Etienne went in to buy a bike for his girlfriend. He and Esau hit it off so we invited him to the studio.” The exiled Malawian was originally only meant to play percussion on a single Radioclit track, but it was Mwamwaya’s voice that eventually led to them forming a band. The trio have been The Very Best ever since, an international trio who’ve taken the hippy angle out of World Music and have married elements of African pop with digital beats. Like M.I.A. and Vampire Weekend, both of whom sang on their 2009 debut album, Warm Heart of Africa. Mwamwaya stands up to look for the masseur. “We came to Croatia as Radioclit once,” Karlberg explains in the meantime, “and were promptly arrested. We flew into Slovenia that time and wanted to drive to Zagreb. But we only made it as far as the border and then we were locked up because of a bit of weed that Etienne had in his bag. They were threatening Etienne with prison, saying he was going to have to go to court. We were at our wits’ end. But thankfully they let us go after six hours.” There have been no such incidents this time, Karlberg explains with a grin before making his way with Mwamwaya to the stage on the beach. Etienne Tron is already at the DJ console. Though they might both

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