Oi Va Voi Laughter Through Tears Review

Released 2003.  

BBC Review

'Technically, Oi's music is a subtle combination of klezmer (traditional...

Jack Smith 2003

Any indie band who received two nominations in the latest BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music without any official CD release to their name had to have something going for them. And so it comes to pass, as Oi Va Voi's extraordinary debut finally reaches retail.

You can have fun closing your eyes and free-associating with this disc. Here's what I got: Manu Chao; David Byrne; 'Twin Peaks'; late-period Floyd; Bjork; the Klezmer Kings; Nick Drake; Paco Pena; the Penguin Orchestra; the Truby Trio; my best friend's nephew's Bar Mitzvah party last year. Let's just say they're that kind of a band.....Technically, Oi's music is a subtle combination of klezmer (traditional Mittel-European Jewish dance and party music), contemporary club beats, and Mediterranean and East European gypsy airs.

But it's not as simple as that. "Refugee" is Dido with a political conscience. "Ladino Song" combines Ibero-Sephardic undertones with nuevo-flamenco. "Gypsy" starts like part of the soundtrack from the gypsy movie classic 'Gadjo Dielo' before drifting into Trinidad rapso territory, 3 Canal-stylee.

And the individual band members? In years to come, Sophie Solomon's prodigious resources will be legend.She combines authentic gypsy/klezmer fiddle styles with viola, piano, accordion, and melodica (oh, and she was a drum-&-bass dj till recently). Steve Levi provides the all-important clarinet, without which klezmer...well, just wouldn't be kosher. Lemez Lovas has that classical 'cantor' voice when he's not playing trumpet, piano and keyboard parts. The icing on the cake for Oi Va Voi is undoubtedly the appearance of guest vocalist K.T.Tunstall, a chameleonic vocalist of extraordinary power and presence whose full potential should be there for all to see in her own solo debut for Outcaste in the near future.

Producers Kevin Bacon (David Bowie, Finlay Quaye) and programmer Tony Economides (Da Lata, Nitin Sawhney) keep the whole project dark and special (as it should be). Leon Bryant and Josh Breslaw (bass, drums) make sure that the whole damn balloon doesn't just float off into the multi-cultural stratosphere (although that'd be OK, too...)

Oi Va Voi have come up with a debut album of uncommon grace, diversity and beauty. They perform it with the confidence and agility that suggests there's plenty more where that came from. I, for one, can't wait for the next dispatch.

There will be those who will tell you: 'Don't go there - the music's too difficult'. Ignore them. Cook some heimische, crack a good bottle of Palwin's, increase volume, close eyes, and all will become clear.

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