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Audience Award (Top 4 Nominee) Oi Va Voi nominated in the Audience Award category

ListenOi Va Voi (UK)

Song : Tatar Love Song
Album : Digital Folklore (Oi Va Voi, UK)

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London has long been home to a thriving Jewish community but until Oi-Va-Voi formed it was amongst the quietest of the capital's ethnic communities. With their debut album Digital Folklore, Oi-Va-Voi have put Jewish London music on the international map. Oi-Va-Voi are a six-piece band featuring trumpet, guitar, drums, bass, clarinet and violin. On first listen they are a klezmer outfit. Donít get too comfortable and start reaching for Fiddler On The Roof comparisons: Oi-Va-Voi have a taste for garage and drum and bass rhythms.

Oi-Va-Voi formed in 1999 when six disparate London musicians became united by a desire to mix traditional Eastern European musics (klezmer and Gypsy) and contemporary dance rhythms. Klezmer was the music of Eastern Europe's Jewish communities and, to a large extent, it was murdered with its creators by Hitler's insane thugs. Only in the US had immigrant Jewish musicians kept the music alive and in New York klezmer enjoyed a revival across the 1990s.

Oi-Va-Voi's savvy sound found them quickly securing gigs across Europe at dance, rock and world music festivals. The response from the diverse crowds was overwhelming, making it clear to the Voi that, by mixing the soulfulness of traditional Eastern European music with break-beats, they had discovered a powerfully contagious new sound.

Digital Folklore's subtle mix of contemporary rhythms with Eastern European inspired melodic style has proved a hit: tracks were featured on compilation albums including Futuro Flamenco, Phat Global 2 and the new Buddha Bar album. There's even a forthcoming remix from The So Solid Crew!

'Because of historical reasons Jewish London has kept its head down musically,' says Lemez. 'When we started playing klezmer it was the rediscovery of our own roots. We see the band as a way to emphasise the relationship, not the differences, between the Jewish community and other communities. 'Salaam Sholom' is a track we recorded with MoMo, the London based Moroccan band, to emphasise what the North African and Jewish communities have in common. People too often allow politics to get in the way when we share so much.'

Oi-Va-Voi is a Yiddish colloquialism that stands for 'Oh my God!' Lemez suggests it fits the Klezmer tradition of not taking things too seriously. On the strength of Digital Folklore Oi-Va-Voi are certainly worth listening to seriously.

Garth Cartwright 2003

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