Oi Va Voi: Laughter Through Tears

New Times Broward-Palm Beach (Florida)
April 1, 2004 Thursday

Oi Va Voi: Laughter Through Tears (Outcaste)

By Scott Medvin

It seems like every kind of traditional and ethnic music is ripe to
be mixed with modern electronica to form some new genre-warping
musical experiment. Oi Va Voi hopes that it can repeat Tabla Beat
Science’s success with Indian classical music and the Gotan Project’s
work with tango; the group wants to take klezmer, a traditionally
Jewish form of folk music from Eastern Europe, and make it accessible
to a new generation. The British group recently released Laughter
Through Tears, its debut album. It is often haunting, though upbeat
and danceable at times, full of the instruments — clarinet, violin,
accordion — that klezmer is known for. But there also are
Spanish-sounding classical guitar, steady funk bass grooves, and
inventive percussive arrangements. The album’s opening track,
“Refugee,” is based on a traditional Armenian folk melody and
features duduk player Tigran Aleksanyan; it begins as a ballad with
swelling, poignant lyrics by silky-voiced guest vocalist KT Tunstall.

“Yesterday’s Mistakes” sounds like a well-produced pop track but
veers East with a Hebrew chorus. Surprisingly, the intricate beats
fit perfectly with the bowed violin and the deep, melodic chants. “7
Brothers” and “D’or Yikra” both supply doses of bar mitzvah breaks
and other-worldly chanting. At times, the album veers into a bubbling
stew of post rock-esque ambience much like the music of Godspeed You
Black Emperor! but never for long, as Oi Va Voi evokes emotion
through powerful melodies and mysterious lyrics rather than
emotionally swirling compositions. Laughter Through Tears is worth
checking out for its novelty and worth listening to a second time for
its beauty.