Oi Va Voi are Nik Ammar (guitars), Josh Breslaw (drums, percussion), Leo Bryant (bass), Steve Levi (clarinet, vocals), Lemez Lovas (trumpet, vocals, piano, keys), and Sophie Solomon (violin, viola, piano, accordion, melodica).

Oi Va Voi is an incredibly innovative London-based band. They have defined their music as "21st century Klezmer groove sound", but have since taken it back somewhat, feeling wrongly categorized primarily as a drum’n’bass Klezmer band. Their name, by the way, comes from a Yiddish-like pronunciation of the Hebrew phrase "Oy Va'avoy", which, while roughly similar in meaning to the Yiddish "Oy Vey!", is not really Yiddish*.

The Oi Va Voi experience, any way you listen to it, is unique. Drawing on both their Jewish heritage and everything from jazz to electronic music, they created Laughter Through Tears (released September 2003 on Outcaste), a ten-track wonder (plus a bonus track) with no two songs sounding the same. The lyrics (in English, Yiddish, Uzbek, Hebrew, and possibly more) are beautifully delivered over a diverse range of beats.

The New York Times chose Laughter Through Tears as one of the top ten albums of 2003, explaining that

If Massive Attack was a klezmer band, you'd have Oi Va Voi, a London sextet that pulls together Uzbek, Yiddish and English singers into a mesmerizing, innovative debut of chill-out music with substance.


* I must say that to a Hebrew speaker, "Oy Va'avoy" initially brings up a mental image of some kind of spooky death-metal-punk band more than anything else, because the phrase itself, while not profane, is originally very negative (the best I could come up with for a similar effect in English is "Goddamnit" - what kind of band would you associate with that name?). On the other hand, picture an old Jewish aunt taking the edge off it in typical old-Jewish-aunt fashion ("Oy Vey, there's a cockroach on the floor! Oi Va Voi, I just cleaned it this morning!") and you'll get the band's joke.

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