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Oi! It's time to catch up with Oi Va Voi


Story: Jack Foley

OI VA VOI's début album, Laughter Through Tears, is described as the sound of six young Londoners searching for an identity in 21st Century Europe.

It will officially be launched at Bush Hall, in Uxbridge Road, Shepherd's Bush, on Wednesday, October 1, when the band will be playing selected tracks, with support from Earl Zinger, KT Tunstall and Quantic (DJ set).

Steeped in the rhythms of Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and beyond, Laughter Through Tears is described as 'the soundtrack to 1001 Urban Nights'.

According to their record label, Outcaste, the album consists of poignant universal stories, beautifully told though folk-tinged songs like Refugee and Yesterday's Mistakes, as well as tracks such as 7 Brothers, with its deepest of grooves, which draws as much on modern dance music as their Jewish cultural heritage.

Oi Va Voi burst onto the music scene in 2000, when the six members of the group decided to team up and draw on their disparate musical experiences.

Trumpeter, Lemez Lovas, started out DJing leftfield jazz, Latin and hip-hop, while drummer, Josh Breslaw, had hit the fatback beat in hip-hop and rock outfits.

Sophie Solomon played out as a drum 'n' bass DJ, as well as gaining praises from Nigel Kennedy, among others, for her talent as a violinist.

The buzz surrounding the band subsequently grew as they won over crowds everywhere from Glastonbury to New York's Knitting Factory.

Oi Va Voi tunes appeared on the best-selling Buddha Bar compilations, there were remixes by garage DJ Kriminal Gangsta and innovative dance producer, Hefner.

Then, last year, the group received two nominations in the BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards, the only artists to be nominated for both the Boundary Crossing and Listeners' Award categories; and all this from a band that then had no official CD release to their name.

Although they started out by taking old klezmer tunes and giving them 21st Century beats, the group soon broadened out their sound, dipping into everything that they heard around them (one early suggested title for this album was Magpie Music).

Their big break finally came late last year, when they signed to Outcaste, a label with a proven track record in nurturing uncompromising, talented British artists like Nitin Sawhney and Badmarsh & Shri.

Earlier this year the band went into the studio with producers Kevin Bacon and Jonathan Quarmby (whose previous credits include David Bowie and Finley Quaye) and programmer Tony Economides (Da Lata and Nitin Sawhney) and re-emerged with Laughter Through Tears.

Long time fans of the band will recognise some of the tunes from their incendiary live shows (for which they've been compared to everyone from Massive Attack to the Pogues!), but there's also new material, composed in the burst of creative energy, which followed their signing to Outcaste.

The band felt that it was important to create something distinct from the full-on nature of their live performances. They wanted to take full advantage of the range of possibilities offered by a modern studio.

According to Outcaste's Jamie Renton: "You underestimate the breadth and power of this band's sound at your peril. They are forging a new, true identity, which both draws on their roots and celebrates the cultural pluralism that surrounds us all.

"Like the tastes of the best contemporary fusion cookery, the images of cutting edge art or the prose of postmodern urban writers such as Zadie Smith, Oi Va Voi create something new through mixing and matching ingredients that they know, love and understand.

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