Fusion band, Oi Va Voi is making waves, musically and politically, as reported by The UK’s Times Online.

Oi Va Voi’s first tour of Israel was always going to be controversial. Since the release last year of their debut album Laughter Through Tears, the London-based six-piece (whose name translates as “Oh my God”) has emerged as the most exciting new British act to hit the world music scene in years. Combining an intoxicating blend of Jewish klezmer and East European flavours with contemporary rock influences and dance beats, the band do for Jewish music what Talvin Singh and Nitin Sawhney did for Asian music in the 1990s. It is no coincidence that they are signed to Outcaste, the pioneering label that was so influential in taking British-Asian music to a mainstream audience.


“We never thought twice about coming to Israel,” explains Sophie Solomon, the band’s charismatic violinist. “But we made the decision that the best way to deal with the politics of it was for everybody to handle it in their own way. It’s a very personal thing.” Several of the band wasted little time in making their views plain. Lovas spent a morning on the streets of Tel Aviv handing out stickers declaring “Get out of Gaza now”. Leo Bryant, the bass player, who also works part-time as a researcher on development issues for Christian Aid, spent a day with me touring the occupied territories and deploring the brutal “security barrier” that the Israelis are erecting through the Palestinian territory.

In Israel the politics are never far away. Yet, ultimately, for Oi Va Voi the trip is all about the music. Proud of their Jewish heritage, they also pride themselves on being a storming rock’n’roll band. “Everyone thinks we all grew up together and met in the synagogue,” Solomon says. “Well, no, actually. Some of us are more religious and some of us couldn’t give a s*** about religion. There are all these different ways of being Jewish.”

Shout out to “grubness,” who mentioned OVV back in December.

16 thoughts on “Oi!

  1. I second Sarah.
    Though, on the other hand, maybe it’s good idea that ‘celebrities’ like actors, singers, and stars in general speak out about what’s on their mind because then it saves me the hassle of worshipping these false gods. Now some might say that they are just speaking out about what they think is right, and the easiest reply is that it just shows you what kind of ignorant people these ‘artists’ usually are.
    The head of Isrotel Israeli hotel chains also had to open his mouth last month by saying that Israel is wasting money in Yesha and the yeshivot that would be better spent on tourism. To that I say thank you too, cuz I won’t have to bother inquiring about his hotels.
    I haven’t yet read the article about ‘oi va voi’, but look at how much their politics is pulling attention from their musucal talent. I no music band bothers to even entertain long-term aspirations anymore…

  2. judging by this groups political aspirations (what is the christian fund anyway?) I’m waiting for the Matthew Herbert rmx, until then (and probably after) i’ll pass

  3. I checked out some of their samples and they’ve got some really nice ideas. Pretty much everyone involved with Jewschool seems to enjoy discussing their politics, so why shouldn’t the members of this band? The fact that people are willing to listen to artists (for better or worse) isn’t the artists’ fault!
    People are multi-faceted. I am a musician, and I like talking about politics. Musical expression can be distinct from political opinion, and I know that I want people to judge my music with respect to music and not with respect to my personal politics.
    Having said all that, the best part is that these musicians don’t all share the same viewpoints. Art can be enriched by diversity (political and otherwise), and it’s nice to see that this band’s political disagreements don’t get in the way of their ability to collaborate artistically. But as people they’re entitled to be passionate about more than just music.

  4. Sidenote here, but I tried to use “Oi” in scrabble today (yes, I’m a dork and like to play scrabble) and my friend wouldn’t let me. grr…

  5. Doesn’t anyone else think it’s funny that “Oi” is like a british punk thing to say? I always distinguish it by writing the Jewish one as “Oy” and the punk one as “Oi”…

  6. It is truly odd the way those of us fortunate enough to find ourselves in the Goldene Medina, the birthplace of the most ambitious project in participatory democracy, have grown so squeamish about discussing politics.

  7. Ariel Zilber is a homophobe. but who cares?
    I’ve learnt to separate the muscian/person from the music. my sister said she wont listen to him because of that. its all her loss. i mean, am I not going to listen to Wagner because of that?
    Kal Vachomer when it comes to OVV’s political point of view. Subliminal and the Shadow, for instance, suck not because of their fascist-inclined lyrics (not to mention the cover with the fist covered with mud – the soil of our holy land- holding a magen david), but because their music is baaaad (one of their songs sounds like music from an elections ad on tv).

  8. i like subliminal. they have gotten a lotta heat from Kitwana, the self proclaimed hip hop intellectual, because he feels as if subliminal turns hip hop back on the oppressed, rather than exalting them. I think “right-wing” Jewish national hip hop is something that will stand the test of time – you have Israeli musicians speaking of Jewish strength through an art form pioneered in the same vein, it exalted black youth out of the ghetto and into the mainstream conciousness of america. It spoke about and continues to speak about Black history, Black politics, black lifestyles, and it comes with positive and negative elements. However, it is enourmously responsible for reinvigorating Black culture. Subliminal does the same for Jewish youth, in Israel, the UK, and New York – three places where I’ve witnessed Jewish youth come together in a secular, proud, and creative atmosphere when listening to subliminal. I wish they had been around when I was a bit younger, it would have given me strength to participate more soulfully in the hip hop community in high school

  9. Asaf,
    I understand your opinion. I suppose that you don’t support any boycotts (official and unofficial) or what is your ‘red-line’?

  10. oh, well. depends what you mean by boycotts.
    when the divestment campaign against israel was launched here on campus, i was strongly against it. boycotting usually hurts the wrong people. i am almost always (not dogmatically) against boycotting because it ends up hurting the wrong people.
    if you mean personal boycotting (for instance, a personal decision not to buy at mcdonalds, which is different from asking my university from not investing in mcdonalds) – well such kind of boycotting is not morally different from a non-personal boycotting, at list in the moral judgement and intent.
    in any case, that is not to say that i dont have red lines. i will definitely “boycott” a neo-nazi band who might be producing good music but i know the money is being used to promote hatred. its really each case separately. all i am saying u need to be very careful when it comes to boycotting because it alienates people from your cause, hurts workers etc.

  11. dude their music sounds great.. should stick to what they do which is play music.. not comment on social relgious issues..
    and as the post points out i have been a fan forever n ever…

  12. That’s cool.
    I always found it very ironic that Europe and Gush Shalom push so hard to boycott products made in the territories by Israeli companies when in fact most of the workers are actually Palestinian Arabs. A friend who worked at the nearby Barkan industrial park lost his job when the company decided not to fight the European sanctions and moved all operations to its other plant within the green line. He and the few other Jews lost there jobs, but dozens of Palestinian Arabs (managers and assembly line workers) were laid off as well. So the boycott merely inconvenienced the Jews, but harmed the Arabs.

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