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14 April 2009

Review: Traveling The Face Of The Globe

Review: Traveling The Face Of The Globe
Oi Va Voi

I have to admit that I am a newcomer to the music of Oi Va Voi. Having said that, I can say that their music is immediately recognizable as their own, mixing several musical styles with their London Pop groove and creating a signature sound that I would call World Pop. Oi Va Voi have put together a magic combination of pop music and lyrics, with the elements of Gypsy/Klezmer/Latin/Flamenco rhythms and melodies. This is what we are presented with in great abundance on their new album Traveling The Face Of The Globe. The title grabbed my attention right away. Traveling and music go together very naturally, so I was eager to see what the band had came up with and whether the music would live up to the title.

The opening track, Waiting, sums up my feeling of having missed out on Oi Va Voi for the 10 years they have been together, since their days at Oxford. The song has a feeling of anticipation, with a good hook and a nice background of pizzicato strings and smooth horns. And we are introduced to the lush vocals of Bridgette Amofah.

I Know What You Are switches gears and shows how the band starts to mix world styles with pop lyrics. The song starts with a Klezmer Clarinet in a slow hora tempo with Accordion providing the rhythm. Amofah sneaks in with the vocal in a subdued low key. The song builds from there with the addition of drums, horns, and more strings. A Cantorial interlude keeps the Jewish feeling going as the song builds in intensity then drops suddenly back to the simple, quiet ending.

The title track, Traveling The Face Of The Globe, starts out again with a Klezmer-style intro using a Bulgar rhythm, then switches abruptly to the pop vocal of Amofah, yet is sprinkled with Klezmer fills from the horns. This song speaks of travels around the world and mentions a number of sites and countries. A hot Trumpet solo break from David Orchant adds to the excitement and leads back to the vocal.

Every Time is my favorite track, and shows a different side of the band. A mellow intro leads to the smooth, airy vocal of Stephen Levi, who adds a bit of Cantorial improvisation along the way. Later, the song shifts character in true Oi Va Voi fashion. A haunting Klezmer Clarinet break leads into a high energy vocal from Amofah with a pop style background. Then Levi returns with the opening theme overlaid. I really like the way these two different melodies mix, the mellow with the energetic. It’s a very interesting bit of arranging.

S’Brent features guest Yiddish Vocalist Agi Szaloki in a slow ¾ tempo. A solo from Violinist Anna Phoebe adds to the cultural authenticity of the song, before moving to a heavier pop instrumental through to the end.

Magic Carpet takes us a bit further afield on the world music stage, starting in a Latin electronic feel and ending in a Middle Eastern String/Percussion vibe. As the band’s only instrumental track, it serves as a showcase for the great musicianship and arranging talent of the band. I really like the way the Trumpet and Clarinet sound together on this track.

Dusty Road is another feature for Amofah, slightly reminiscent of American Folk music. But then a Jazz Trumpet comes along to mix things up. Adding an Electric Guitar and Violin break changes things yet again. And check out the Jew’s Harp and Whistling at the end adding a cool effect.

Foggy Day is my second favorite song. Opening with solo Acoustic Guitar, Amofah again treats us to her heartfelt Vocal and her ability to convey a feeling of isolation in a small town shrouded in fog and gloom. She walks the streets in anonymity, unseen, and nobody knows her name. Then she sings of climbing above the city to a dreamy place in the sun with bight water and clear skies. In true Oi Va Voi fashion, they sneak into a Flamenco Percussion rhythm which somehow is a perfect juxtaposition to the slow Vocal.

Wonder is a nice ¾ tempo pop ballad with an airy Vocal by Amofah accompanied by Acoustic Guitar and Violin.

Long Way From Home
is another favorite of mine. A memorable Vocal melody mixes with a great rhythmic rock accompaniment from the Guitar and Bass, as well as Klezmer fills from the horns.

Stitches And Runs
is a fun song that starts with strings and drums and moves to Clarinet and Vocal. The middle section changes character with a slower tempo, then picks back up for the ending.

The final track, Photograph, features guest Vocalist Dick Rivers with a French monologue and English Vocal. The weary sound of his voice perfectly fits the reflective and somber feeling of the song. The subdued accompaniment from the band lets the voice carry the song, giving a final farewell to our global travels.

The mix on this CD is excellent, with each instrument clear and distinct, and just the right amount of processing on the vocals. It sounded great on everything from earbuds to my home theater. Since I had only a promotional copy of the CD I do not have a full list of credits or complete liner notes. The packaging was minimal. I will update this review if I can get a full production copy of the album, which has a release date of 11 May, 2009.

It is clear that Oi Va Voi have established themselves as a force on the worldwide pop scene, and adds a twist by adding ethnic influences to their original compositions. I love the sound of the group and look forward to seeing what direction their music will take next. I highly recommend this album to both those who are already Oi Va Voi fans and those that are seeking out new music. Oi Va Voi have won me over and I will be following them closely.

As a suggestion for anyone who for whatever reason doesn’t want the entire album, I would recommend that you at least purchase my favorite tracks: Every Time, Foggy Day, and Long Way From Home.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

Traveling The Face Of The Globe
Oi Va Voi
Oi Va Voi Recordings OiVaVoiCD2

Band Members:
Nik Ammar (Guitar, Vocals)
Bridgette Amofah (Vocals)
Josh Breslaw (Drums)
Stephen Levi (Clarinet, Vocals)
David Orchant (Trumpet)
Anna Phoebe (Violin)
Lucy Shaw (Bass)

Track List:
Waiting 4:10
I Know What You Are
Travelling The Face Of The Globe 3:48
Every Time 5:36
S'brent 3:56
Magic Carpet 4:34
Dusty Road 3:17
Foggy Day 3:36
Wonder 3:16
Long Way From Home
Stitches And Runs 3:38
Photograph 3:43

Oi Va Voi MySpace
Oi Va Voi interview on Klezmer Podcast

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