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Interview: Oi Va Voi

I remember your words on Myspace with the title “Turkey Rocks” and I know you like this country. Before your concerts in Babylon, you have played in Bursa, Eskişehir and Ankara. What sort of impression have these concerts made on you about Turkey?

David: Especially the kind of music we played… The melodies seem to be at home here. We’re truly at home. A great response for every gig and pad… You know fantastic. It was the best ever could have happened. We have had great hospitality we met lovely people, great musicians. Just been a lovely experience.

Steve: We get such a lovely welcome here. And there’s the connection and in some ways It’s more like home in London. I shouldn’t say that.

David: But musically

Steve: Musicaly yeah. It’s closer.

Yeah. People like your music here. Then did it meet your expectations in a way?

Steve: Absolutely, absolutely. Well, exceeded.

David: Exceeded…

Great. And… One of my friends wanted to know about this; you lost your melodica in Ankara and have you found that??

David: No, we didn’t find it. I think somedoby wanted it as a special present.

Steve: That’s right, that’s right. A souvenir from from the show.

That’s we thought so! Before we start about your music, you know, you always sing your songs in Jewish and English. And in Jewish your name means “Oh, my god!” or “Oh, dear!”.  We would like to know the story behind this name. How did you come with this name?

Steve: Ok. So… Many years ago when the band started, a drum player said to his grandma. “Grandma, I’m in a band!”. She said “Oi va voi!”.


David: He said “I want to be a musician”.

Steve: Said “I want to be a musician”… “Oi va voi!”. You don’t kind of be a doctor or a lawyer! Or something I like you know. Then… it was suggested as a possible name and we thought “Well… It’s kind of fun”. And it started.  Now, ten years later, we are still Oi Va Voi and we are happy. Because I don’t know what is in the name. You know it’s… Some band names sound a bit strange. But after a while once you start the music, you forget.

It’s a relaxing name! You have a couple of differences with the band members. Did this add something to your music? Some kind of deepness? Or did you just want to keep the rhythm, the old rhythm… Or did you want to have some kind of difference in tones?

Steve: I think in any band this has been going on as long as you afford it. People’s lives change. Once they start it, they want to do differences in their lives. So we have had… there have been these musicians involved. So rather than always holding on to patricular… In one way, that’s a thread that goes all the way from the beginning. Turns of sound, the music… Something we have always had… trompet, clarinet, violin, drummer person, guitar and the vocals. That’s been throughout the band.  And so we have got the same pallete of sound. The same kind of textures we have and the same kind of emotions we have been through. So that always stays the same. But we kind of evolved in terms of the songs and the songwriting and kind of music we have been making. And… But you can still hear. Still sounds like Oi Va Voi. From the beginning till the end.

David: I agree with that. I think throughout everything, there’s an essence or like some kind of genetic Oi Va Voi. That seems to come through whatever we do. But definitely we have explored different musical colours. We don’t feel like we have to be exactly fitting in same borders. Sounds like laws.

Steve: And with changing, with some changes of musicians in the band, you get extra… you know  you get a new flavour, a new spirit a new feeling that adds to everthing.

Yeah! It changes your music in a good way.

Steve: In a good way.

We like it! Despite all these changes or whatever happened, your performances on the stage are better than your recordings sometimes. They  sound more lively (band members laugh…) and everything seems more beautiful. What kind of mood are you in when you are singing?

Steve: It’s a very… It’s a fantastic feeling. You know in a band you just feel very happy to be able to playing on it. It’s a great feeling.

Clear explanation:) After the first three albums Folklore, Laughter than Tears, Oi Va Voi; in 2009 you made your new album “Travelling the Face of the Globe”. We know that you recorded it in a sinagog, which is kind of fantastic and different. How did this idea come to you?

Steve: Well, the West London sinagog is always somewhere we rehearsed. We have been rehearsing there for many years. We actually put on a performance of the show you’re seeing tonight in the sinagog itself. And … We thought it’s a great place to start. We could have gone to a studio in London. But we took away ourselves away from the whole music industry and made our own space and it felt right. Some of inspirations come from that background. So it felt great to start there and record there.

What is the difference of this album compared to the previous three?

David: Well, that’s not for us to say. That’s for people to make their mind up. Suppose they are so different feelings. It’s quite Brazilian type so… I don’t know. That’s a kind of question that people answer. That’s taste. How people view.

But you feel more comfortable. Actually with every song you feel comfortable.

David: I think we are really happy.

Steve: Yeah… We are really happy. One of the nice things is that you can put it on from the beginnig to the end and it doesn’t throw you back too much. It’s kind of luck. Words together… We really wanted to do that.

The connection. Ok! You travel a lot. You are a kind of travelling band actually. “Refugee” is one of the symbols of that. And you meet lots of different musicians. I’ve read something that the next album will be titled similar to “Travelling the Face of Globe”?

Steve: You mean the next one after?

Yeah, the next one after this. Will it be similar to this one?

Steve: We’ve got lots of different ideas we have been working on. Staying in houses, recording are a process. We’ve got lots of ideas.

David: We have got a lot of exciting ideas. Actually many many songs we haven’t used from the past. Sometimes you can’t rush things.  But yeah believe me this one will be very exciting.

Also on Myspace we heard that you were going to work with a Turkish musician. Is that true or are you planning something like this?

Steve: Rumours rumours… (Laughs…) we were working with a musician who I can not say the name…

No, we don’t!

Steve: No… hopefully we will work again with him or her. (Laughs…) But we haven’t got anything concrete.

David: It’s working progress.

So, It’s going to be a surprise for us.

Steve: That’s right, that’s right. I hope so.

You have been so famous around the world and “Ladino Song”, “Refugee” and “Yesterday’s Mistakes” are three great songs actually which have made you famous around the world because we all know you or started to get to know you with these songs first. You worked with Kate Tunstall. Are you planning to work with her again on a new project?

Steve: No, Nothing we wouldn’t like to. I mean she’s got her own  commune and she’s doing very successful  as you realise. It would have been great to have another song you know in the future. We would be happy if she’d fancy doing a song with us.

Maybe remembering the old days.

Steve: Yeah.

Considering the places that you have never been to which is I think a little bit less in number, where would you like to go next or do you have any place in mind?

David: Well… (Laughs…) We started to discover Russia which I have a connection with many years. Great interest out there. Japan I would love to go to Japan.

Steve: I have never been to Japan.

David: And maybe some more of America.

Steve: Yeah, we would love to go to America. We have been to America not many times.

And you are going to go again. (Laughs…) This is a kind of weird question but I would love to ask. Again the same guy who asked about the melodica wants to know if you play in Jewish weddings? Is that true?

Steve: Very occasionally.

David: Not as Oi Va Voi but, there’s a few of us from the band and we do obviously as musicians.

It must be fun.

Steve: Yeah, It’s great. Everyone dances.

David: Great fun. It’s fun to play. Such high energy.

That’s good. Then that’s  true in some ways. Before Jewish music, before talking about that, “Klezmer” is the music type that you were inspired of. You are in a country which is a Muslim country, politically things haven’t been good with Turkey and Israel. Does it bother you or what do you think about this? How do you see our Muslim society?

Steve: On the personal level, between the two countries Israel and Turkey is a whole area of politics between governemts. We are not really in a position to comment too much. Because first of all I’m not Israelian and I’m not Turkish. We live in London. There’s only so much we can, you know,  read in the news. We can’t always know the truth is more and news. So all we hope is that relations are good between two countries. That’s all we can hope for.

Actually considering music, it’s not a big deal to talk about.

David: We are musicians. We play music, we love connection with people from any… It doesn’t matter. Religion… It’s just music that unites. That’s what we focus on. Unfortunatelly the world isn’t a peaceful place.

This is my personal question, do you ever consider making or composing songs for films? Maybe independent films?

Steve: We have done a little bit. We went to a film festival in Holland. We played a live soundtrack… We have plans to work on a film at the moment which is called “Early Days”.

David: Really good film music is emotional and it knows how to capture emotions. I think we can… we did it.

Yeah, you are right. That’s the spirit actually. The spirit you have. You are really happy with that… Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity! Would you like to say anything to the Turkish audience?

David: I say thank you so much. We have such a splendid time!

Steve: Thank you very much we have a great time!


Interview with: Steve Levi and David Orchant

Oi Va Voi: Myspace, Wikipedia

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