Oi Va Voi

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Oi Va Voi is a British band formed in London, England in the year 2000. The band emerged from the UK world music crossover scene to become multi-award winning masters of musical wanderlust with a pan-european fanbase to which they have toured to sold out venues and headlined festivals ever since. Musically, the band spearheaded a movement of jewish musicians to bring cultural styles into contemporary songwriting. The band blended their heritage with an emphasis on modern pop sensibilities reflecting their own individual interests in indie rock and alt-folk and the urban dance music of the clubs of London. The band takes its name from a Yiddish-derived exclamation popular in modern Hebrew meaning, approximately, "Oh, my gosh!".

Early years - Band formation[edit]

Early Line Up.jpg

The story of the band's genesis started in the two cities of Oxford and London, with Jonathan Walton aka Lemez Lovas meeting Josephine Burton at an Oxford Uni Jsoc welcome Friday night dinner. Both Jonathan and Josephine were doing 4 year undergraduate studies with languages. Jonathan being an exceptional linguist, spent time in Paris and Moscow in his abroad study year, where he met a Hungarian folk dancer and spent time going to folk festivals in East Europe. When in Moscow he learnt trumpet at Conservatoire Tchaikovsky and returned to the University of Oxford to complete his studies with new vocabulary in French, Russian, Hungarian, Serbo-Croat and also the skill of the newly mastered Trumpet. Around that time, Josephine Burton had been spending a lot of time in the British Asian music scene, to which she recalled in recent interview "I remember one night being in a place one night where someone played a Hasidic nigun on a reggae track and it made me think isnt Jewish music cool." Jonathan and Josephine reconnected in their fourth year at University and began to share their musical experiences with each other, these exchanges led to ideas forming which started to bring different people together. The earliest line up had Josephine as the singer and Jonathan on Trumpet who in turn knew violinist Sophie Solomon (who was also studying Russian at Oxford), both of whom knew bassist Leo Bryant, clarinetist Steve Levi who had been studying at Oxford Brookes.This early line-up had about 4-5 gigs in Autumn 1998 in Oxford and then a gig in London in January 1999. Guitarist Nik Ammar joined through mutual connections and when Jonathan met drummer Josh Breslaw at Morley College on a short music course and he invited him to join the band the line up was formed. After University the band all moved to London and carried on playing together with a regular spot at an Albanian Bar called KOHA. Within a year this first line up started to solidify and the band found a fertile young Jewish urban arts scene in London to grow into and thrive.

Early years - Developing the sound (1999 to 2001)[edit]

The London scene of the late nineties was a melting pot of world music genres and scenes that were beginning to coalesce around dance music, propelled and facilitated in part by the early days of the internet and to a great extent by the efforts of DJ's and broadcasters such as Charlie Gillett and Gilles Peterson. In the early days of the internet it was radio shows such as The Sound of the World and WorldWide that typified the outward looking perspective of the vibrant UK music scene of that time.

JMI booked the band to play at the Southbank Centre in Autumn of 1999 to which conversations followed between the Jewish Music Institute and Oi Va Voi, where guidance, mentoring and financial assistance were given. The outcome was two fold, firstly YADARTS was created by Josephine and Jonathan to be an agency and hub for young jewish music and arts to which they launched to a series on sell out concerts at Union Chapel. Secondly, JMI saw the potential in the band and had confidence in their ambition and so sponsored the members of the group to go out to KlezKamp Philadelphia where the band learned Klezmer from masters like Frank London of The Klezmatics. Josh recalled in interview "I was aware of the sound but never sat inside the music from the drummers stool, it was like BAM! I felt attached to it but no matter I never got the sense I had to play according to a set rhythm rather that I complimented and played drums and bass beats and other rhythms into it."

The direction took to mix Klezmer and Jewish roots music with House, Drum and Bass, Dubstep and Hip Hop.

The line-up found an audience amongst regular performances at The Spitz in East London which is where they found a crowd keen to hear more and it wasn't long before a following started to take shape. With a London following and a fresh new sound, heads started to turn and it wasn't long before shows in LA, Moscow and Washington followed. Former singer Josephine Burton left the band and went to set up the agency Yad Arts together with BBC DJ Max Reinhardt. Yad Arts arranged collaborations for the band, leading to a cross-cultural venture with moroccan band Momo on a project called Roots & Harmony. The North African musical collaborations continued and they soon collaborated with the French Algerian pianist Maurice El Medioni of El Gusto.

Digital Folklore

Digital Folklore 2001 - 2003[edit]

Wanting to capture and record the music that the band had been developing, the band set out to record a self-funded debut. With recording and CD production costs still being high at this moment in time, the band were mentored by record producer, musician and WOMEX founder Ben Mandelson. The band applied to the Jewish Music Institute's Millennium Award Fund and received a grant to record and produce their first album, which was recorded at Livingstone Studio Wood Green and produced and engineered by Josh Breslaw 'and Lemez Lovas. "Digital Folklore". Some of the tracks on the album were later abridged and re-recorded for Laughter Through Tears, one example is the Hungarian folk song "A Csitari" whose vocals were performed by a female singer on the new album. The response to the album served to not only galvanise their following around the new release but was also nominated for a BBC World Music Award, went on to see them perform a showcase at Womex in Essen and then sign to Outcaste Records.

Laughter Through Tears 2003 - 2005[edit]

OI VA VOI 2006 - 2008[edit]

Travelling The Face Of The Globe 2009 - 2012[edit]

Live Band 2012-2016[edit]

Current band members[edit]


Former band members[edit]

Associated acts[edit]




  • "7 Brothers" (2003)
  • "Refugee" (2004)
  • "Yesterday's Mistakes" (2004)
  • "Yuri" (2007)
  • "Every Time" (2009)


  • Oi Va Voi won an Edison award for Album of the Year 2004 Netherlands
  • Oi Va Voi was nominated for the BBC Awards for World Music 2003 in the Boundary Crossing category.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]