Rychard Carrington reports on Oi Va Voi and Gil Karpas – The Junction, Cambridge, 23 September 2009

Oi Va Voi
Junction 2, The


Was it just because Gil Karpas looks somewhat like Ezio that I was reminded of the illustrious Italian? I don't think so, I think the music his band played did have a a somewhat kindred feel. But in fact Gil's sound belongs more thoroughly to the funky rock genre than does Ezio's. I still find it heartening, though the case was surely proven yonks a go, that vintage rock retains seemingly eternal currency, despite the New Wave's attempt to render it obsolete in the late 1970s. The Gil Karpas quartet would have made a good house band for a club in which Starsky and Hutch hung out with their lady friends in 1975. Gil wears a classic disco shirt, with a space down the middle to reveal a portion of this hairy chest., The guitarist and the bassist wear matching dark jackets. So, funky rhythms, man. And nice guitar licks. Good vibes.

My memory of really enjoying seeing Oi Va Voi at The Junction in 2006 hasn't gained a rosy glow over time, the evidence that I dug it deeply at the time can be found in my previous Moving Tone review, in which I wrote:

‘This was music at its most positive. Oi Va Voi's fundamental intention is to render their Jewish musical heritage alive and contemporary, and at that they succeed absolutely. All the timeless soulfulness, the feeling of dancing with proud resilience in the face of adverse fate and rank oppression - the magic ingredient in folk music throughout the world - is manifested quite magnificently by this young London band.... Oi Va Voi exemplify the spirit of music that opposes hatred and oppression with benevolent natural energy and fosters common feeling amongst the downtrodden ordinary people of the world.'

Blimey, they must have been good. And indeed there was quite an air of expectancy as The Junction 2 filled up to capacity, with seats specially removed to facilitate dancing. Personally, I wasn't quite in the mood for dancing, as I'd eaten rather a lot of mashed potato as part of my supper. To be honest, my decision to opt for a seat at the back wasn't challenged quite as much as I expected. The band has been thorough some changes since 2006, and they now have a lead singer, Bridgette Amofah, who vocalises in a jazz/soul vein. She's a good singer, undoubtedly, but her presence orientated the set around song structures, which I felt limited the considerable potential for both instrumental excitement and for dancing. While the klezmer influence was definitely present, the overall sound wasn't so far from svelte jazz-rock (the techno seems to have gone completely). Just a bit too restrained - I wanted to hear the instrumentalists let rip.

While the three female members of the band dress funkily and sexily, the male members dress like they've never heard of such adverbs, which is rather endearing. Bassist Lucy Shaw is modestly static, like the male players, but Anna Phoebe is the most hot and sultry fiddle player that I've ever seen. She's thoroughly exhibitionist (and why not?), and she also makes the most outstanding instrumental contribution to the musical texture (Stephen Levi's clarinet comes second).XOverall, though, smooth and tasteful was the order of the evening. Were the band really more exciting last time, or did I just have less mashed potato for supper

Writer: Rychard Carrington