Solomon & Socalled / Krakauer / Oi Va Voi
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David Krakauer
Live in Krakow
Label Bleu

Oi Va Voi
Laughter Through Tears

Solomon & Socalled
Piranha (

These three CDs represent the very latest trends in contemporary Jewish music, and to a certain extent all share common ideas and even similar personnel across the recordings.

cd cover It seems odd to say that David Krakauer's latest, recorded with his Klezmer Madness! group and sample maven Socalled, is perhaps the most traditional of the music here. Krakauer's towering achievements on the clarinet in the klezmer oeuvre are legendary, and he and the band really shine on this live recording. The very first track, "Turntable Pounding," is pretty much unbelievable. What starts as a slight hip-hop beat with Jewish chanting swiftly turns into acid-funk, a great rumbling shuffling rhythm turned into a nine-minute opus with searing electric guitar and Krakauer wailing above the obvious excitement of the crowd. If Miles Davis' gut-bucket funk of "On The Corner" converted to Judaism, this is what you'd get. The rest of Live in Krakow mixes it up with traditional-type bulgar, some positively weeping klezmer improvisation, and more funk-klezmer experimentation. Krakauer and Klezmer Madness! make for a hot European night on the town.

cd cover Oi Va Voi's Laughter Through Tears was a bit of a disappointment at first, since their demo recording Digital Folklore was a lively combination of street breakbeats and club rhythms crossed with klezmer. Several tracks from the demo made it onto this debut CD, such as "Od Yeshoma" and "7 Brothers." The key difference between the two recordings is polish. Oi Va Voi did not seem to be out to make an album to burn up the dancefloor this time around, but rather they have made a subtle and effective recording that with repeated listening warmly reminds you of Massive Attack. Oi Va Voi also picked up a new vocalist, KT Tunstall, to join them for this record. On "Yesterday's Mistakes" KT's soothing voice alternates with a (sampled?) Jewish cantor whose lament seems to come from the Yom Kippur liturgy, a juxtaposition that initially sounds slightly off, but which later I found quite brilliant. Faster compositions appear towards the end of the CD, such as "D'Ror Yikra," showing that Oi Va Voi can really cook. A hidden track (a remix of "7 Brothers") absolutely smokes and the horn section has a glistening quality that sent goosepimples up and down my arms. The klezmer vibe is evident throughout Laughter Through Tears, but it is shot through with seductive world influences (such as reggae-klezmer on the track "Gypsy"). England's Oi Va Voi have fashioned a fabulous end-of-the-evening, let's-watch-the-sun-come-up record.

cd cover Solomon & Socalled's HipHopKhasene is the brainchild of Sophie Solomon, the violin player for Oi Va Voi, and beats-crafter Socalled. This is deconstructed, refashioned Jewish wedding music, and one of the more interesting concept albums I have heard in quite some time. We are treated to all parts of the ceremony, and all sorts of samples from Jewish recordings from times past (including a snippet from "When You're In Love, The Whole World Is Jewish," pure borscht belt humor that I heard when I was growing up). Glasses are smashed; voices are looped (Pelt me with rice! Pelt me with rice!); and the party gets underway (Freylekhs!) with great klezmer musicians along for the ride, including Frank London and David Krakauer. What makes HipHopKhasene fascinating is that it is laced with commentary, some humorous, some acerbic. Solomon and Socalled make it clear that amidst all the joy of the wedding ceremony, there is also great sadness. The deep meaning of the wedding contract is also explained. My one complaint would be that the main rap of the CD, which tosses off marriage as a "fucked-up institution" and a place to "buffet it up," is overused and repeated endlessly on the Smadj remix track. HipHopKhasene is so inventive in places that I expected more than just one rap, but no matter. To hear the combination of cantors and Yiddish and English and hip hop beats on this record is sure to leave a huge grin on your face. At the next wedding I attend I'll be thinking "Your mother and father would have been so proud/So shout your damn vows out loud!" and have Solomon and Socalled to thank. - Lee Blackstone

CDs available from cdRoots:
David Krakauer
Oi Va Voi
Solomon & Socalled

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