Black Ox Orkestar – NISHT AZOY

Harry Owen January 1, 2000 1

Black Ox Orkestar

If you’re nosing round the web reading about music, you might be a haunter of record shops too. If, like me, you are an inverterate explorer of the bargain bins, you’ll know the moments when you find, instead of the remaindered corporate crap, something so genuinely odd that it just never sold. And it’s dead cheap. You don’t know if you’ll like it but you know it’s beyond anything you know and will either be unlistenable or a gem.

And that’s how I have records with titles like Hebrew Songs Of The Russian Diaspora on the shelves (or, more accurately, in piles on every surface). This disc by Black Ox Orkestar has that scent to it. Full of mournful fiddles, sleigh bells and sad songs in voices tinged of Eastern Europe. What these songs are about, I have no idea. Nor do I care to find out, it might spoil it as much as painfully translating the lyrics of French punk band Telephone to find the content was sub-Stiff Little Fingers teeny angst. What I know is that the re-interpreted traditional songs and the newly composed ones are more or less indistinguishable. These are mostly sad tunes, reflecting the forced homeland-lessness of the Jewish community and it’s travels through Europe (oh, and the songs are in Hebrew). There are a few dances and unexpected instruments – like some of the Ry Cooder-esque guitar on Ikh Ken Tsvey Zayn – as well as group chants building to a foot-stamping crescendo alongside solo laments and instrumental pieces. None of the pieces are short throwaway numbers, they average out at more than five minutes each, giving the band time to stretch and explore the texture. Of course, I’m a sucker for the grainy hollow of a cello.

A genuine oddity and not one to be left to the world music authenticity nuts.

Ross McGibbon

One Comment »

  1. Danny March 8, 2018 at 6:55 am - Reply

    songs are in yiddish, not hebrew!

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