‘You have to beat the sorrow with celebration’ is an old Roma saying and Oysland’s set contains some sorrow, but this is more than counterbalanced by celebration. This well-established, London-based Klezmer band are comprised of lead vocalist Lori Secanska, Olga Baron on violin, John MacNaughton on clarinet, Iakovos Loukas on semi-acoustic guitar and Twm Dylan on double bass. They also have two other members, on drums and percussion, who didn’t feature at the Tara.
All of their songs were sung in what I took to be Hebrew and Yiddish and encompassed a range of subjects including: a lullaby, drinking songs (‘There are no more yesterdays’), girls cropping grass with their voices echoing back from the mountains, a mother asking if her son will return from the war in time for the St George’s Day Festival and a woman lamenting, ‘Where were you when I was young and beautiful and the dowry was on the table?’ The songs were from a number of backgrounds including Roma, Slovakian and Bosnian and one had been gleaned from the Ruth Rubin Archive. There was a fair bit of “Yai-dai-dai-ing!” and “Oi Oi-ing!” throughout the evening and the audience were encouraged to join in the clapping too. Most of them clapped along and managed to keep good time as well, which was unusual. Lori has an impressive vocal range and the other three also sang background vocals as John played a clarinet solo on the final song of the second set.
Musically there was a good balance between slow sad songs and upbeat dance numbers while several songs began slowly and then speeded up. Twm on bass and Iakovos on guitar provided a solid foundation over which Olga’s violin and John’s clarinet alternated solos while sometimes playing together. Iakovos also regularly sallied forth into a solo and several times he combined well with Olga’s pizzicato violin. They played two sets of around forty-five minutes each and there were sixteen different tunes/songs plus an encore. The smiles on their faces showed that they were clearly enjoying themselves and the audience enjoyed the band too.
The Tara Theatre is a fine venue but perhaps it wasn’t the best place in which to appreciate this kind of band as a lot of Oysland’s music is designed for dancing to in plenty of space as opposed to sitting in rather cramped seats on a hot evening.
Oysland play a lot in and around London and I recommend that you attend one of their gigs. You can find out more about their activities on their Facebook page as well as on