It was a twenty-something crowd – mainly – that was basking in the glow of Oysland’s klezmer music: Klezmer, a label roughly alluding to Eastern European or Balkan Jewish music, making Oysland a Yiddish folk act. Being both Balkan and Jewish, the band’s set was European with an unmistakable combination of Middle Eastern, Romani and Turkish influences. These keynotes were intriguing, conjured as they were by thoroughly modern and western instruments. This, combined with a hip and youthful gyrating crowd, added a surreal element to the evening’s celebratory vibe.
It was this atmosphere that made Oysland’s set on the night. On the carpet of their music we were transported from Jamboree in London’s East End, on an October evening in 2015, to a harvest festival (apt for the time of the year) in bygone times or what could have a been a wedding celebration in a distant land. This cheerful incongruity between audience, era and musical origins reminded you of the cultural spice the diversity of London uniquely serves up.
Klezmer more specifically refers to instrumental music, which explains why Oysland’s set was in the main a conversation between modern strings and winds: a language of aged and exotic tunes. John MacNaughton’s clarinet and David Madden’s accordion formed the baseline of compositions that would have warmed many a Yiddish autumnal celebration in ages past. Partnering the violin, the clarinet also set the indisputable Jewish tone that other instruments followed. The violinist Olga Baron, appropriate to her instrument’s leading role, played the part of the ensemble’s MC, calling out the tunes and educating us on kosher footwork. Sam Baily’s double bass provided a background for the other melodies to bounce off and gave the music its robust quality, while Karen Yarnell’s percussions were sprinkled sparingly throughout the various tunes like an exotic spice.
Punctuating the array of instrumental pieces it was Lori Secanska’s singing that anchored the nomadic music firmly in Europe. Her folksongs took us on a rollercoaster through the Balkans and beyond. Backed by the musicians she set the mood of the evening with the Armenian Love song Ambee Dageetz (Under the clouds). Travelling through the South Slavic countries we were treated to classics like Ruse Kose Curo Imas and Makedonsko devojče (Macedonian maiden).
Oysland’s two-hour-plus set was celebratory without at any point getting boisterous. Their offering, which included the klezmer classic Dem Trisker Rebns Khosid and Yiddish traditional lullaby Tumbalaika, didn’t parody the genre – there were no snatches from Fiddler on the Roof nor attempts at whipping up the audience into a frenzy. With a repertoire steeped simply in time and tradition, Oysland kept a youngish crowd in a party mood late into a Saturday night.
Oysland were playing at the Jamboree Club, Cable St. E1W 3HB. For more details of the band please click on the image below.