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Black Ox Orkestar

Black Ox Orkestar - Nisht Azoy

Nisht Azoy
Constellation - 2006

Michael Panontin
Cobbled together, as it were, from assorted Montreal collectives, the distinctly old world Black Ox Orkestar place themselves in the forefront of a "new Jewish music". Rooted in the traditions of Ashkenazim, Black Ox Orkestar eschew the pastrami pastiche of the Borscht Belt for the forgotten influences of Yiddish-speaking labour activists, anarchists and modernist poets who worked tirelessly to buttress human rights in the early part of the last century. With members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, A Silver Mt. Zion and Sackville, to name but a few, and recorded at the by now mythical Hotel2Tango studio, Nisht Azoy (Not Like This), the band's second full-lengther, is at once steeped in the past, yet thoroughly modern.

The disc opens with the awesome instrumental 'Bukharian', a haunting original composition loosely based on a Bukharian Jewish folksong. 'Violin Duet', another original, melds fragments of Czech folk ballads around a Transylvanian dance tune. The bleak and bewitching intro suggests centuries of sadness, but it then finishes on a more uptempo note. 'Ikh Ken Tsvey Zayn' is gravitas of the wistful sort, setting acoustic guitar to the 1948 pacifist poetry of Polish-Jewish transplant Melekh Ravitch.

And so on goesNisht Azoy, a forlorn and powerful mix of originals and standards, a disc rooted in the ghosts of the past, yet like those present-day Yiddish 101 classes popping up around the world, still stubbornly alive in the here and now.




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