Review of the Oxford concert
The Cellar – Oxford
Sometimes a flyer can make a difference. Besarabia’s promises something different from the usual melange of beats and brass of bands into Balkan and Klezmer. There they are pictured in sunny Spain – the trio are based in Valencia – holding acoustic instruments and not a trumpet or trombone in sight. It’s enough to get out me out the door on a rainy windy night when it’s so tempting to stay home. The band do play acoustically, and their line up of Heidi Erbrich’s violin, Eva Domingo’s various traditional frame drums and Jaume Pallardõ on oud, saz and cretan lute creates a refreshingly organic folky sound, starting with their opener, a traditional Bulgarian tune.
Most of the set is instrumental, led by Heidi’s expressive violin playing. She varies the pace, tone and rhythm impressively. We even get the beginning of Beethoven’s violin concerto and some Mozart thrown in; it turns out she is classically trained and has a parallel life as a baroque violinist. This isn’t a one person show, though: while mainly being a rhythm section the playing of Eva and Jaume is as subtle as Heidi’s and how the three listen and respond to each other is reminiscent of a high quality jazz trio. As a band they nail the sad-happy trope at the heart of klezmer every time.
It’s not all Balkan and klezmer instrumentals though. Eva sings a couple of originals written by the band in the language of Valencia; one is a response to the Mediterranean refugee crisis, starting atmospherically with her creating the sound of the sea by swirling rice around her frame drum, then singing with the restrained intensity that’s part of the best soul singers’ repertoire. With the other the band just might have invented a new genre, fairy tale rap, as it’s the story of a lonely toy giraffe dreaming of going to the sea. Eva delivers it with a twinkle in her eye and there’s even a surprise appearance by the giraffe.
Besarabia’s music is infectious and their warm stage presence is intrinsic to their appeal. The intimacy of the Cellar is a perfect venue for them and with the audience responding enthusiastically, roaring their approval at the end, the place is buzzing. Tonight is the band’s first visit to Oxford. If and when they come back do yourself a favour and get out and see them, however uninviting the weather might be.
Nightshift – Oxford´s music online