About Les Yeux Noirs
Les Yeux Noirs French for “The Black Eyes” takes their name from the title of a Russian gypsy tune made famous by Django Reinhardt in the ’30s. It’s the perfect name for a French sextet that plays their own variety and melding of Gypsy and Yiddish music, with a nod to Manouche (or French Gypsy) jazz.
Live, is the name of their new CD, which is available now on World Village (Harmonia Mundi). A February 2004 tour will bring the band to Illinois, North Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, California, Washington, Oregon and Montana.
The band’s repertoire begs the musical question: what has been the relationship of Gypsies and Jews? The musical styles of the two cultures have much in common, a direct result of shared experiences and suffering of both peoples. Both were major targets of the Nazis, though the Holocaust was not the first oppression suffered by either group.
Both were dispersed throughout their respective histories and followed a similar geographic sequence. A life of exile created a special relationship with music for Gypsies and Jews.
Violinists Eric and Olivier Slabiak founded Les Yeux Noirs ten years ago. France, and much of Europe, are following in the footsteps of the recent American Yiddish revival, and this is the origin of Les Yeux Noirs. The two classically trained Jewish brothers stumbled across the music of the Diaspora and could not get enough. They frequented small clubs and met many musicians. These new friendships led to the creation of the band, which combines violins, violoncello, accordion, electric guitar, cimbalom, and electronic samples in innovative, highly complementary ways.
A song starts slowly, moodily, before the instruments gather, merging new melodies and manic rhythms until the music snaps, losing all control. This combination of traditional and original songs of travel and love, celebrations, and heart-rending laments does more than evoke the blues. It persuades the listener to break free from them and dance.
“Led by a pair of virtuosic, violin-playing brothers, Eric and Olivier Slabiak, the group’s presentation lured the audience into all-join-in musical participation, a colorful coda to an immensely entertaining weekend.” – Los Angeles Times
“The boyband of a lost era.”